If eating this makes me feel guilty, why am I eating it?
If eating this makes me feel guilty, why do I keep doing it??
This is a frustrating behavior for many of us. We are tempted to eat something and that little voice inside our head tells us we should not do it.
It’s too many calories.
It’s so unhealthy.
I’m already full.
But then we rationalize it and eat it – only to feel guilty about it later. You’d think the yucky feeling of guilt would serve as a deterrent the next time we are tempted to repeat the same behavior, but I bet you have done this over and over and over again, haven’t you?
Here’s what you need to know about your feelings. They ALL have a purpose. The purpose of guilt is to guide you back on track when your actions do not line up with who you have decided you want to be. You set internal standards for yourself. Here’s 2 examples:
Some people will feel guilty if they cheat on their taxes even just a little. Others are out to cheat as much as they can as long as they don’t get caught.
Some people will feel guilty if they steal a notepad from their office. Others take notepads, pens, staplers and whatever they like and there is no guilt.
With food, guilt can show up like:
Telling yourself you are going to cut out eating after dinner and then snacking.
Tracking your calories and going over the daily limit.
Leaving food on your plate that goes to waste.
Eating until you are stuffed when you were full 2 pizza slices ago.
Telling yourself you will start eating better tomorrow and then you eat exactly the same as you would have if you had not made that commitment.
There’s guilt connected with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia. I’m not talking about those situations. I’m talking about when you want to make healthier choices, lose weight, lower your cholesterol, control your blood sugar and you struggle.
So where is your genesis of guilt?
Did yours begin in childhood?
If you grew up having to clean your plate then you were made to feel guilty if you didn’t eat everything.
As an adult, you likely eat everything on the plate on auto-pilot because that habit is so engrained. If you waste even five French fries, you feel guilty.
My parents taught me that when food was offered to you, it was impolite to turn it down. It did not matter if you wanted the food or if you were hungry, you took the food and likely ate it right then.
Today, I struggle with saying “no thank you” when offered food. I feel like I am rejecting them and being impolite.
My client Sara grew up in a home with very strict rules around eating. Her family ate clean when that wasn’t even a thing. She NEVER got to drink soda, eat chips or enjoy cookies. Today, she struggles with moderation because when she eats something she was shamed for in her childhood, she feels guilty.
Take a moment and ask yourself what, exactly, makes you feel guilty. When was the first time you remember feeling guilty? Was in when you were a kid?
Then challenge that thought and ask yourself if this is something you need to rethink or is it something that is still serving you well as an adult?
For me, I re-evaluated the situation I mentioned above. I learned that I can be polite and say “no thank you.” Eating food, many times from someone I barely knew, just to be polite was not in my best interest.
What thoughts like this do you need to re-evaluate?
If you still have that guilty voice in your head that says
“EAT IT” and it is quickly followed up with “NO, DON’T EAT IT” here’s my suggestion.
Pause at this point and ask yourself this question:
AM I PHYSICALLY HUNGRY?
Check in with your stomach and see if it is signaling that it needs food.
The answer is yes or no. If it is a maybe, then count that as a no.
If the answer is no, ask yourself why you are thinking of eating it. Food is energy. Our body signals to us when our supply needs replenishing. If your body is not telling you the tank is getting low, then ask why you want to eat it. Then remember the feelings of guilt. You know that if you do eat it, you will feel guilty. That’s a negative of eating it. What are the positives, and do they outweigh the negatives?
I find that if you can be more mindful of your choices, it’s easier to make the one that benefits you in the long run versus one that provides immediate gratification.
If the answer is yes, you are hungry and you can tell so by your empty feeling stomach, then you definitely need to eat. Unfortunately, even when we are hungry and choose to eat sometimes we still feel guilty if we eat something we KNOW is not good for us.
My suggestion if you find yourself in this situation is to pause. Again, weigh the positives and negatives. Remind yourself that one huge negative is feeling guilty.
Here’s an example from my lunch just yesterday. I had an appointment about 10 minutes away from my home around noon. I got out of my appointment and was hungry for lunch. I had already planned to go home, heat up a turkey burger and have some grapes as a side. As I am walking to my car, I eye a Chinese restaurant. I entertain thoughts of take-out Sesame Chicken.
Positives of eating the Sesame Chicken instead of the Turkey Burger
It will taste great (or at least I think it will)
Won’t have to spend 3 minutes preparing the turkey burger at home (patty is already cooked and in fridge)
Negatives of eating the Sesame Chicken instead of the Turkey Burger
Take time to wait on them to fix it
I will feel guilty
I’m not going to exercise today and this dish has a ton of calories that will for sure put me in a calorie excess for the day
It’s high in sodium, fried chicken and a sugary sauce – not healthy no matter how many calories
See how this works? If I don’t pause and I choose to live in the moment and do what feels good I pay the price later. It’s my choice. When I evaluated my lunch, the choice was clear.
Try this and let me know how it goes. If you are stop feeling guilty around food you have to make choices you are proud of. Easier said than done. I know. You are a work in progress!
You got this!
I did a YouTube video on this topic. click here to see it
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