Food and guilt. If there’s ever a time I hear people talking about what they ate and feeling guilty over it, it’s after a holiday.
We just wrapped up the big celebratory 4th of July here in the states on Wed. A summer holiday offering all kinds of tasty food treats… everything from outdoor BBQ, hotdogs, apple pie, salads etc it’s a day built for family and food.
Now I’m not gonna verbally slap you if you are one of those who take on guilt for eating or eating to much or eating all of your favorite thing ( where DID those brownies go??) but seriously, guilt and food do not and should not go hand in hand.
However it is a tendency for people to do so, especially after a holiday.
Why do we have those feelings?
Seriously. Why do we food shame? Why do we entertain thoughts of guilt when food is such a huge part of our lives and is enjoyed with family and friends?
If we indulge and we’ve labeled foods as “good” or “bad” and we indulge in the “bad” then we somehow have put ourselves into categories of good or bad, strong or weak, worthy or unworthy.
“I didn’t eat dessert while everyone else did. I am stronger than they are” or “I ate dessert and I’m trying to diet. I’m so weak.
As if being strong, good and worthy somehow makes us better for passing on the food or eating that extra brownie makes us weak and unworthy.
Both ways of thinking are not right.
Both ways can lead to dysfunctional thinking with food. If you missed my post on food and dysfunctional thinking, find it here https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2018/06/06/food-and-dysfunctional-thinking/
In some ways we are wired to restrict ourselves and when we let go of that “restriction” those negative feelings can come.
But hey… get this… our inability to resist “forbidden” foods isn’t a moral failing… ok?
It might not be the best for you to go back for a third serving or eat until your stomach is stuffed and tight, but it’s not a moral failing.
I hope in time, if over eating is a problem for you, that you can get balance to that in your life.
But feeling guilty when we are hanging with friends or family and eating food while having a good time, well it’s not right.
I mean at Christmas when I make my famous cut out sugar cookies that I adore ( seriously they are made with a whole pack of real butter, and a package of cream cheese) I eat them… and I don’t always keep track of them either.
Does anyone really NEED a sugar cookie… or 12… ? I’m not that bad… but you follow.
It’s all about that balance…..
When we put those foods into “good” or “bad” groups and restrict ourselves, the more prone we are to want to eat what we’ve deemed “bad”. Then when we give in and eat them ( maybe at a holiday ) then we tend to over indulge, over eat, because of the restrictions we’ve placed on ourselves.
I mean, isn’t a holiday the perfect time to take the brakes off and just let it all go? Ugh.. the times I hear this at the approaching “holiday season”
Then enter our friend, Mr. Guilt, who is there to remind you of what a failure you are and how you’ll always be weak to doing this and you might as well give it up and forget about it..
But here’s a novel thought…..
When you have balance to your eating, you don’t have the good food/bad food game going on.
Food is just food.
Some foods definitely do not support an overall healthy lifestyle and shouldn’t be heavily indulged in, for sure. On a daily basis our eating should reflect good, natural, healthy foods to maintain a balanced weight and health.
A current example in my life I can share is this. The other day I really, and I mean, really, wanted French fries.
They are hands down at the top of my “favorite non-essential foods” list. I rarely eat them. Why? Because I know (overall) a frequent intake of them does not support my health and fitness goals.
I also know, having them occasionally won’t sabotage my fitness level or overall health.
So I went to a place I knew wouldn’t disappoint ’cause if I’m gonna eat them, they better be good.
They were amazing. Hot, crispy, salted just right. Totally worth every useless calorie.
I enjoyed them, no guilt attached.
So how do you make the guilt stop?
Ok let’s be honest, at a point, you know you’ve had more food than what you really need, right? Unfortunately those feelings just become a vicious circle of feeling bad, then eating again to feel better about feeling bad.
The reason we feel this way is what I mentioned above, the place of restriction so many keep themselves in.
When you don’t restrict yourself it means all the food is available to you. It takes power away because it’s no longer in the “off limits” section.
That may seem scary to some of you… I mean… nothing restricted? what if I just go crazy and eat it all the time?
What if you do? I don’t think you will though.
I tell you, even if you may be tempted to have your favorite thing for days, the novelty will wear off. You may not want it at all because now you won’t be thinking of it as something you “can’t” have. In time those foods will have less and less pull on you, meaning when you go to a holiday meal you can enjoy the things you love without going crazy because well, you haven’t long term restricted yourself.
It’s a pretty free place to be.
How to stop food guilt.
My mom used to say “what’s done is done”
If you’ve had a moment and you know you went overboard, nothing is gonna change that.
You CAN however learn from it.
Forget the whole “negate what you ate” nonsense by thinking you’re gonna workout extra hard the next day. You can’t undo what you ate. You can get up and go workout as you always do and that will be fine.
Think about how you feel afterwards. Do you really like the feelings that come with it? Now days, I tend to get annoyed with myself for mindlessly eating something that offers no benefit to me. I know better and therefore, get frustrated that I didn’t do what I know to do, which is walk away.
Stop restrictive thinking and behaviors. So what if you might have a day or two where you slip or make choices you aren’t happy with?
Welcome to the club, we all do it. The key is to keep moving forward, learning from the choices we make and growing in positive ways.
Don’t quit. For heavens sake don’t quit.
Stop shaming yourself. Own what you did and move on. Like anything, with repetitive practice, the things we do become new habits. In time you will learn to eat with a healthier balance and check system.
Make a list of five foods you enjoy but feel guilty about eating. Write down the reason why you feel guilt over it. Is it rational or irrational? Is it scientifically true? Then for each of those write something positive about it. It’s taste, nutritional value, how it smells, feelings it evokes. There is no right or wrong answer to this. Then allow yourself to pick one of these at a time, eat it, think about it, enjoy it. What do you enjoy most about it? If any guilty feelings come up, use your positive statements to push them away. In time you might determine some foods on your list aren’t worth keeping and that’s ok too.
Guilt and eating do not need to go hand in hand, it is another form of how our thinking has become disordered with food.
Remember food guilt at it’s best is emotional baggage. Learn to let go of it.
Your turn. Have you ever struggled with guilty feelings and eating? How did you overcome them? Or do you still struggle with those feelings?