Do you struggle with food guilt?

Do You Struggle With Food Guilt?

I want to talk to you about something very important and often overlooked in the healthy living world: Food guilt.

Food guilt can come in a variety of forms, such as feeling guilty about eating too much, eating a particular type of food, turning down the offer of food, or even with regard to eating at the “wrong” time of day.

I’ve realized for some time that food guilt is responsible for many unpleasant behaviors around food, and when I recently read the book Body Respect by Linda Bacon, PhD and Lucy Aphramor, PhD, I was astonished to find there’s actually research that suggests the same thing.

Check it out, straight from the book: “There is even research suggesting that guilt messes with your metabolism and weight-regulation system, but enjoyment doesn’t; women who felt guilty eating chocolate cake gained weight, while women who viewed it as a celebration were more likely to stay weight stable over time.”

Whoa. Enjoying chocolate cake is actually better for weight regulation than feeling guilty? Isn’t that the best news you’ve heard all year?

Assuming you’re now on board with the idea of giving up food guilt, here are 5 ways to get started.

  1. Ignore all the “guilt-free” messaging. You know how some magazines show a decadent brownie on the cover, one that’s dripping with fresh whipped cream and hot fudge sauce? But then when you look inside the magazine, most of the recipes are for “No Guilt Guacamole” or “Try this low fat cake and skip the guilt!”? It’s such a bummer, because those types of headlines just reinforce the idea that if you’re eating “regular” food you should feel guilty about it. You don’t have to give up your magazine subscription, just cook what looks delicious and nutritious to you, and ignore the messaging behind it.
  2. Accept that you are not going to do it perfectly all the time. Sometimes you’ll be totally on track with your healthy living goals, and other times you’ll be exhausted and end up eating something that’s not what you normally would have chosen. Guilt just makes you feel worse about it (and that may make you even more likely to turn to even more unhealthy food to avoid those bad feelings) and certainly doesn’t change what you’ve eaten, so try to accept what happened and just move on.
  3. Realize that one meal, one day, even a week or a month will not make or break your health. Make consistent choices over time, allow room for foods that aren’t green and leafy or lean and full of protein, be active, take care of your emotional health, and let it go when you eat something that’s on the more decadent side.
  4. Make sure to give your body enough fuel. Oftentimes food guilt comes from really overdoing it, and that circumstance can spring from underfeeding yourself for too long. It’s tempting to cut way back on calories in order to drop a few pounds, but that sets up your body to get overly hungry and for you to lose control when something tantalizing is presented to you.

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