The Last Supper

By Katie, 7:39 am

No, not this Last Supper.

This Last Supper.

(Source)

Let me explain. Back in my dieting days (and I use the term “diet” very broadly to mean simply restricting or denying myself certain foods) I would often engage in one last hurrah before I began yet another weight loss attempt. I would go out with a bang, if you will, by eating all of the foods that – come tomorrow – would be strictly off-limits. In my case, that usually meant donuts. Several of them.

In their book Intuitive Eating, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch label my behavior Last Supper eating; they write that “it is triggered by the sincere belief that you will never get to eat a particular food again.” Sometimes my Last Suppers would last for one meal, sometimes for a few days.

I would literally think to myself, “I will start eating healthy tomorrow/on Monday/after vacation, so I better enjoy as much crap as I can before that time comes.” There are so many problems with that line of thinking; where do I begin?

  • First, it indicates that at the time I still truly believed that a diet was going to change my life. WRONG.
  • Second, it shows that I was still placing moral judgments and labels on food and myself. Salad = Good. Cookie = Bad.
  • Third, it demonstrates that I wasn’t thinking beyond the immediate future. Did I truly think that I would never eat a donut again in my life? All I could focus on was how “happy” I’d be when I was thinner in a few months, ignoring the fact that no one can (or should!) live a life completely devoid of sweet treats.
  • Fourth, it illustrates that I did not know how to enjoy foods in moderation. It was either the whole gallon of ice cream or none at all. (Yep, that’s right, I said gallon).

Here’s the good news. When I finally decided (genuinely, sincerely, deep down) to stop dieting forever, the need to engage in Last Supper eating just sort of melted away. I found I could stop after two cookies because I knew I could have another one tomorrow if I wanted. I no longer saw certain foods as evil, so I didn’t need to feel bad or guilty for enjoying them. And I was able to make changes that can be sustained over the course of a lifetime, rather than over the course of three or four months. Because, let’s be real, I wasn’t going to “resist” the cake and ice cream at every birthday party I attended for the rest of my life.

When you stop denying yourself the foods you love and crave – and instead recognize that they can be enjoyed in moderation – no supper ever has to be your last.

Have you ever engaged in Last Supper eating? Can you relate to my experience of “going out with a bang” before committing to “healthy” eating the next day/week?

For more reading on this topic, check out Margarita Tartakovsky’s post on the topic on her blog Weightless

37 Responses to “The Last Supper”

  1. Great post. I totally relate to this. I had many many MANY “last suppers” in my days. When I first committed to getting healthier this time I didn’t have a last supper. Ironically, when I first committed I was doing WW and in the past WW had always involved a last supper. I think that when I transitioned to intuitive eating I really saw just how much self-control I do have. I can eat 2 cookies as you mentioned. Sure, sometimes I want more, but I just remind myself that tomorrow there will be more.

  2. Katie, fantastic post! It’s an important topic to talk about because our society praises deprivation and restriction – which is clearly unhealthy both for our bodies and minds.

    I used to have many “last supper” moments, and I always felt terrible afterward and when I’d restart my diets. Now that I’ve also embraced intuitive eating and actually enjoy what I eat, I’m sooo much healthier. My body image has healed and so has my relationship with myself. :)

    Also, thanks so much for linking to Weightless!! Again, awesome post!

  3. Candice says:

    I think my whole life was a Last Supper intermixed with small periods of dieting. I used to start a diet every Monday morning it never lasted long. Once I started WeightWatchers, I learned moderation and portion control. Now I’m eating intuitively and doing well at it. There’s no restrictions of food except on quantity. I eat reasonable portions and focus on eating healthy. Nothing is banned and nothing is given superior status.

  4. Super post! That’s one of the mentalities about dieting that really bugs me; suddenly things are off limits. It’s ridiculous, I don’t think ANYTHING need be off limits in any diet, cos then you just want it more!
    During my ED days, SO much was off limits..which always used to lead to bingeing (hello, a WHOLE cake…..). Soo yes, great post for highlighting the Last Supper thing!

  5. I was the QUEEN of “Last Suppers”. They’re almost too embarrassing to discuss in detail. But, I loved what you said about the root cause thinking that being “thin” would lead to happiness and, therefore, we would all just stop thinking about donuts and pizza. It’s funny how if you step back for a moment and truly look at it from an outside perspective, it is so easy to see that it’s proposterous.

