Updated 12 October 2015

Easter without the excess

DietDoc urges all South Africans to enjoy Easter – but without going overboard with the tasty treats.


This week, we will be inundated with advertisements for chocolate eggs and other Easter offerings, with cute Easter bunnies staring at us from every shop window. And over the weekend the Sunday Times devoted an entire edition of Food Weekly to chocolate.

Add to this recipes for hot-cross buns dripping with butter and luscious roast lamb, both of which are linked symbolically to this important Christian festival.

Reaction to the hunger of Lent?

It is possible that this rush to buy and sample so many forbidden and "sinful" foods at Easter may be a "leftover" reaction to the long period of abstinence and deprivation of the period of Lent that precedes Easter.

Nowadays Lent, for many Christians, is a period where they give up one luxury such as wine or, as often as not, chocolate.

Read: Quick tips for a healthier Easter

But for many centuries, the time preceding Easter was one of real hunger and suffering. It was the end of the long, hard winter in Europe, and food stores were really low, fresh foods practically non-existent and the spectre of hunger ever present.

Easter, which has been linked to the pagan festivals that celebrated the end of winter and the return of spring with its promise of new life and plentiful food, must have been an exciting time.

Imagine sitting down to a table groaning with fresh food, meats, and above all sweet treats after those hungry days. This impulse to eat as much as possible after periods of deprivation is still with us today and many of the excesses of Easter may well be rooted in our ancient behaviour patterns.

Other manifestations

Overeating after deprivation occurs when we overeat after skipping a meal like breakfast, or when patients who have lost weight by means of an unbalanced, "starvation diet" return to eating and gorge themselves until they regain all the weight they have lost.

We also know that hunter-gatherers eat until they are unable to move when they kill an animal after weeks of hunger. 

Read: Don't spoil your diet over Easter

It is, therefore, possible that we as a species reacted to the hunger of Lent by overeating at Easter feasts in the past.

Nowadays there is not much fasting during Lent, but the advertisers have taken advantage of the situation – and if you are bombarded long enough by endless messages and mouth-watering pictures, you too will succumb to the chocolate eggs and bunnies, the hot-cross buns and roasted meats.

How to prevent Easter from sabotaging your waistline

The trouble with all the extra kilojoules we consume at Easter is that they're bad for our waistlines.

Try to apply the following guideline: “You don't have to do without – just be sensible and eat small portions of the fatty meat, sugary desserts and other refined carbohydrates.”

Read: Why Easter eggs are good for you

By all means have an Easter egg or a bunny. You can also share a packet of hot-cross buns with your family and eat a bit of meat, but with the visible fat trimmed  off.

Spend time going for walks or doing some outdoor activity like playing with the children or taking them cycling in the park.

Let’s see if we can make this coming weekend a joyous celebration without adding to the burden of obesity in South Africa.

Read more:

Avoid heartburn this Easter
Enjoy Easter without the sugar rush
Chocolate reduces heart risk


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