What's Your Experience with Last Supper Eating?

Some years ago, I went to see a naturopath about some health challenges I was having. As part of my treatment, she asked me to eliminate some foods from my diet, including gluten. Desperate to feel better, I agreed to do so.

I gave myself one last week to eat all my favorite gluten-containing foods.

During those last few days, I vividly recall feasting on artisanal sourdough loaves from my beloved local bread maker.

I also raided all my favorite bakeries loading up on blueberry scones, chocolate-chip cookies, veggie focaccia and chocolate-fudge cake.

The idea of future deprivation drove this intense phase of one-last-shot, now-or-never eating. I happily gorged on gluten while simultaneously grieving the end of our relationship.

Can you relate to this behavior?

It’s called Last Supper Eating.

Farewell-to-Food Feast
Before embarking on a new diet, plan or program, have you ever found yourself eating everything in sight, especially the foods that will soon be forbidden?

Or perhaps you planned one last elaborate meal featuring all the dishes that would be off limits starting tomorrow.

If you’re a yo-yo dieter, you’re likely very familiar with this pre-dieting ritual.

Like many of my clients, you may view this period of intense, frantic consumption—which is often followed by overwhelming guilt—as “proof” that you need to restrict your eating because you simply can’t control yourself around food.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The threat of food restriction can naturally trigger a farewell-to-food feast. It’s human nature to respond this way to deprivation.

Yet, it’s so easy to go into self-blame and shame.

How to End Last Supper Eating
Intuitive Eating puts an end to Last Supper Eating.

With Intuitive Eating, there is no deprivation. You have unconditional permission to eat whatever looks good, tastes good, and feels good in your body.

Instead of depriving yourself and eating according to a set of rules, you ask yourself: Do I like the taste of this food? Do I like how this food makes my body feel? Would I choose to eat this again or feel this way again?

What Works for Me
When I started reclaiming my Intuitive Eater, I asked myself if I actually liked the gluten-free foods I was eating.

The gluten-free bread, for example, was tolerable. It wasn’t delicious; it was simply an expensive vehicle for nut butter.

Since it wasn’t medically necessary for me to eliminate gluten (i.e., I don’t have celiac disease), I experimented with eating my beloved breads again, along with other gluten-containing foods—and my body felt just fine.

Although well intentioned, the diet the naturopath put me on didn’t improve my health condition. It just left me feeling deprived and unsatisfied, which always backfires.

As an Intuitive Eater, I now determine what works best for me by staying attuned to the messages my body sends.

If I skip a particular food because I don’t like how it tastes or feels in my body, I don’t view it as deprivation but rather as self-care and body kindness.

It feels really good to know I’ve had my last Last Supper.

Once I Open the Bag, I Can't Stop!

Ever since she was a kid, Kendra loved barbecue potato chips. They reminded her of summer pool parties, lakeside picnics and backyard cookouts.

When she began dieting in her 20s, she rarely let herself eat them. Her beloved salty snacks had been put on her “bad” foods list.

However, making the chips a forbidden food backfired. Depriving herself of them only intensified her cravings.

Soon they became one of Kendra's trigger foods. Once she started crunching away on them, she couldn’t stop.

When she would break down and finally eat the chips, her eating felt out of control. She ate with a sense of urgency, barely even tasting them.

Halfway through the bag, she’d tell herself, “I’ve come this far, I might as well keep going since I’m never letting myself have these again!”

As she licked the barbecue seasoning off her fingers, Kendra would be overcome with tremendous guilt and shame.

These feelings, coupled with the overeating, provided her with false evidence that she simply couldn’t be trusted with the chips. She vowed to never let them cross her lips again.

But she couldn’t stop thinking about them!

The Habituation Effect

Feeling obsessed with your forbidden foods is a natural outcome of dieting and deprivation. Telling yourself you can’t have something often makes you want it even more.

When you make foods off limits, whether it’s chocolate, ice cream, bread, chips or fries, it elevates their desirability, reward value and power.

In order to make peace with the chips and stop her restrict-binge-repent-repeat cycle, Kendra needed to experience the habituation effect.

Habituation means the more you eat a particular food, the less enticing it becomes.


As its novelty and allure wears off, the food becomes neutral. It’s no longer a big deal. You desire it less. (You’ve probably experienced this with leftovers.)

Forbidden-food rules, food restriction and dieting prevent habituation. Lack of habituation, combined with the fear you'll never be able to eat a certain food again, commonly results in intense cravings, overeating and binge eating.

Unconditional Permission to Eat

In the past, Kendra would only allow herself to eat barbecue chips about once a month since she always ended up losing control and overdoing it.

In order to habituate to the chips, she started to eat them every day, sometimes a few times a day.

At first, Kendra was scared to have the chips around all the time. As she feared, she did continue to overeat them for a while. However, although she didn’t trust herself yet, she did trust the process and stuck with it.

By giving herself unconditional permission to enjoy the chips whenever she wanted and however much she wanted, Kendra was able to neutralize her relationship with them.

Eventually, her desire for the chips diminished. Sometimes she completely forgot they were in her cupboard! When she did want them, she was able to eat an amount that felt just right, completely guilt-free.

Encouraged by the outcome, Kendra slowly started eating her other forbidden foods, gradually rebuilding her self-trust while enjoying a more peaceful, flexible and relaxed relationship with food.

Nourishing My Soul in Jordan

I just returned from traveling around Jordan for a few weeks.

It was a very memorable adventure, especially hiking in the prehistoric city of Petra, one of the world’s most famous archaeological sites.

Renee Pletka-Petra.jpg

The act of travel feeds my soul on such a deep level that food often becomes a secondary form of nourishment.

This also happens when I’m immersed in other pleasurable pursuits, such as reading a captivating book, strolling in the park or losing myself in a creative project.

Lack of Soul Food
When you don't regularly engage in soul-satisfying endeavors—whether it’s traveling, singing, dancing, drawing, gardening, volunteering or communing with Mother Nature—your life can become pleasure deficient.

As a result, you can become over-reliant on food to fulfill your inherent desire and need for pleasure.

Of course, food should be a tremendous source of pleasure. Problems can arise, however, when it becomes your only source of pleasure.

If you struggle with food obsession, cravings, emotional eating or overeating, consider if your life is lacking "soul food." 

Jot down a list of everything that feeds your soul and gives you genuine pleasure, then reflect on how frequently you engage with each item listed. If rarely, consider what needs to change so you’re experiencing more pleasure in your daily life.

Although there are many reasons for food preoccupation, cravings, emotional eating and overeating, once you start nourishing your soul with more pleasurable pursuits—the things that make you feel truly alive, energized and free—you may discover you rely less on food to enrich your life.

This has been true for me and for many of my clients. It certainly can be for you, too.