“I really want to try to not feel guilty about eating food…” This was said in barely a whisper after a long pause in response to my question, “Well, what goal do you want to focus on this session?” The client that I am working with here is a 26-year-old female who is on her third of twelve sessions with me. She had originally come to lose those extra pounds that she could never seem to shed and to learn more about how to eat well. No mention of guilt ever came up in our first few sessions.
As a holistic health coach, a main aspect of my work is to be a support and resource for people as they identify, make steps towards and ultimately reach lifelong goals. Over the time that I have been fortunate enough to be doing this work I notice a consistent trend. Feeling guilty about eating food. Whether I am working with a male, female, young, or old client this notion of feeling guilty about indulging or even about nourishing oneself arises.
Below I have begun to explore the top reasons we feel guilty about eating:
We Deprive: According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a diet is “a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight.” This seems harmless enough, but what happens is we deprive ourselves of what we want, of what our bodies crave because we have heard that those items are bad for us. Some prime examples of these “forbidden foods” are carbohydrates, sugars, and fats. When we diet, all our mind can fixate on are the things we’ve eliminated. Ultimately, after an hour, day, week, or month- we cave. Willpower is only so strong and soon enough we binge. At this point, we already look at our diet as a failure so we continue to eat and eat until our clothes do not fit, our skin is breaking out, and we bully ourselves to get back to that diet.
Overeating the Bad Stuff: Many of the foods available in the supermarkets do not include whole foods, fresh organic fruits and veggies, and meats without hormones or antibiotics. When we eat, we tend to not feel full because what we are eating is not substantial enough to nourish us on its own. Since we’re still hungry, we turn to unhealthy snacks that are created in a lab and probably have no recognizable ingredients. These are most likely the foods that we are avoiding on our diet. This, of course, results in immense guilt.
Unrealistic Expectations: On every magazine cover in the country there is a picture of a very unrealistically skinny or buff woman or man. While these people are real their looks are most likely altered with Photoshop or other computer programs. Even though many articles have proven this, we still compare and berate ourselves for not looking like these images.
Given the above circumstances, what are we, a country that is prone to over eating and dieting to do? Below are some suggestions that my clients have proven work. What we can do to help ourselves not feel guilty:
Moderation: This is something most of us have heard of before. Eating in moderation is a tricky devil because we feel guilty for even indulging a little bit in those fatty items. Truth be told, if we have our one bowl of whole fat ice cream, when we want it, we are more likely to stop there than to eat our way through the whole pint of frozen yogurt.
Eat Authentically: Have the best quality food that you can get your hands on -- the kind that boasts not having hormones, high fructose corn syrup, and that have 5 ingredients or less. Those are the foods that will make us feel full, satisfied, and happy.
Get to the Bottom of It: When we are experiencing cravings or binges, chances are that we aren’t really craving the food that we are demolishing in front of us. Start to do some self-exploration and figure out what it is that you are really starving for -- is it friendships, exercise, water, love? Get to know yourself and what your cravings are representing.
In the age of apps for calorie counting and where “100 calories” qualifies as a name for a snack pack, it is no wonder we feel pressured to continually diet and cut things out. But for the sake of your sanity and most importantly your health, try to integrate these tips. As with anything health related be patient and know that you deserve the highest quality of life that you can offer yourself.