We’ve all experienced it on some level in any one of its forms. Excessive guilt, religious guilt, emotional guilt, neurotic guilt…you name it. But no matter how we frame it, it all stems from the same basic root feeling that we’ve done something dreadfully wrong, and shouldn’t do it again. When it comes to weight loss, we’re no strangers to those guilty feelings. But we may not fully realize just how much our “food guilt” is standing in the way of our weight loss goals.
A study published in the journal, Appetite,found those who associated eating chocolate cake with “guilt” versus those who associated it with feelings of “celebration” had less behavioral control over their eating. They lost less weight over a 3-month period and were less likely to maintain weight loss over an 18-month period than the “food celebrators.”
The takeaway is that if we celebrate our food, we’ll lose more weight, right? Does that mean we can feel good about eating chocolate cake all day long and watch the fat dissolve? Unfortunately, that’s not the way shedding food guilt works. But here are a few strategies that might just help you start to see food in a whole new positive light:
Find a balance. Don’t overanalyze each and every morsel of food by asking, “Will eating this muffin ruin my chances of losing weight forever?” That way of thinking produces strong food guilt! Instead, think of your food in terms of nutritious fuel for your body. Examine your food choices over the course of a few days to determine how nutritious your foods were as a whole.
Plan ahead to enjoy your favorite foods. While we know you have a will power of steel, there will be times when you might partake in an “off limits” food, such as at a party or wedding reception. If you give yourself some flexibility with your food choices, you will feel more in control knowing that you planned out your indulgence ahead of time.
Don’t ignore your hunger. If you avoid eating when you are hungry, you may wind up feeling intense pangs that can lead to overeating and food guilt. When following a medical weight loss program, you may also want to consult your provider about the benefits of adding an appetite suppressant to your plan to help diminish frequent feelings of hunger.
Learn from the past. If the box of donuts in the kitchen constantly tempts you, remove it from your home altogether. Talk with your provider about what made you want to eat the donuts. Was the craving caused by guilt in some way? Identifying food triggers will help you find the root of the problem and let go of these events.
Set short-term goals. Even if you feel like you’ve stumbled on your weight loss plan, it doesn’t mean you should give up completely. That would mean that the food guilt has won! Instead, turn the guilt into something positive like setting a short-term goal to get back on track. This might include scheduling a time to clean out the food pantry, or going for a walk to get more exercise.
So, let’s make a pact to add one more flavor of guilt to the never-ending list. Guilt-free.