Last supper syndrome is that feeling where you “need” to consume what’s left of what you deem as a “bad food” so that it’s out of sight and you can “get back on track” and eat “clean” once again. This usually happens at the weekend ready for “the diet starts Monday” or perhaps after Christmas before the “New Year, new me” diet starts.
Another typical example of last supper syndrome is when there is a small amount of food left in the packet (crisps, a biscuit, cereal, pizza etc) and we are compelled to just empty the packet or finish what’s there, regardless of how full we are feeling.
As the picture suggests, no one ever worries about having left over kale sitting “calling their name” in the fridge so why do we do it with the so-called “bad foods”?
Ditch the “good food” “bad food” mentality
The diet and nutrition industry is taking some very positive turns at the moment with regards to demonising foods.
There are no “good foods” and “bad foods”. It is all just FOOD. There are better quality foods… higher calorie foods… foods full of nutrients and foods with no nutritional value at all. They all have their place and purpose.
(There are of course preferable foods which depends on the context. For example heart health. The British Heart Foundation will recommend foods to eat and avoid to lower the chances of further heart problems).
So why do we do it?
It’s the restriction mentality (that seems to be assumed is necessary for fat loss?!). The “I can’t eat that, I’m on a diet” or “that’s X many syns”.
What happens when you’re told you can’t have something? Generally, you then want it. Am I right?
So we have this list of “bad foods” whether you call them that or “syns”, “treats” or “cheat foods” which have that negative connotation. When we eat something from that category, guilt floods us.
This can encourage the attitude of “I’ve mucked up my diet now so I’ll just eat “normally” (ie I’ll allow myself these foods guilt free) and then I’ll start again Monday (ie come Monday I can no longer enjoy anything nice and I’ll restrict myself once again).
This cycle of restriction and binging just carries on circling which is why so many people yo-yo diet and so many people develop the last supper syndrome. That feeling of I must eat it all NOW because I’ll never be “allowed” it again.
So how can I stop?
Conquering last supper syndrome takes a little practice and effort of your part. If you can tackle it though, it will be a huge step in the right direction for fat loss.
There are many triggers for last supper syndrome that I may not even cover in this blog post.
Here are some to avoid:
Don’t succumb to peer pressure
Have you ever been full and had someone say to you something along the lines of “oh go on just have one more”, “I spent a lot of time making this dessert, please have a taste” or “you may as well just finish the packet”?
Now, if you said “no thank you, I have a life threatening allergy to that” no one would argue would they? Yet some people are so insistent you wreck your fat loss progress if you simply say “no thanks, I’m stuffed”.
Just like it’s ok to eat the food if you’re hungry, it’s perfectly acceptable to decline if you are not. Practising that will be one of the best steps you can take towards your fat loss goals.
Reassure yourself that all foods and drinks will still exist tomorrow should you still want them.
Generally, this is one of the most common causes of the feelings of last supper syndrome. When you’re at a restaurant and you’re absolutely stuffed but you’ve still got chips on your plate. You feel like you MUST eat them all because when do you ever get to go out for dinner? AVOID THIS BEHAVIOUR FOR FAT LOSS.
Giving in to that impulse will probably cause you to eat more calories than you need. If your stomach feels full, you don’t need to eat any more in that moment. So what do you do? You say to yourself “if I want [enter food name here] later I can buy some more and eat them.
A very good example of this is when you’re at a buffet. It’s very easy to eat until you’re full and then continue hover by the buffet picking at more foods. Eating those foods is absolutely fine, you should enjoy them! However, the calories consumed can double if you mindlessly pick! I can’t stress enough how important it is at this point to reassure yourself and say “I liked those pringles, I’m full now but I’m an adult and I can buy myself more tomorrow if I want them”. And then step away from the buffet.
THIS. TAKES. PRACTICE
Please don’t kick yourself if you give in. It’s still a valuable part of the process because if you stepped away for 10 mins before grabbing another Pringle or slice of quiche next time you might step away for 15 mins and eventually, you’ll just step away and not return.
Listen to your body
Do you feel hungry? Yes=eat and no=wait until the answer is yes.
Sometimes feelings of thirst are disguised as an empty rumbly tummy feeling, so having a drink of water and waiting 20mins can sometimes help.
If you’re eating and you start to feel full, that’s when you stop eating. It will take a few more minutes for your last mouthful to reach your stomach so if you stop eating at the first signs of feeling full you can avoid over eating. Which if you’re trying to reduce body fat, can help you stay in a state of calorie deficit. Remember, you can leave what’s on your plate for later- it isn’t going to go anywhere. If it does, just buy more when you are hungry again.
Use those foods for their purpose
As I said above, a typical time for showing signs of last supper syndrome is at twixmas, the time between Christmas and New Year when you over consume all of the calorie dense foods to clear them from your cupboards and mind…ready for the new diet to start.
How about instead of doing that, you don’t do it? Woah, mind….blown!
You can just leave them and consume them gradually, (within your calorie target if aiming for a deficit for fat loss, or as part of a balanced diet if you’re not trying to lose body fat). You could even fuel your workouts with the higher sugar snacks. Let’s take away the labels of “good” and “bad and instead just see everything as “food”.
Fruit and vegetables have nutrients in them that are imperative for good health.
Protein high foods such as meat, fish, eggs, tofu, Quorn and legumes are good for building bodily tissues and have a positive impact on hair, skin and muscle quality.
Fats such as olive oil, cheese and avocado are necessary for vitamin absorption.
Haribo, chocolate and biscuits have pretty much no nutritional value at all but the high sugar content can actually fuel exercise and offer quick release energy to give you a good session in the gym, out running or at home.
You have the ability to label foods as “bad” and “good” so you obviously know which ones offer more nutrients for health, just please don’t go down that road of labelling them “healthy” and “unhealthy” because that’s still demonising foods.
If you allow yourself to get distracted while eating, or eat too quickly… you may miss the signals of feeling full and fail to register how much you’ve eaten and if you’ve even enjoyed it!
Instead of picking at the biscuit tin every time you pass it for example, make yourself a cup of tea, put some on a plate and make a point of sitting down and eating.
Whatever you’re eating, put your knife and fork or the food itself down between each mouthful and focus on each mouthful one at a time… recognising the tastes and textures and enjoying what you’re eating. Chew everything fully and swallow it before your next mouthful. Not only does this allow for the signal of feeling full to reach your brain, it you have sat and truly enjoyed what you have eaten, it’s difficult to feel guilty for it, right?
Try to avoid flicking through apps on your phone or rushing your food. If you don’t have time to eat, you MIGHT need to look at food preparation during your spare time so that you have more time to sit and enjoy your food when you’re a little busier.
I work hard with my clients to stop this last supper syndrome cycle and have found it can really help avoid binge eating which is not only good for fat loss, but good for mental health as well. If you think you need the additional coaching with your fat loss or fitness goals, please get in touch