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Dealing With Food Guilt

Has this ever happened to you? 

You’ve had a pretty normal day, maybe gone for a walk or seen some friends and when you get home, your cravings kick in and you absentmindedly grab a Danish pastry from the counter or a bit of ice cream from the freezer. Next thing you know, you’ve had a bit too much and you’re bubbling up in regret. “How many calories will I have to burn off at the gym to undo this?” you think. What you’re experiencing is food guilt, and it’s probably plagued us all at one point or another. 

In essence, food guilt simply means feeling regretful or guilty about something that you’ve eaten. Every now and then, it is not a problem – in fact, it’s good to be conscious about what you eat and to try and strive for a healthy diet, especially during the menopause. However, if you’re feeling more than just a little,“Oh maybe I shouldn’t have eaten all that much!” and are constantly beating yourself up about your food choices, then it’s a problem. So, what can you do about food guilt?

…in reality everyone is different and has their own healthy body weight and size that might not exactly fit the perfect body stereotype.

Firstly, we need to understand that wanting junk food or food that’s slightly unhealthy is normal, especially if you’re on a health kick. The more we restrict ourselves, the more our bodies will want what we can’t have. On top of that, we often think that by working out and eating healthy, we will definitely achieve a slim, perfect body, when in reality everyone is different and has their own healthy body weight and size that might not exactly fit the perfect body stereotype. Yet, because of this, if we don’t see perfect progress in weight loss and muscle toning, we become our biggest critics. We can easily obsess over what we eat and give ourselves too much blame if we go just a little off track. But obsessing over what we eat and feeling guilty over a few unhealthy habits is the unhealthiest thing we can do.

It’s important to note that so many of our beliefs involving food might not be accurate. As we’ve outlined in our article 5 Myths about Food, there’s a lot that we need to reevaluate. No, not all fats are bad, no not all gluten is evil. If we reevaluate how we think about food, we can start having a healthier relationship with it. The fact of the matter is, having a cheat day here and there isn’t going to have a massive effect on our health. Having a bit too much ice cream one night isn’t going to do much damage. As long as we don’t let these things become a recurring part of our diets or become a habit, there’s no reason to feel guilty.

Changing your relationship with food can be a difficult thing to do. Ultimately, you’ll be a lot happier if you learn to let go of your food guilt.

Next, be compassionate with yourself. If you find yourself having a bit of a cheat day, embrace it. The menopause can be very difficult to cope with and sometimes, only chocolate is going to to make you feel better! Having said that, you don’t want a cheat day to turn into a cheat week (or month), so do try to get back on track as soon as you can. 

Finally, understand that this process might take a while. Changing your relationship with food can be a difficult thing to do. Ultimately, you’ll be a lot happier if you learn to let go of your food guilt. That said, it won’t happen overnight. You’ll need to remind yourself to be forgiving. In all likelihood, the negative, shaming thoughts about what you’ve eaten will still come up. The next time that you find yourself obsessing over calories while grocery shopping, catch that thought. When these thoughts come up, tell yourself that you have no reason to feel guilty over your choice of foods. It’s hard to control your thoughts, but you need to have that conversation with yourself.

Again, the point here isn’t to convert your healthy eating habits to unhealthy ones or to encourage you to start eating whatever you want whenever you want, but to simply highlight that if you do have a healthy diet, you don’t need to be guilty over a bit of indulgence. Understanding your relationship with food is an important step to a healthy lifestyle. The less you obsess and the less you’re constantly worrying about what you eat, the happier you’ll be. Be compassionate, be reasonable and be honest with yourself. You can still find enjoyment in food, even when you’re trying to eat healthier!