Do you often find yourself feeling guilty after eating? If so, you’re not alone.
BUT you don’t have to live that way. It is possible to enjoy ALL types of food without the guilt. This post will cover where the guilt comes from and how you can leave it behind for good.
Where does food guilt come from?
Feeling guilty around food is common. We live in a culture that idolizes and demonizes various foods (often in a conflicting way!)
Food is not morally good or bad
Our culture assigns moral value to foods. We say we are “being good” when we eat a salad and we justify treats by saying we “earned it”. Manufacturers and recipe developers stamp the “guilt free” label to foods that meet arbitrary criteria. It seems it can’t be escaped.
Recognize that food and the choices you make do not reflect on you as a person. Your food preferences and cravings do not make you a good, bad, or defective person or someone lacking willpower.
Fat-phobia drives food guilt
In addition, I can’t talk about food guilt without discussing the impact of fat-phobia. Diet culture tells us that we can control our body size if we just “eat right”. Our society participates in the blame game disproportionately toward people in larger bodies, i.e. “it’s your fault you weigh that”.
Diet may play a role in body size to a certain point, but the reality is that bodies come in different sizes. What you eat may have very little to do with your body size.
Dieting helps cope with anxiety and uncertainty
Depending on the person, this feeling of personal responsibility, coupled with uncertainty, anxiety, and stress in other areas of life, can lead one to latch onto any area that provides some semblance of control. Dieting offers a convenient, black-and-white diversion.
While it is easy to fall into the guilt-trap when it comes to food, you don’t need to get stuck there. There are steps you can take to break the cycle and finally feel good about food!
How to stop feeling guilty after eating: 6 Steps
1. Identify the food guilt.
Awareness is the first step. And, if you’re here reading this, you must have some awareness of your thoughts around food already!
A technique I often use with my clients is to keep a food and thought journal. Document what you eat, where you are eating it and who it is with, and any thoughts that you have about it. Be sure to include the positive AND the negative thoughts. No judgments here! You don’t need to share it with anyone.
2. Challenge and reframe the negative thoughts and food guilt.
Once you are aware of the thoughts, see if you can reframe them in a positive (or neutral) way.
This cupcake will make me gain weight.
I am not in control of my body size.
This cupcake might be satisfying and delicious.
If I eat this cupcake, I might not have any cravings.
3. Nourish yourself to avoid feeling guilty around food.
A hungry brain is an anxious brain.
Nourishing yourself with at least 3 meals and 3 snacks per day can get you started on the path to food freedom. You may find it easier to reframe the negative thoughts when you are well nourished.
4. Make peace with your natural body size.
The set point theory suggests that we are not really in control of our body size.
Again, part of food guilt comes from a fat-phobic culture. It is hard to accept your body in a culture that tells you every day that something is wrong with it.
However, accepting your body and making peace with it can help you find lasting food freedom.
5. Accept the nuances in health.
Health at Every Size ® is a community dedicated to offering compassionate support for people of all body sizes. It recognizes that health is so much more than body size and what you eat.
Health is complex. If what you eat negatively impacts your emotional wellbeing and support network, it is not helping.
6. Get support to overcome food guilt.
You believe what you surround yourself with. Build your support network to include those with a compassionate approach to health and nutrition. Follow people on social media who embrace a non-diet approach and intuitive eating. Diversify your feed, on and offline, to include people of all shapes and sizes. Connect with a HAES-aligned professional to help guide you in your journey. Depending on your situation, your insurance may even help cover it!