Hey guys, welcome back to the blog, today we’re talking about food guilt. You’re probably familiar with the term and with the experience of the feeling as well. I would define it as feelings of shame and regret after consuming foods we deem unhealthy or after eating what we think is too much. This is something I’ve experienced far more times than I can count and it has to be one of the worst feelings I’ve experienced. The thing is, the food doesn’t even have to be unhealthy to trigger the guilt, sometimes you can be eating healthy and nutritious meals and still feel guilty if you feel like you overate. However, food guilt is something created by our own minds, it is as real as we make it. Often times I’ve found myself struggling with regret after a full day of eating simply because I thought I had too many calories or wasn’t healthy enough. It takes a while to snap myself out of that dark hole of shame and criticism sometimes, which is why I wanted to share some tips that may help you deal with food guilt. Before we get into it, this is a disclaimer that all of these tips are based off of personal experience and are not a replacement for professional medical advice. If you are struggling with mental health or what you think may be an eating disorder, please seek help or further advice, thank you.
#1. Know Your Triggers
If you feel guilty after eating, it may be helpful to know what foods or eating habits trigger that guilt. For some people it may be eating junk food, processed foods filled with sugar, or foods they just think is unhealthy. It might be binge eating, or eating late at night for you. No matter what it is, it’s important to know what does it for you so you can analyse why you feel guilty.
My food guilt is triggered when I eat foods I do not eat on a normal basis, especially if I’ve done so over the course of a few days. This comes from a fear of overeating, which comes from a fear of weight gain. Even though there is absolutely nothing wrong with gaining weight, we’ve grown up with the idea that weight gain is something negative. It’s only now that this mindset is starting to shift but it is still easier said than done. So triggers are often foods or habits that society has perceived as negative and any guilt resulting from that is also naturalised. But guilt after eating isn’t something that is supposed to be natural. Identifying what triggers your food guilt is the first step to deconstructing the reasoning behind the guilt.
#2. Write & Reflect
One method that always helps is to journal your food guilt, writing down what you did that day and your emotions throughout. Often times you’ll find that writing it down helps you feel more accountable of what or how much you ate, helping you realise it isn’t as bad as your mind is saying it is. However, this isn’t the same as calorie or macro tracking, you would only write down the emotions in that moment, not track every day. Writing down what you regret and then throwing that paper away can help you acknowledge the food guilt and be more mindful so that you can put it past you.
#3. Validate Hunger Cues & Cravings
One of the biggest struggles when it comes to food guilt is knowing when you are hungry. Often times we reprimand ourselves for hunger, but hunger does not always mean boredom, stress, or needing water. A lot of the times you’re hungry because your body needs nourishment and it’s important to acknowledge these cues as well.
We’ve cultivated this idea that cravings are wrong, but rather than suppressing your cravings every time, it might help to give your body what it wants. This doesn’t mean mindlessly eating foods which may not be the most nutritive. Instead, it means having the occasional bowl of ice cream or pizza. If you incorporate balance into your life and listen to your cravings every once in a while, you’ll find it much easier to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
#4. Move Your Body
Moving your body after overeating or when you’re feeling guilty doesn’t mean running on the treadmill for 3 hours as punishment. Often times we feel down or lethargic because we haven’t moved our body that day and that can lead to feelings of guilt. Moving your body can mean anything from 5 minutes of stretching or dancing to a daily walk. If you suffer from food guilt, move your body not to burn calories but to feel in control of your body in that moment.
#5. Do not Punish Yourself
My last and final tip is to never punish yourself for bingeing or overeating. If you feel like you overate, then you can feel content that you enjoyed your food or simply move on from it. If you overate at a family dinner, realize that a big part of these experiences with family are tied to the food you had. If you binge ate everything and everything at 2 am and you don’t even remember what or why, then realize that your body needs fuel and you can always put that to good use layer on.
I hope you found something useful here today. Although I’m not an expert, I’ve had my fair share of food guilt and know that it shouldn’t be naturalized even though it is. Food guilt can be a habit passed down from one person to the other, but it should never limit how you live your life. At the end of the day, when you look back on your life, you won’t even remember the guilt. So ‘if it won’t matter in 5 years, don’t stress about it for more than 5 minutes’ – Dekker. Thank you for reading, xoxo.