  6. Lisa says:

    I hate admitting it, but I can TOTALLY relate to this. I think it’s pretty common among both women and men. I hope that I’m over these now.

    I’m definitely putting “intuitive eating” on my list of books to read.

    • Katie says:

      Yes, you should definitely read it! It has had such a huge impact on my outlook toward food and my body.

  7. Robyn says:

    I LOVE the intuitive eating book. I haven’t finished it yet but so far it makes total sense to me and also really speaks to me b/c of the behaviors I’ve engaged in for so long when it comes to food and dieting. I can’t say I’ve given up dieting just yet but I’m hoping the book regardless has positive effects on me.

  8. debby says:

    Katie–Just found your blog through your guest post on Christie’s blog. I love your blog so far. Love your post on your ‘about’ page about mind, body, and spirit. Love that you integrate your Christianity with your whole life. Love it. And so glad I found it this morning. I will be visiting again!

    • Katie says:

      Debby – Thank you so much for your sweet words! I’m so glad you found my blog! Feel free to let me know if you ever have any questions or suggestions. I was just checking out your blog and I love it! I cannot believe you’ve lost 100 pounds – totally inspirational! :)

  9. welcome to my last two years. I adore this post and to be honest..it’s what I needed. Thank you for writing this and outlining what it really means.

  10. Tamara says:

    I did a variation of “last supper”–I didn’t eat a ton of junk because I wanted to enjoy it while I “could,” but telling myself that I’d be compensating for it tomorrow with a long run or a bout of calorie restriction gave me license to use the food to mask whatever problems I was really facing. “I’ll be good tomorrow” wasn’t the /trigger/ for the binges, which were really about stress or loneliness, but a justification for them.

    • Katie says:

      Yes! You said it perfectly – the “last supper” is a way of justifying a binge, which ultimately is about so much more than food.

  11. I think most everyone has done a bit of the Last Supper. It’s such a silly thing to do, but we’ve all done it. It’s like the “i better get this bad stuff out of my system and enjoy it while i can”. definitely sets you up for disaster with that mindset.

  12. Back in my high school days, I frequently had the “last supper” mentality. In retrospect, it was quite sad because it indicated how obsessed I was with my body and what strained relationship I had with food. Fortunately, over the years, as I learn more about food and nutrition and learn to love myself more, the “last supper” mentality doesn’t return nearly as often. And even if it does creep up on me, I am mentally strong enough to recognize that thought and stop it before catastrophe hits.

    Great post, it really hit the spot for me! :)

  13. Oh yes, I can definitely relate. Until just a year ago, I engaged in “last supper” behavior quite often. But similar to you, once I gave myself permission to enjoy ice cream or peanut butter when I had a craving, this mentality began to subside. :)

  14. Katie–great story of your personal Last Supper Mentality odyssey.

    I find that this is one of the most challenging concepts for people to grasp (that when you truly, truly, stop dieting and give your self permission to eat, it eliminates the intense food drive of last-chance-eating).

    Best wishes,
    Evelyn
    (co-author, Intuitive Eating)

    • Katie says:

      Evelyn,

      I’m absolutely honored that you stopped by my blog! Your work has made such a difference in the lives of so many people, myself included.

      Like you said, I think that people continue to struggle with “last supper” eating because they haven’t truly let go of the diet mentality. They continue to engage in what you’ve called “pseudo-dieting,” another important concept I’ve posted about. (http://www.healthforthewholeself.com/2010/05/pseudo-dieting/)

      Thank you again for your comment!

      Katie

    • Your book is sitting on my bed side table…and it needs another look. I am trying to get down this journey of listening to my body after 10+ years on WW…really..a WHOLE decade. I have kept off 100lbs…but man these last 35lbs are there. I ‘got rid of them’ for a man who wanted me thin and then gained them back because i was TIRED of counting points. In some weird twisted way…the whole dieting ‘me’ is something that is normal. It’s like finding a new person..the PERSON I want to become. I know it sounds silly, and perhaps other people have shared this with you before. But the legalising of food is hard, and for me it actually makes me think more about my food choices and less about if it’s a ‘good or bad choice’. Rather, is this a choice that is going to make me happy, give me energy and move on. Yes, it’s been a hard week of getting over engrained food patterns…but it’s one of the most freeing experiences to stop before and/or EVEN mid- binge and say..this isn’t who I am anymore.

