There is a similar preaching of good and wrong regarding one’s dietary practices. Many of us were taught early on that there are good and bad meals. Young children whose parents or relatives participate in dieting and disordered eating are particularly vulnerable to the effects of this message that food may be good or harmful. These kids have been taught from an early age that junk food is wrong and that if they ate it, it would be the same as stealing or lying, so they would feel horrible about themselves.
For instance, if parents constantly forbid their children from eating sweets because it harms them, they may eventually believe that sweets are inherently terrible and begin to feel guilty whenever they consume them. Then the pangs of remorse begin. The idea is that, like guilt, food guilt can be taught. Feeling guilty about what you eat indicates that you have a preconceived notion that you are doing improperly or violating a personal dietary standard.
Food Regrets Could Arise From Any Of The Following
- Dietary indiscretion
- Adopting a “bad” diet
- The Guilt of Metabolism or Overeating
- Shame over wasted food
- Preferences in terms of what one eats
- Absence of a connection to eating
- Consuming a lot of processed or sweet meals
- Consuming food despite feeling full
- Disrupted eating habits
We believe that phrases like “I can’t eat that,” “I shouldn’t eat that,” and “I’ll eat it if you do” are socially acceptable because they reflect the widespread acceptance of food guilt. The ongoing internal and external evaluation and comparison of one’s diet choices to others is a major source of daily shame. It has a role in determining whether we dine at home or go out. There are times when we’re too busy to cook or have the time but choose not to.
Justifications for not feeling bad about snacking
First and foremost, there is no need to feel bad about the foods you choose to eat. Incorporating a wide variety of foods and giving due recognition to all how we use and enjoy food is essential to maintaining a healthy diet and way of life. Guilt about what you eat is counterproductive in terms of developing good eating habits, and it may have serious adverse effects on your physical and emotional well-being.
Have you ever associated feelings of guilt or shame with certain meals, making you more prone to overeat certain items?
The emotional up-and-down that we often talk about directly results from these sensations. When you overeat, you feel horrible about yourself and attempt to make up for it by being more rigid and restricting with your behavior, but then you start to feel out of control when it comes to food because you’re so conscious of the fact that you can’t have any.
The pattern keeps going around in circles. Consistent eating habits that benefit your daily and long-term physical health are difficult to establish while in this kind of intermittent eating pattern. Furthermore, this may progress to more significant health concerns over time.
Guilt and shame are toxic to mental health because they foster emotions of powerlessness, lack of control, and self-criticism, all of which contribute to a downward spiral of low self-worth and depression. So, it would be best if you devoted some effort to let go of eating guilt.
Solutions to the problem of food guilt
It’s a process to get over food shame. However, you may still feel guilty or ashamed after indulging in foods that have been socially stigmatized or after indulging in a particularly pleasurable meal for a little period, even if you acknowledge your desire for a healthy relationship with food and the freedom it may provide.
It’s very natural to have thoughts that aren’t conducive to a balanced perspective on eating. Realize that eliminating food guilt and resetting your relationship with food requires a lot of kindness, patience, practice, and support.
To help you feel more at ease and at peace with your eating choices, here are some first actions to take toward eliminating guilt and naming it when it arises.
Recognize the contexts in which you experience food guilt and work to alleviate it.
Step one is realizing when and why you have food guilt. Food guilt often stems from one of two sources.
1. You could have taken a rash decision and then regretted it
To begin, you may experience regret because of a dietary decision that wasn’t in line with your true wants and needs. This is common when we eat randomly due to unintentional influences like stress, boredom, the company we keep, or other distractions. A situation like this may arise if you make a hasty choice that you later regret. The action you take or don’t take is usually at the root of this form of guilt rather than the meal itself.
2. You may have some unhelpful ideas about eating
The second and more pervasive reason people feel guilty about food is that they consume things that are socially stigmatized as “bad” or “off-limits.” A feeling of guilt may seep in no matter what we eat since we’ve been socialized to view some things as “good” and others as “bad,” This is true even if we consume something knowingly because we appreciate it and what it is.
In any instance, keeping a reflective food diary might help you identify the triggers and timing of your feelings of guilt related to eating. Instead of counting calories or making a list of “good” and “bad” meals, a reflective food diary might help you learn more about how you felt before, during, and after eating to pinpoint the precise moments when negative emotions like regret or anxiety surfaced.
Knowing these things about yourself may serve as a guide and teach you how to care for yourself. If you dwell too much on your food guilt, you won’t allow yourself to learn more about who you are and will keep repeating the same mistakes repeatedly. If you’re feeling guilty, the first step is to figure out what’s causing it and then take action to alleviate it.
If you feel guilty, stop beating yourself up and instead cultivate compassionate inquiry. Permit yourself to inquire into the origins of these emotions, accept their presence, and remind yourself that food guilt is counterproductive to your health. This is something that you should do regularly.
Slow down before meals
Consider what you did as a youngster when you were informed by an adult that there was something you couldn’t do. The question is, how would you respond? You probably wanted to do the same thing they warned you against, and even more so. A similar chain of events happens with food and dietary regulations. Inherently, we all do this.
If we convince ourselves that something is terrible for us and we are forbidden from eating it, we are, in effect, elevating that food item. Placed on a pedestal, the food becomes more desirable than it would have been if we had been permitted to eat it in the first place. There is a strong correlation between having access to the food in question and then indulging excessively, leading to the same feelings of guilt we had hoped to avoid in the first place.
By doing away with these restrictions and lowering the status of the offending food item, we may regain control over our relationship with it. This cycle of food guilt may finally be broken since we no longer feel helpless in its presence. You may free yourself from guilt by abandoning your strict eating habits.
Take it easy in the lead-up to mealtimes
The second stage is to train yourself to take it easy in the lead-up to and during mealtimes. There are instances when people feel bad about their eating habits because they are too preoccupied to consider what they put in their mouths.
A fantastic method to become aware of the extent to which external influences are affecting your food choices, as opposed to your body’s requirements or what you’d want to deliberately pick, is to take a minute to stop before eating and check in with yourself to see what your body needs and desires. During this moment, you should evaluate why you’re feeding what you want to eat. Is it hunger from boredom, stress, or circumstance, or are you starving?
The next time you decide what to eat, ask yourself whether it’s something you really want or something you desire for the wrong reasons. This pause might help you give yourself unconditional permission to consciously choose and appreciate the food you feel guilty about consuming.
Wrapping It Up
To truly appreciate and enjoy your food, you must create an environment around it. If you’ve chosen to treat yourself with dessert, for instance, take the time to enjoy each piece without any interruptions. If you permit yourself to enjoy your food, whether it’s “food for the soul” or a nutrient-dense meal, you’ll have a far more satisfying and rewarding experience overall. Instead of dwelling on that regrettable emotion, you may experience relief and go on with your life.
This is meant to be a healthy way to keep track of trends in your relationship with food, but if you discover that it is causing you distress, you may want to stop and get professional treatment.