Does eating your most favourite, decadent foods leave you feeling racked with self loathing and guilt? If so, it’s time to stop. And when I say stop, I mean stop feeling guilty. Not stop eating your most favourite foods!
It’s no wonder we feel guilty about eating. There are so many messages out that can make us paranoid about food. Sugar is toxic. Carbs make you fat. Gluten is bad for you. Grains destroy your gut health. Not to mention the pressure to look a certain body type. Phew. There’s a lot of “noise” out there around nutrition that can make anyone afraid to put food in their mouth.
Of course we want our diets to be filled with nutrient rich whole foods, but that doesn’t mean that you should avoid eating something that you love because it doesn’t meet a certain criteria for healthfulness. One indulgence will not cause you to gain weight or give you diabetes.
Food is about health and nutrients. But it’s much more than that. It’s pleasurable and a part of social interaction. It’s a really important part of culture too.
Rather than making us healthier, I believe that feeling guilty about food has the opposite effect. Guilt erodes your self confidence around food, feeling you feeling less in control and more likely to overindulge and eat past the point of enjoyment – ie binge eat. I think of the stereotypical French women. They eat baguette, pastry, red wine and cheese. Yet they stay slim and healthy. They don’t have super fast metabolisms. They just listen to their bodies. They don’t over indulge. They enjoy the foods they love in small portions, without guilt.
It did take me a long time to learn to eat without guilt. But I have to say I can comfortably enjoy a treat without feeling bad about it. I eat it, savour it, enjoy it and then get on with life. Life’s too short not to eat well. But it’s also too short to avoid everything you love. Enjoy a treat every now and then if you want. If you never want to touch something that’s not a wholefood and packed with nutrients then that’s ok. But it’s also ok to have a treat too.
Tips for guilt free eating:
- Stop thinking of foods as good or bad
Instead, think of foods you should eat every day and foods you should eat in small amounts occasionally. Good or bad labels, and varieties of this lead of course lead to guilt when you eat a food you’ve labelled as “bad”. Many people fall into the trap of eating something they label as “bad” then binge eat since they believe they’ve ruined their day/week. Don’t do it!
- Start eating mindfully
Mindful eating is something that should be a part of everyone’s life. Mindful eating helps us tune into what our body is telling us about hunger and satisfaction. It can help with emotional eating as you become more in tune and able to distinguish between real hunger and emotional need.To become more mindful, practice really noticing the experience of eating. Think of your hunger levels. Really experience the taste and texture of each mouthful of food. Think about your emotions before and after eating. Keeping an eating awareness diary can help you tune in to your thoughts around food and also can help you beat emotional eating.
- Focus on healthIf your focus is all on weight loss, then your view of food can often be “diet mode” or “non diet mode” – ie either extremely strict and healthy or full of nutrient poor foods that you’d never eat in “diet mode”. Focusing on health rather than just weight loss, ends this. When you focus on health you want to nourish your body. Treats become treats, not binges. You choose nutrient rich, nourishing foods the majority of the time.