      Thanks for all that you have written. You’re changing my life :)

      M

  15. I’ve definitely done that in the past…esp. when I thought I would be happy if I just ‘lost a few’. It never worked and I no longer think like that. If I want dessert or pizza on ANY given day, I eat it. There are no ‘cheat’ days or meals there are only meals. Plain and simple. :)

    • Katie says:

      Love this comment!!! I totally agree – I hate the phrase “cheat meal.”

  16. Josie says:

    ah, the last supper. an integral part of every ridiculous “diet” i’ve ever been on. and it’s always a binge, because why not when you’ll never eat a brownie ever again?!! i could smack myself.

  17. I have to admit that I tend to do this around the holidays, especially Christmas time. My family makes so much food, I kind of have this mentality around that time of year. I don’t put too much thought into it because it’s only once a year. I’ve tried to be better about not eating so much because I can, after all, eat it again.

  18. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Evelyn Tribole MS RD, Julia Di Nardo. Julia Di Nardo said: RT @Etribole: Health for the Whole Self –The Last Supper Mentality and Dieting. http://bit.ly/c9hKp0 [...]

  19. Shawnee says:

    well you made me want to buy the book! Great post.

  20. Nicole, RD says:

    Oddly enough, I never did this. I had the feeling of, “That was bad what I just ate…I need to get on the band wagon” but it was never, “Oh that was bad, let me do it some more before I get on the band wagon”. I dunno, I guess everyone is different, but this is one negative behavior I didn’t/don’t have, I guess! Very interesting post, Katie!

    • Katie says:

      Good for you for not engaging in this behavior! Maybe you just always had a sense of how ridiculous that mentality is. :)

  21. Kellie says:

    Great post. I am just now getting over this mindset. I would give myself Saturday “cheat days” which would lead me to eat everything I possibly could. I am learning to not have an “all or nothing” mentality and it is really helping.

    • Katie says:

      I used to do the “cheat days” too – it was basically giving myself permission to binge on absolutely everything. I often ate until I was sick…not fun.

  22. katie says:

    Katie you hit this one dead on! I honestly have just recently realized I do this at family celebrations, (birthdays, holidays, etc.) I will ‘allow’ myself a huge meal and dessert, and wonder why I always walk away feeling like I could burst! Umm…Hellooooo…Because I overate thinking it would be ages before I had a ‘celebration’ meal again.

    Thanks for this post, I am really realizing how destructive that mindset is, and posts like these make me see how silly this type of thinking can be!

    ps. i’m adding you to my blog roll! I love your blog and just wanted to tell you I check it often, but am bad at commenting at times! I’m trying to get better at that! :) xoxo

    • Katie says:

      Thank you for your sweet comment!!! It really means a lot to me! And you made me realize that I desperately need to update my blog roll – I haven’t done so since I first started the site. I definitely need to add all of the wonderful blogs – yours included – that I’ve discovered since then. :)

  23. Holly says:

    Oh my, can I ever relate to this. I would tell myself, “Okay, just eat all this crap, get it out of your system, and then you’ll wake up tomorrow craving greens and fruits and everything ‘good’.” I think my mistake was having that good/bad forbidden/allowed mentality with certain foods.

    While I wish I could say I have fully conquered eating intuitively, sometimes I still struggle….but I know/hope one day I won’t have that “go big or go home” concept with some of my “favorite” (and once forbidden) foods!

  24. Jennifer says:

    I am guilty of doing the last supper as well. I am a sweets maniac, but after eating so much of them I would feel awful and could barely get up the next morning to exercise, or for that matter do anything! So then I would decide, okay no sweets for a month. But then we would have church fellowship meals and I would be asked to make dessert and I found myself eating what was left over in the mixing bowl like a mad woman! I still struggle with last suppers from time to time, but I am making the habit to get out of it. Thanks for making me feel that I am no alone in this. :)

  25. J.L. says:

    “I could stop after two cookies because I knew I could have another one tomorrow if I wanted.” — Ahh, I think a light bulb just went off in my head :)

  26. Sometimes reading your posts I do wonder if this is the Matrix and we are actually the same person when it comes to our attitudes towards eating/eating disorders/intuitive eating.

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