Ahh food guilt, something that plagues most of us when trying to get in shape. I have battled this for as long as I can remember. I find that the guilt was strongest when I had no concept of health and would cycle between trying to lose weight and not caring and eating whatever I want. Prior to 2 years ago, I had very low self esteem. High school was the time I went from eating whatever, not caring and honestly just hating how I looked. Then spring would hit and I would decide I wouldn’t want to look and feel this way for summer and try to lose weight. This is when the food guilt became bad.
First, I was not eating properly to lose weight so that was huge error number 1 but that’s a story for a different day. I was very restrictive during these time periods. If we were to have pizza for dinner, I would tell myself “I CAN ONLY eat one slice”. Well that begins the binge-restrict cycle. Knowing mentally I was only allowing myself one slice, I would do it and then be unsatisfied. Then the next time we had pizza I would have 3 or 4 slices because I had felt so restricted last time. I didn’t need 4 slices, I’m full after one or 2 but there was no reasoning after restricting myself.
I’ve noticed that food guilt is way more prevalent when I was in my binge-restrict cycle. These past few months I really have been trying to break the food guilt. Yes I do have certain goals for my body and how I want to look but honestly, my main goal is to be comfortable around food (and I mean any food at any time). I have really struggled with this the past few weeks so I thought this would be a great time to write this as it can be a reminder for me and hopefully helpful for you!
Stop with the “I can’t have that”
Actually you can. Unless you’re intolerant or allergic, nothing is really stopping you from having it. You can manage to pick up whatever food item you’re eyeing, put it in your mouth and chew. You can do that, therefore that food item, you can have. I have read before that to break this restriction mindset you can think “I just don’t want it” but for me this seems silly. Clearly I want it, if I see it and am thinking about it, I want it. Try to think of it as “oh that sounds good, maybe i’ll have one in a bit”.
You can also make decisions based on hunger. Ask yourself questions such as “do I want that cupcake because I’m starving and it’s there? Will I still want it after I eat my meal?” Try to determine if you want it because it sounds good or because you’re hungry and impatient to wait for a real meal. If you’re wanting it solely for the fact that it’s there and you are starving, chances are you’ll eat more than you actually need. If you eat, and then decide that the cupcake still sounds good, then go ahead and eat the cupcake.
Break away from the idea of “naughty/bad foods” and “healthy/clean” foods
I’ve been working on this for months and am still guilty of it. This is formed by diet culture. We live in a society where foods get this label of good or bad based on their processed level. Try to think of foods more of ones with higher or lower nutritional value. 80/20 isn’t 80% healthy and 20% bad. It’s 80% Whole Foods or foods with higher nutritional value and 20% foods with lesser value.
If you are told not to do something, you instantly want to do it even more. The same goes for food. If you tell yourself not to eat that oreo because its bad for you, you instantly want it more. What happens then is eventually you’ll probably cave and eat an entire sleeve. All because you didn’t’ let yourself eat the single oreo hours prior. Even then, just because you ate that entire sleeve doesn’t mean you’re eating unhealthy. It just means you ate a sleeve of cookies that offer no nutritional value to your goals. That’s okay, you don’t have to eat those foods only to make your goals. As long as you’re not doing that everyday, those cookies fall into the 20%.
You had some yummy cookies. Congrats.
Tip # 3
Remind yourself the food will always be there
This tip helps with breaking the idea of restriction. When you deny yourself of something you want, you might end up bingeing and eating more of it than you need because you are stuck in a place of lack. (Hello Oreo example discussed above) You have this mindset that you can’t eat this food, so because I’m letting myself have it in this moment, I’m going to eat as much as I can. For me to break this idea, I started to accept that I can have these foods (hello tip #1) and then realized that these foods are always going to be here. I don’t need to have it all at once like I’m never gonna see it again. Whatever you want, will always be at the store if you really really want it and it’s not in your house. (unless they’re sold out, then sad day).
Break negative self talk
Reading that you’re probably like “duh that’s legit food guilt” but hear me out. The 3 tips above are there to help you break this tip. They all go together.
We live in a society that makes us feel not good enough. From a little age we see stick thin models featured on ads, commercials and billboards. We hear things like “oh you’re not eating enough”, “wow someone is hungry”,and “a moment on your lips is a lifetime on your hips.” It’s socially acceptable to say “I look fat”, “I wish I looked like her” and “why can’t I look like that.” We have been trained to view ourselves negatively and it to be ok!! So when foods have that “bad” and “unhealthy” rap, we feel discouraged, fat and unhealthy.
When I start to eat foods of lesser nutritional value more frequently (aka vacation) and I start to feel guilty, I stop myself right in my tracks. With having more guilt and regret about the foods I eat, I’ve been pretty good at catching the negative behavior. When I catch myself, I simply talk myself through it.
First, you can’t take it back. You ate the food and that was a choice. Nothing guilt can do that will reverse it. First I say “stop it” in my head. I legit tell myself to knock it off. Then I say things such as “this will not break my progress”, “it tasted good and I enjoyed it, and that’s ok.”
Usually when the guilt starts, I start to think about budgeting my food. If I’m eating more than I’m burning. In this case, I tell myself not to worry. My body will naturally eat less at a later time when it’s ready, to accommodate what I have already eaten. It’s what our bodies do. Our bodies want to remain at homeostasis, at an intake it feels comfortable with. So I wanted the treat and had it, but I might find I’m not as hungry later. Once I remind myself of these things, I instantly feel less bad and go about my day as normal. Worry and guilt gone.
These are not going to happen overnight. This is a lifelong thing that has been ingrained in us. One day of implementing this isn’t gonna fix it forever. We’re constantly growing, changing and hopefully improving ourselves. It’s a work in progress. As long as you’re catching yourself in the guilt, not allowing it to continue and forgiving yourself for the negativity, over time it will lessen. Over time, you’ll be more comfortable with the foods you eat. No matter what they are.
Now go treat yourself,
check out my most recent post talking all about my digital detox and how it changed my life:)
- Road Trip Essentials: Healthy Snack Options (great snack options either way)
- Fitness: 5 Reasons you aren’t seeing results
- Top Smoothie Ingredients to keep you full