Anyone For Tea And Cake?

23 July 2021 | Written by Xenia Ayiotis

This week, my husband and I decided to take a day off and spend it in nature to replenish.  One of my husband’s favourite past times (other than cycling) is afternoon tea and cake.

Tea and cake.
One of life’s pleasures.

I remember how this outing used to be torture for me. Whether I was on a diet or not, I would dread it. Such a seemingly simple thing, yet fraught with drama and an endless debate in my mind.

Should I?
Shouldn’t I?
Maybe I’ll just have tea and no cake (I’m not a big fan of tea – coffee for me).
I’ll just have a teeny tiny taste of George’s cake.

In the dreaded dieting days, there were two possible scenarios at afternoon tea:

Scenario 1

Will myself to not have cake.
White-knuckle the desire for something sweet and forbidden.
Look longingly as George enjoyed his with zero guilt and pure delight.
Wondering silently how the hell do you do that? Later that evening, a deprivation-induced binge would result.

Scenario 2

Order cake with a litany of justifications and wolf it down at the speed of light. The faster you eat the cake, the less it counts! It didn’t matter if the cake was good or not, it was cake and I needed to finish it. Eating the cake would be followed by enormous guilt, like I killed someone for the cake. Blaming myself for not having any willpower. This would lead to more eating because I had already “cheated”.

Back to this week

I looked at the cakes and pastries on offer. Nothing appealed to me. Had there been a vanilla cake with buttercream icing (that looked fresh and delicious), I certainly would have had a slice.  So, instead I chose a loaf of sourdough bread to take home and enjoyed watching my husband savour his apple strudel and tea. He looked at me and remarked how the Xen before mindful eating would have just chosen anything or been grumpy and miserable because I “wasn’t allowed” to have cake.

How did I go from either inhaling cake or denying myself, to taking it or leaving it with no drama? It wasn’t easy,  it took work and awareness plus a lot of patience.


Let me share 5 steps to eating cake (or not) with joy and ease.

Stop restricting and let go of food rules

Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. That’s also a definition of dieting. Dieting is not only a predictor of weight gain but also a dysfunctional relationship with food. If you have restricted food, I get how rules can provide structure and a false sense of safety, but the more rules we have around food, the more backlash there will be against these rules. It sounds counterintuitive but fewer food rules equals more food freedom.

The power of permission

I truly believe that the only way to stop the food fight is to give yourself permission to eat what you want. Having forbidden foods leads to intense cravings and a feeling of deprivation which often lead to bingeing. Forbidding foods has a backlash effect. Allowing foods, on the other hand, leads to foods losing their charge and novelty – the paradox of permission. Giving yourself permission to eat what you want helps you make peace by exposing you to forbidden foods, which then eventually change from exciting to ordinary. The aim is to neutralize the charge and thrill around eating a forbidden food. When you know you can eat anything you want, whenever you want, you are able to ask yourself, “Do I really want this right now?” and “Am I enjoying this taste?”

Listen to your body

By repeatedly restricting food and ignoring hunger and fullness signals, we lose touch with our body. We don’t know if we are hungry or full. When we eat reactively, we lose touch with how food feels in our body. Your body will tell you what to eat, how much to eat and when to stop eating – if you are able to connect and listen. When we connect with our body, we start building trust but it takes time to connect. Remember the body whispers and the mind shouts! The purpose of eating is to feel good and to enjoy the experience. When we eat to a painfully full point, the experience is no longer pleasurable. What is the sweet spot of pleasure when eating? It’s not an exact science. You need to experiment with this – you may not get it right at each meal –  each time you eat is an opportunity to practice!

Manage your mind

When it comes to eating, we need to be aware of “all or nothing thinking”. Be careful what you say to yourself. Avoid telling yourself you won’t eat a lot or that you will eat perfectly. Watch the voice of your inner “food police” – judging cake as bad or naughty is probably going to result in guilt and shame. This often sets us up for the opposite, because our inner rebel wants freedom and choice!

Pay attention to thoughts like:

  • “I shouldn’t eat cake”
  • “I’ve messed up so I may as well carry on”
  • “I didn’t need that!”

A restrictive or judgemental thought will most likely trigger rebellious eating.

Focus on well-being

The more we focus on weight loss, the more difficult it is to make peace with food and feel free around eating. If you are pursuing weight loss as a goal, it will be difficult to eat cake and enjoy it without worrying. Instead, focus on well-being. By that I mean make choices that help you feel good in your body. Eat and move in a way that feels good rather than “being” good. Well-being includes mental, emotional and physical health. Obsessing about food and not eating cake isn’t healthy. And pleasure is healthy!

My deepest wish for you:

May you experience pleasure in eating.
May you have peace in your mind and peace on your plate.
May you eat with joy, peace and ease.

I love to hear from you and if you happen to have a delicious recipe for vanilla cake with buttercream icing please share your recipe! I am in the mood for cake! 😊

Be well!

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“From our first meeting - two faces on Zoom across the world from each other, there was a sense of familiarity and comfort that was a healing balm for a lifetime of food struggles and dieting. Without realizing how much damage I had done to myself by adhering, for decades, to restrictive food plans and rigid diet programs, Xen had a way of redirecting the harsh and negative self-talk and sending me forth each week with compassion, mindfulness and a new way of seeing myself in the here and now. Gone are the maybe somedays, and if-only, and when-I’m-smaller thinking. Now I am committed to the imperfect and rocky path to listening to my body, accepting my perfect imperfections, and rejecting diet mentality. Those negative voices will revisit me from time to time, I know, but Xen has offered valuable tools for meeting each day as a fresh start - another choice, another chance. Her devotion to this work and her belief in her clients is a remarkable gift; I am so fortunate to have found her. It is never too late to let go of the drama and embrace joy, ease and self-acceptance.”

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“I reached out to Xenia because 2021 started on a tumultuous note for me. Between deaths, businesses suffering, hospitalizations, and job losses in our personal circle, I felt depleted and found myself being available for everyone but myself. Then I was hit with an unexpected health diagnosis, which was the last straw as it meant giving up “healthy foods” and workouts that I leaned on for my well-being and stability. Despite working in wellness (Yes, coaches and healers are vulnerable too!), I found myself reaching out to desserts for comfort. I like to live a life of permissions (not labels or deprivation leading to bingeing), so I wanted to work with someone who approached healing from a place of mindful compassion. I didn’t want to be my own client. Xenia was great in reminding me to be kind to myself. Working with her, brought me peace and helped shift my mindset. I love how desserts and I look at each other now.”

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