Before I “got healthy,” I would constantly feel guilty about the food choices I made. I used to stress out even before I went to a party because I was worried that I might inhale the entire dessert table or munch on too many chips. At that point in my life, food was scary.
When I finally changed my personal health and became a health coach, I spent time trying to perfect my new way of living. Suddenly I became fearful of everything I was eating. Could I really be certain that the non-GMO, organic, BPA free, paraben-free, cruelty-free banana I was eating was even healthy? Wait a minute, are bananas too high in sugar? I should probably drink water instead. But wait, which kind of organic, alkaline water should I be drinking? You get the idea: food turned from scary to straight-up terrifying.
In both scenarios, I wasn’t listening to my body, but I was hearing voices in my mind saying, “If you eat that, you’ll get fat. You aren’t a good health coach if you eat non-organic produce.” And the thoughts go on and on.
And I know I’m not alone in this constant food guilt battle.
The truth is that feeling guilty about a piece of chocolate cake or a piece of non-organic kale is to what would happen if aliens were attacking your body. OK, maybe not aliens, but it’s activating the same stress responders in your body as if you were being attacked or experiencing a major loss.
The moment you become so fearful of food that you forget to enjoy it is the moment your body really starts to freak out. The stress hormones that sit in your gut store as fat in your cells to help protect your body. Your body becomes so preoccupied with a fight-or-flight response that all the blood rushes away from your stomach and into your head, hands and feet. The last think it's thinking about doing is digesting your dinner. This may cause acid reflux, constipation, stomach cramps and bloating.
So do yourself and your health a favor and feel guilty less in order to live more. Here are four ways to do just that:
1. Eat with love.
Go into every encounter with food with a sense of love and appreciation. If you want a piece of milk chocolate, eat it and feel good about it NOW, knowing you can make a healthier choice in the future. If you want to have a pretzel rod at a party, eat it and enjoy it, knowing you can eat a healthier choice when you get home. When eating, think and repeat to yourself, “This food will nourish and feed my body with love.”
2. Honor your body.
Let go of the outside expectations from grocery stores, magazine ads and Facebook friends, and honor your body. Let down the walls of guilt and shame and allow your body to do the talking. Choose to eat things that make YOU feel good and nourish your body fully, not just temporarily.
3. Pick your battles.
At home, you can control 100% of what you eat. But when you find yourself traveling or eating out, cut yourself some slack. Choose to be nourished by your travel, your friends, and your experiences and thoroughly enjoy the food that is available and around you. You can’t always choose your food, but you can choose how you respond!
4. Have some fun.
Don’t forget to have fun with food! If you're craving peanut butter cups, try making a healthier version of your own. Enjoy the process and have fun understanding your body and your unique cravings.