It’s the Guilt, not the Food that’s the Problem
We see it all the time, foods labelled as “Guilt Free” or “Zero Guilt”, or worse “Guilty Pleasures” even “Cheat Foods” or “Cheat Meals”. Before the food even passes our lips we have passed judgement on it and on ourselves.
This doesn't help. In fact, it hurts. Guilt has a real, physical impact on the body. It increases our stress hormones Cortisol and Adrenaline which in turn cause all kinds of havoc. An article on Psychology Today even shows that several studies have demonstrated that we actually feel heavier and interpret the weight of our bodies as heavier when we experience guilt!
Food is fuel, but it is also a source of pleasure and of comfort. Chicken Noodle Soup is good when you’re sick because is has protein and collagen and vegetables but also because Mom gave it to you when you were sick as a kid and it made you feel loved. An apple a day keeps the doctor away because it has vitamin C and pectin, but also because you made a mindful choice to eat a wholesome food and feel good about it.
I don’t believe in cheat meals. I don’t believe in guilty pleasure foods. I believe in food and I believe in my body.
After a heartbreak I began to crave comforting foods like pasta and cheese and homemade pie. My body got the hit of sugar, fat and carbohydrates and it made me feel happier, safer, comforted. I needed to feel happier and safer and comforted, my heart was broken! And you know what happened? Over the course of days and weeks as my heart slowly started to heal, the craving for those things diminished.
I put on a favorite pair of pants and realized they didn’t quite fit they way they used to. I took a moment and thought- “You know what? I’m doing better now. I don’t need those things like I used to.” And that’s all it took to start making different choices. I began to crave and eat more vegetables and healthy proteins. I began to leave the pasta and cheese behind. My energy levels started to rise. I felt better! I looked at my plates and thought “you’re taking good care of yourself!” and it made me happy and safe and comforted.
The few pounds I put on were not my punishment, they were my healing. As I came back to my new normal I discovered that taking care of myself made me happy. There was no guilt. There was no punishment. There was no flogging myself with the pasta carbonara I made with my leftover bacon.
Choosing a “guilt free treat” implies there’s something you should feel guilty about! How about instead we choose “happy food.” Eating a “cheat meal” implies you’re cheating yourself! How does that do us any good? What if instead we chose to enjoy mindfully, savor that delicious food you don’t eat every day?
Jack LaLanne used to say that every year for his birthday he didn’t have cake as a gift to himself. That worked for Jack LaLanne because it made him happy. Every year for my birthday I have what makes me happy. Some years that’s cake or pie (usually pie, I’m a pie kind of girl), some years its no different than the day before or after- because that’s what makes me happy.
I believe in food. I believe in my body. I don’t believe in guilt.
Don’t punish yourself. Make choices that make you happy.
If eating it won’t make you happy because you’ll punish yourself for it later, don’t eat it. If not eating it will make you unhappy because you’ll feel like you’re punishing yourself, eat it!
Happy bodies are healthy bodies, and bodies can be healthy at any size. What looks sexy on the cover of a magazine is not the definition of healthy.
You deserve better.
There is no guilty food. There is only food.
Eat well, be well, be happy.