I recently attended a Crossfit competition. While there, I tasted wine from a company that markets to athletes. The wine is ultrafiltered to be lower in calories than 'regular' wine. Certainly there is a niche for the product, as people try to cut calories while still enjoying food and drinks they like. The man giving samples noted, "you won't feel guilt for having a few glasses."
Then, as I meander around the competition, I notice cookies on sale. The woman selling them tells me about the ingredients. 'They are made of almond milk, coconut oil, almond flour, chocolate chips, walnuts and eggs." Next she adds, "They are small and have all healthy ingredients, so you won't feel guilty after eating them."
Guilt. That word is everywhere, especially this time of year when we often hear our co-workers, relatives or friends say they feel guilty for having a slice of pumpkin pie at a work function or 'too much' mashed potatoes at a holiday dinner. The dictonary states that guilt means 'the fact of having committed a specified or implied offense or crime'. When did it become a crime (a real or implied one) to eat a cookie, drink a glass of wine, or have a piece of pie?
Food companies certainly uses guilt in marketing when implying we are doing something wrong by eating certain foods and that their product won't make us feel the same way. Just see the ad below or this article with video ads that are food shaming.
Sometimes, even other professionals play into this emotion. For instance, when nutritionists blog about what they ate that day, it only perpetuates the view that there is a 'perfect diet' or 'right way' of eating diet when there isn't. And, I can't imagine it helps clients in any way. What may help is sharing what is real- that I sometimes feel guilty if I go back for a second scoop of ice cream after dinner.
Guilt insinuates we did something wrong. When we eat food we are never doing anything wrong. Never. Guilt and food have no place in the same sentance. Guilt only fuels negative feelings, and for some it leads to disordered and unhealthy behaviors that 'right' the ship- things like restricting food, purging, or overexercise. While these behaviors are adapted from a place of self-care, they only continue a vicious cycle. This cycle goes like this: eat the 'bad' food, feel guilty and then compensate through disordered behaviors. Over time, the guilt can heighten and the disordered behavior gets more and more frequent and/or intense.
Just think- what would your relationship with food be like if you never felt guilty after eating? It would likely lead to balanced eating, less restriction of food or certain types of food, and open up your world to the enjoyment of food.
Acceptance is one step in moving away from guilt and building a healthy relationship with food. For instance, someone who is binge eating is providing self-care to help with feeling sad, lonely, depressed, anxious, or fearful. And, that is okay! By accepting this and working on learning other coping strategies as well as intuitive and balanced eating, many people stop beating themselves up and binging.
So, next time you run into someone who feels guilt after they eat or tells you a product can help you feel less guilty, consider asking them to take 'guilt' out of their food vocabulary.