Food Guilt: What is it and How to Stop Feeling Guilty About Eating
You know that feeling after eating a piece of cake? It's called food guilt. Food guilt is the feeling of regret or remorse you may experience after eating something you think you shouldn't have. Let's put some strategies in place to stop it dead in its tracks.
Food guilt is the feeling of guilt, anxiety or remorse caused by eating food that you may feel is unhealthy or not good enough.
Easter is rolling around the corner, and so the gatherings begin. This may be a difficult time that churns up a lot of emotions around food and feeling guilty about what you're eating and the opinions of others.
Regardless, you deserve nourishment and food enjoyment like the next person, so let's set some strategies to banish feelings of food guilt for good!
What Causes Food Guilt
Food guilt arises when people feel guilty about their food choices and experience anxiety, or shame about their food intake.
There are many reasons why people experience food guilt. When we eat food that does not align with our values, like the type of food eaten, the amount consumed, or the time it was eaten it can bring feelings of guilt.
Food guilt can stem from our culture and values of certain foods over others that we learn over the years. For example, sweet or sugary foods often cop an unfair beating in the court of public food opinion. We inadvertently view these messages and start to think of these foods as 'bad.' Then, we feel guilty when we eat them.
There are many different ways to deal with this feeling (which don't involve restricting what you eat) but instead changing our attitude towards food to feel less guilty about eating it. Let's look at them now.
Ease Food Guilt with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion
The awareness of food guilt is the first step to overcoming it.
When we are aware that we are experiencing food guilt, we can become mindful and self-compassionate.
Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present in the moment without judgement. You can practice mindfulness with any activity, but many people use it for eating. They focus on their hunger cues and pay attention to their body's reaction to their food. You can also do exercises like writing down some of your bodily sensations before a meal (hungry, full, apprehensive, happy) or practising breathing exercises. Mindfulness is an helpful practice for those who want to be in charge of their life and not let it control them.
Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with kindness and understanding when you are experiencing difficult emotions, like anxiety, depression and food guilt. It involves being kind to yourself and not berating yourself for what you think as failures or mistakes.
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Mantras to Refocus Food Guilt
We all have moments when we feel guilty about eating food or a meal we perceive as 'unhealthy'. We need to free ourselves from food guilt by rethinking our mindset and finding mantras to guide us can be helpful.
A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself to reduce stress, anxiety, or depression. Mantras are usually short phrases that have a calming effect on the mind. You can use mantras for food guilt because repeating them can help you redirect your mindset. Below are some mantras that you can use when feeling guilty about eating certain foods.
"All foods have a place"
"My body deserves nourishment and enjoyment."
"I enjoy this ________ because______"
Food Guilt in Social Situations
It's hard when your family members or friends inadvertently make you feel guilty about your lifestyle choices. But there are ways to deal with these comments and get them off your back.
If someone is making you feel guilty or making comments about foods you are eating or eating at an event where food will be served, be honest with them and tell them that they are making you uncomfortable and ask them to stop. Sometimes a direct approach is needed.
Another strategy if you don't feel comfortable speaking out, is to change the subject (they'll get the hint pretty quickly). You could also try to move to another group to discuss more exciting topics like the climate, world politics, and other social issues that impact our society.
Try these strategies at your next social gathering. It will take practice, but it is worth it, and a gentle reminder, you deserve to enjoy all foods anytime you want, without feeling guilty about it.
Image Credit: Avelino Calvar Martinez