Jessica Sepel is a nutritionist and health expert who specializes in disordered eating. With a combination of self-care exercises, healthy recipes, and a fresh perspective on food, Jessica is able to help others achieve their wellness goals without negativity or deprivation. To learn more, check out Jessica’s class How to Stop Dieting & Learn to Eat Intuitively.
Do you avoid treats because you feel guilty at the thought of eating anything but perfect food? Do you fear unhealthy foods? When you do finally treat yourself, can you not help but overeat and binge on those foods? Then bury yourself in self-loathing?
I can so relate. I used to be a chronic fad dieter. I would restrict and deprive myself of food — eating only diet foods that were low in calories. I would then break this cycle and eat something I was craving — a "forbidden" food — and then find myself unable to stop eating that food (aka bingeing).
This is such a common cycle. I truly believe deprivation and restriction — things that are so common in our diet-obsessed culture — only lead to overeating and bingeing later.
This isn't a healthy, or balanced, way to live life, which is why indulging should be a part of a healthy life and can actually help people stabilize their weight.
I personally believe indulgence has helped me heal my relationship with food.
We need to reset our minds to embrace indulgence in moderation. This is the secret to finding freedom with food and still losing weight. Lessening stress around food is key to weight control, which allows your metabolism and body to do what it needs to do!
Know that you are enough, and that you have enough.
I believe the cycle of deprivation and overeating comes from a deep fear that there's not enough food or a fear of not being enough. It's about remembering that there will always be another opportunity to have more chocolate or a piece of pie.
Simply giving yourself permission to have more later or tomorrow can alleviate overeating or bingeing.
Here are my top three tips for indulging, the healthy way:
1. Plan for it.
If you're going to a birthday party or out to dinner with friends, factor it in. That doesn't mean restricting before or after; it just means being mindful, prepared, and excited about the indulgence.
I plan one or two treat meals every week and commit to them. They help me keep a balanced mindset and remove all guilt, and I still eat well-balanced meals the day of an indulgence.
2. Watch your language.
How we speak to ourselves is so important in changing our mindset about diets and food, generally. Avoid terms like "cheat day" or "giving in," as it only creates negative energy in your body.
You aren't giving in; you're in control and have made a conscious decision to indulge, so embrace it!
Let go of the word "should" and the negative self-talk. No more "I'm eating too much" or "I have no willpower."
When you become a whole food eater and give up dieting, there should be no such thing as good or bad food. You're just committing to eating well 80 to 90 percent of the time, then relaxing with the rest.
Your body can handle imperfect eating with moderation, but you need to trust your body first.
3. Remember the power of moderation and mindfulness.
Sit down, savor your indulgence, and be mindful of how you're eating. What's the point in feeling bad or having guilty thoughts after a beautiful meal? It only adds stress to the body.
Cortisol, the stress hormone, can wreak havoc on your metabolism and your body's ability to balance weight. Breathe it out and let go. Remind yourself that this is good for your body and soul.
You must give yourself permission, and all eating can become a pleasurable experience.
Dieting causes us to have an abnormal, restrictive relationship with food, which often results in overeating, bingeing, orthorexia, or yo-yo weight. This is no way to treat your beautiful body. Indulgence in moderation is an important part of living your healthiest life.
So enjoy each meal. Food is so good for the soul.
Jessica Sepel is a nutritionist and health expert who specializes in disordered eating. She is based in Sydney, Australia and received a bachelor's degree in health science and public health from Macquarie University. Sepel is a regular contributor to Vogue Australia and a variety of international publications, and continues to grow her eponymous health brand, JSHealth, which offers coaching programs, health plans, recipes, and supplements. Check out her mbg class, How To Stop Dieting & Learn To Eat Intuitively.