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David Cameron-Smith

David Cameron-Smith

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Having your cake and eating it too

Experts — Posted 17/10/14

How to let go of guilt and enjoy good food - the healthy way.

Eating generates so many emotions, ranging from pleasure and joy through to guilt and self-loathing. But do these emotions rule us, or do we rule them?

Countries that celebrate food and the joy of eating generally have waistlines many sizes smaller than countries that focus more on the healthiness of food and less on its enjoyment. How food is enjoyed and rejoiced in has a big impact on what, when and how much is eaten. 

With this in mind, we ask ourselves: can you have your chocolate cake and eat it too? On the one hand, chocolate cake is a delicious celebration of major life events. A truly good chocolate cake is a masterstroke of culinary genius – soft, sweet and with a lingering velvety after-taste. In that very same dense dark mouthful, it’s immediately obvious that every rather addictive morsel is jam packed with fat and sugar. Hmm, maybe a second piece, please!

A healthy attitude towards food includes the capacity to celebrate special occasions and appreciate the joy of great food. This internal sense of control and positive approach to ‘forbidden’ food has a long-lasting, positive impact on overall, healthy eating. The ability to maintain motivated is reinforced by positive emotions, including pleasure and joy.

Guilt and regret are powerful emotions, which can sometimes help us improve and change for the better. Feeling guilty can increase self-awareness and cautiousness. A dose of guilt is a normal part of life, that can prompt us to do the ‘right thing’ when faced with the same choices on another occasion. On the flip side, feeling guilty is a small step away from angst and a diminished sense of self-worth. Anxiety and stress to always get it right and unremitted self-resolve for every perfect mouthful create stress, tension and far too much guilt when all does not go to plan. Not surprisingly, such rigid attempts to always get it right lead to the sense of a loss of control and eating behaviours that are not as healthy as people who celebrate good food.

The best scientific evidence suggests that you can indeed have your cake and eat it too. It’s all about shedding the expectation of getting everything right all the time and switching sides to ensure you live life loving fantastic food. Chocolate cake and other marvels of magnificent cooking should be celebrated, occasionally.

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