Do You Suffer "Food Guilt"?
I see a lot of people who feel guilty over their food choices. There is no need to feel guilt when it comes to food and the choices we make. This is very damaging to both our mental and physical health. Guilt surrounding food perpetuates a stop and start cycle with eating where you are constantly on the ‘diet’ or totally off the ‘diet’. This is not the way to lose weight successfully for the long term. A balance in our eating habits is needed where we eat well most of the time and then allow for the occasional treat when we fancy it whether that’s a glass of wine on a warm summer’s evening; a pudding when we go out for dinner or an ice-cream on the beach.
How do you stop the food guilt?
- Become aware.Why do you feel guilt? Is this because you have rigid rules around food that might have started from previous diet clubs where if you ‘fall off the wagon’ you must admit to a room full of strangers? Or do you eat when distracted, bored, stressed or emotional? In either case start to become more aware. Perhaps start a reflective diary. This isn’t for rigidly writing down calories, points or macros and beating yourself up when things go wrong, but more how you feel before, during and after a meal. This way you can notice when feelings of guilt appear.
- Let go of food rules.If we say we can’t have a particular food, then we are more likely to start craving it. We are also likely to hold that food in high esteem and overeat and may be no longer have self-control. It is better to exercise moderation and balance with your food choices than restrict and then binge.
- Slow down before a meal. Take a deep breath before you start eating, eat at a table with a knife and fork. Check in with yourself and your body. Are you hungry? What does your body need? If you are not hungry, then what do you need either physically or emotionally? Taking a deep breath before eating initiates the parasympathetic nervous system which is our ‘rest and digest’ mode and we need to be in this state to correctly digest the food we are eating and absorb all the nutrients.
- Give yourself permission to let go of food guilt. If your body really needs that glass of wine, piece of chocolate – then savour it. Sit down to eat or drink it and allow yourself joy and pleasure from eating it – not guilt. Acknowledge that you are eating it, enjoy it and then move on. This shouldn’t result in a feeling of failure or a need to escalate into a binge for a week.
- Reflect. Things don’t always go to plan. Instead of beating yourself up – ask yourself why did this happen? Was it in my control? What could I do differently next time? Did your overeating happen at a certain time of day, or in a particular place? This is very common as our bodies have ingrained habits – such as the biscuits with the cup of tea mid-morning, or the glass of wine when we come in from work.
Stay positive, food guilt is very common, and it can take time and self-love to reframe your mindset around food. We are all works in progress and no one is perfect in their eating habits all the time.
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Author: Katherine Bright MBANT, CNHC