This past weekend I went Live for the women in my free Facebook group, the Together We’re Thriving Wellness Sisterhood on how to free yourself from food guilt.
However, I thought this information was too valuable not to share with more people! In my video we take an in-depth look into what food guilt is, why it’s important to release, plus my 4 practical tips on navigating your next holiday meal to help you break free from food guilt.
My article below contains the highlights of what was covered. If you’d like to learn more insights about this topic, click here to join the sisterhood and access the exclusive members-only video!
So, what IS food guilt?
Simply put, food guilt encompasses any and all of the following:
It’s that sinking pit in your stomach you feel after eating a certain food / food group
Feeling guilt, shame, or regret for something you ate.
Having self-critical / degrading thoughts after eating (ex: “I ruined my day/diet now”, “I’m disgusted with myself”, “Now I have to work this off in the gym/ not eat to make up for eating xyz”)
Food guilt is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within us when we eat a food or food group we consider to be “bad” or “taboo.”
Before going on, I want to clarify that food guilt is NOT feeling sluggish or ill after eating a certain food. You can feel this if you have food guilt, but if you only notice your bodies response (without the accompanying mental guilt), this isn’t food guilt itself. This is your body communicating to you that a food you ate wasn’t the best choice for it at the time.
Why is it important to release food guilt?
Okay, so we know what food guilt is. Why does it even matter?
There are lots of reasons, actually. Whether you realize it or not, our thoughts are more powerful than we think. Our thoughts impact our bodies. Therefore, they impact our health.
Feeling guilt & shame creates stress in our bodies. This stress causes dis-ease when we don’t address these feelings as we are constantly activating the Sympathetic Nervous System (“fight or flight” response).
This chronic dis-ease in our bodies can manifest over time as excess weight, autoimmune disorders, and other diseases.
Because guilt & shame creates the stress response in our bodies, we are more likely to binge on the comfort foods / “taboo” foods we are trying to avoid, creating a vicious cycle of feeling guilt + binging on foods that don’t serve our bodies.
This time of year can be especially difficult with all of the sweets constantly around us and richer meals prepared. If we don’t address the food guilt, we’ll be more likely to go through this holiday season feeling heavy, stagnant, emotional, anxious, depressed, or lethargic.
Does this sound familiar to previous years? If so, don’t lose faith. There are ways you can shift, starting today.
How do we shift away from food guilt?
Here are some general tips and concepts to help you shift away from food guilt. Many of these involve changing some deep-held beliefs we may have had since childhood that have been reinforced by family, friends, the media, and diet culture. If you feel you need more support with shifting your beliefs, you can always seek out help. Whether you’d like to work with me as your coach through this or with another provider, having the support of another person can help you overcome food guilt if you are struggling alone.
Identify where your guilt & shame is coming from. It can help to journal around this when you start to notice these feelings pop up.
Understand that food is food; there is no “perfect” food and there is no “bad” food.
Understand that one person’s super food can be another person’s poison. We are all different and unique, and the foods that work for some people may not work for others. Remind yourself of this when you read about “the best diets” in books, magazines, or from experts. There is no one key diet that works for everyone.
Understand you can eat anything you want, whenever you want. No food is off limits or “taboo.” When we label food as “bad” and try to deprive ourselves of it, we let it have power over us.
Tap into your body and listen to what it needs. Some days you’ll crave more fresh fruits and veggies. Some days your body wants the mac and cheese. Your body has different needs every day.
Know that there is no “falling off the wagon.” The wagon is your life. Your eating habits naturally flow each day, month, season, and over the course of your life, and it’s OK!
4 Practical Tips for Navigating Your Next Holiday Meal
Now that you understand what food guilt is, why it’s important to release it, and some general knowledge on how to do this, I’ve provided some practical tips you can implement going into your next holiday meal to help set you up for success:
Eat a light breakfast
Think whole, plant based foods. Avoid excessive meat & dairy as they tend to be heavier and weigh you down. Think refreshing foods that will make you feel lighter; your meal later that day will most likely be rich and heavy so try to balance your earlier meal. Never skip meals (this will just make you more ravenous at the bigger meal). Some choices may include freshly pressed juices, eggs, salad, fruit, etc.
Balance your plate with veggies & different colors
Go for smaller portions, and balance your plate with a variety of colors and flavors. However, don’t deprive yourself of what you really want! With taking smaller portions at first, if you are still hungry, you can always go back for more. Try adding some acidity to your food too (cranberry sauce, vinaigrette, lemon juice, etc.) as this will help balance your meal and provide a lightness among the richer foods you’ll likely be eating.
Tap into gratitude
Gratitude is the opposite of guilt & shame. Truly feeling the blessing of your food and tapping into a feeling of love and abundance helps us to activate our Para-sympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest” response). We’ll be more relaxed and less stressed as we’re eating our food. We’ll be better able to absorb the nutrients and be in a state of calm. Don’t forget the true reason for the celebration!
Give yourself grace
Understand that this is only 1-2 meals over the course of the year. 1 heavier meal won’t ruin your day, goals, or life. Just like 1 workout session won’t give you 6-pack abs, 1 meal isn’t going to derail you. It’s about what we do with consistency, over a long period of time. Know that things take time. Give yourself grace, and try your best to enjoy the company and food made with love. We are meant to enjoy this time, not dread it!
I hope this article and my tips help you through this holiday season (and beyond!). If anything above resonated with you or if you’d like to learn more, please share with me in the comments!