With Easter creeping up, there seems to be chocolate lurking around every corner. If chocolate is the one treat you can’t resist, this can lead to a pile of trouble (and empty chocolate wrappers).

But you can choose to focus on taking a healthy and balanced approach to food. That’s why I’ve asked my good friend Caroline Power, dietitian and nutritional hypnotherapist, to share some tips about navigating through the holiday time. She truly believes that everyone should be able to have their chocolate and eat it too!

Why depriving yourself doesn’t work

I don’t believe in saying no to all of the foods that you love. It’s simply not sustainable. In fact, I touched on this very subject in a blog I wrote last year about incorporating foods you love into your lifestyle.

Why is it that saying no to your favourite foods doesn’t work? It all comes down to your unconscious mind – the mind that runs everything underneath your conscious thoughts and decisions.

The unconscious mind works a bit differently to your conscious mind. It doesn’t understand negatives like ‘I can’t’ or ‘I shouldn’t’.

So when you think to yourself ‘I shouldn’t eat chocolate, I shouldn’t eat chocolate, I shouldn’t eat chocolate’, what do you think your unconscious mind hears? ‘Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate!’

By focusing on not eating it, you’re actually making your brain think even more about chocolate. This can become a vicious cycle of deprivation followed by binge-eating.

How to enjoy Easter treats without going overboard

So if depriving yourself doesn’t work, what does? You can allow yourself to enjoy your Easter treats – whether it’s chocolate or something else – without going crazy and eating a kilo in one sitting. These tips will help you to do just that.

Make your food choices consciously

How many times have you suddenly realised you’re snacking on something – and half the bag is already gone? Many of us eat on autopilot. But you can take your power back from food by making more conscious choices.

This can mean choosing to eat something nourishing before having your chocolate. Or it could be choosing to have a small Easter egg after dinner each night until you’ve finished your chocolate stash. You can apply these same rules to the kids as well, so they’re not eating chocolate 24/7!

Understand your unconscious mind’s drivers

The unconscious mind is quite simple. It is always working towards one of two things: moving you towards pleasure and moving you away from pain.

Chocolate has compounds in it that give us pleasure. That is why so many of us enjoy it, especially if we’re stressed out! In fact, it’s one of the quickest ways to feel better.

But if you are dying for a block of chocolate all the time, it’s time to look at how much pleasure you’re getting. How many times a day do you do something that makes YOU feel good? You might want to add in small pleasures such as going for a walk in nature or sipping a cup of tea before starting your day.

But chocolate’s comforting properties can also be a way to avoid dealing with pain. This might be emotional pain or stressful experiences. Do you reach for the chocolate after a hard day at work? Or maybe when the kids are driving you batty?

Chocolate is delicious, but it’s not magical. It can’t erase feelings like loneliness and anxiety – it can only cover it up for a few minutes. If anything, it’s likely to heap guilt on top of those emotions and make the situation worse.

Instead, try to pinpoint what it is you’re avoiding, and find a different way to deal with it. If you’re lonely, call a friend or have a cuddle with your pet. If you’re feeling anxious, focus on what you want, rather than on what could go wrong. And if it’s a build-up of stress, write down everything that is stressing you out on a piece of paper.

Enjoy your chocolate

Finally, it’s important to actually enjoy your treats when you do have them.

If you focus on your guilt and shame over your favourite holiday dish or that delicious chocolate you were gifted, you get nothing out of it. In fact, you’re more likely to deprive yourself in the future, then swing back to treating yourself, and continuing the cycle of emotional eating.

But if you take your time and relish it, you’ll release more feel-good brain chemicals and experience more pleasure. You’re less likely to feel guilty, which means less ‘pain’ for the unconscious mind to run from.

Whether you are religious or not, the holidays are about being kind and loving to people, which includes yourself. So pick your treats and then enjoy every mouthful, guilt-free.

The best part is that when you take your time, you’re less likely to overeat, and more likely to stop when you’re full rather than stuffing yourself!

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