Have you ever… eaten a delicious cupcake and then immediately felt guilty for eating said cupcake? Yeah? Me too.
I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. The “I shouldn’t have eaten that” moment or maybe it’s “Why did I eat so much.” And you end up spiralling down a dark hole of beating yourself up for well… eating. You then wonder why you don’t have any willpower or restraint when you’re around food. You’re angry at yourself and you are disgusted.
Question for ya… is it helpful? Does the guilt you feel after eating stop you from doing it again tomorrow, next week or maybe even later that day? I’m guessing not, because it didn’t stop me.
Rebecca Scritchfield defined “food guilt as a negative emotion where you feel bad for something you did or didn’t do related to a decision or behaviour around food.”
Food shame, on the other hand, is the thought “I am bad for eating all the cookies [or insert food of choice here].” There is a clear distinction between the two emotions. In her TED Talk, Brené Brown stated:
“Shame is a focus on self, guilt is a focus on behaviour. Shame is, "I am bad." Guilt is, "I did something bad." How many of you, if you did something that was hurtful to me, would be willing to say, "I'm sorry. I made a mistake?" How many of you would be willing to say that? Guilt: I'm sorry. I made a mistake. Shame: I'm sorry. I am a mistake.”
And though I don’t condone food guilt it is easier to overcome because shame is highly correlated with disordered eating and binge eating.
Here are 5 ways to develop a healthier relationship with food:
1. Change your beliefs about food. You alone have the power to reprogram how you view food. You can right now, stop labelling food as bad or good. Food is food. The problem with this black or white thinking is, that it becomes a slippery slope to food shame, which can be a whole lot harder to climb out of. When we label foods as bad or forbidden those are the foods we desire and dream about having as a “cheat” meal on Friday night. The problem with a cheat meal mentality is that it provides a negative connotation around food. That you are not allowed to eat pizza so when you do have it, you can’t just eat one slice, you end up eating the whole thing. I suggest starting looking at which foods make you feel energized, healthy and nourished. And eat more of those.
2. Try on Self-compassion. Feeling shame or guilt for eating never served anyone. Ever. The way we talk to ourselves is usually a lot of judgment, anger, self-doubt, and fear. But what would happen if you approached yourself with love and permission? And what if instead of beating yourself up, you gently encouraged yourself?
In Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff she states:
“When we make a mistake or fail in some way, we’re more likely to hit ourselves over the head with a club than put a supportive arm around our own shoulder. Most likely, even the thought of comforting ourselves in this way seems absurd.”
You can, however, begin to change your inner dialogue in just a few minutes each day by repeating these affirmations in the mirror.
You ARE loved. You ARE valued. You ARE enough. You ARE worthy.
And the next time your negative inner dialogue comes up, try refraining the thought at the moment. You have the power to change your thoughts.