Food is more than just a basic need. It’s something we do to feel good, a reason to bond with others, and even a way to communicate. Eating can seem ordinary, but with good food and company, it can be something special. So if it’s so special, why do many people feel guilt after eating? In this article, we’ll look into food guilt, where it comes from, and what we can do about it.
As we’ve grown older, we were taught that there are “good” and “bad” foods. Maybe for some of us, we see food as something bad in general. Of course, we all have our reasons to avoid particular food or eating too much. However, we have to remember that our main source of energy is from eating. We need food to get through the day, and if our diet isn’t sufficient, it does more harm than good.
The goal in this article is to help you cope if not do away with food guilt. While feeling guilt after eating is common, it’s not something we need to normalize. Too often we hear about people we know going on diets and how they can be life changing. It’s true there are diets made for specific people and, when done right, can go a long way. However, there’s more to a healthy life that just restrictingyour eating habits and feeling bad about it.
Food guilt is exactly that. It’s feeling guilty about eating. Whether it’s from eating a particular food, eating too much, or eating at all, some people feel guilty about it. Nowadays, we hear people say they “feel fat” after eating a lot, or saying “I need to burn all this” when they eat too much. In a way, food guilt is something that’s becoming normal in society. As a result, we see people experiencing harmful things like entering fad diets, doing guilt exercise, or developing eating disorders.
So, where does it come from? Well, food guilt comes from the idea that food or certain foods are unhealthy. Overeating or indulging yourself with sugary treats can make anyone feel guilty. After all, we know that too much sugar and fats can lead to obesity, which can lead to various diseases. This is especially if we come from a family prone to particular diseases. However, this is exactly why we need to understand where it comes from and why people feel this way.
Why Do I Feel Guilt After Eating?
Even as kids, our parents tell us that we need to watch what we eat or finish our food so we can grow. In schools, we’re even taught what foods are “good” and “bad” for us. So, from then, we’ve already learned to be critical of our bodies. As we get older, our bodies undergo many changes. Suddenly, our figure and our faces start to matter more than before. Then, we’re told that a lot of it is dependent on our diets. If we don’t fit into the standards of our community, we can be seen as unacceptable or unhealthy.
Unfortunately, it also meant that what how we see ourselves, our self-esteem, is dependent on how and what we eat. For some of us, our self-acceptance also depends on what we put on our plate. In school, they don’t really teach you how to accept yourself, despite what others may think.
It’s natural for us to want to eat. We eat when we’re happy. We eat when we’re sad. The fact we feel guilty for something so natural sounds unnatural. Food guilt can manifest during:
Cheat days on a diet
Meals with ‘unhealthy’ food
Meals with our favorite foods
Why Is Guilt After Eating Unhelpful?
Just like with food, there are no “good” or “bad” emotions. There are, however, emotions that can cause you to act in unhealthy ways. Guilt and shame have no place when it comes to eating, especially when it results in unhelpful eating habits. After all, eating is an unavoidable part of life. Having these feelings negatively affect your eating habits can be both physically and mentally harmful.
The cycle of guilt after eating
As you feel guilty about eating, the more rules you set on yourself. As a result, you would tend to be fixated on these rules. Your craving of food builds up, so when you finally have the food you want, you would tend to overindulge. This results in more guilt towards eating and the rules you set up for yourself. Thus, continues the cycle of guilt and eating more. Until, at the end of the day, you gain more weight, and you feel even more guilty about yourself.
This cycle also doesn’t give you consistent eating habits, which is important for healthy diets. Avoiding food without balancing it, and eating at varying amounts can result in more weight gain that you want. Eventually, it can feel like things are spiraling out of control. This can result in low self-esteem. You might even start criticizing yourself about not keeping up with your diet or gaining weight.
Food is fun
Food is meant to be enjoyed. That’s why we have our own preferences and favorite foods. However, many people feel guilty for eating even their favorite food. Sometimes they even try to burn all of it in the gym later on. It’s important to remember that you can enjoy these parts of life without sacrificing your diet. Of course, it requires a lot of self-control, but that’s what diets are all about. One small snack of something you like is a small part of your diet. If anything, it has little to no effect on your metabolism or your weight.
So, as long as you don’t indulge, you can enjoy those small pieces of heaven once or twice a day. Let eating be part of what makes you happy. Otherwise, you might start to overindulge if you restrict yourself from these foods too much then finally eat them. Small amounts are fine. You don’t have to feel that guilt after eating from meals that don’t even affect your body much.
All food can be healthy
Diet is all about balance. There’s no “good” or “bad” food. Only good and bad habits. Even french fries, hamburgers, and cakes can be healthy. They’re still sources of much-needed carbs that your body uses for energy. What matters most is how you portion them and space them out in your meals. Of course, you shouldn’t eat any food in excess, no matter how good it tastes. However, a healthy diet is not a black and white concept. You can still enjoy your favorite foods in moderation.
Sometimes, it’s about your diet
When you diet, you usually have a plan to avoid particular foods or limit them. It’s true that there are foods that you need to eat more or less of. However, there are also ways to make your diet easier to follow. You can prepare the food yourself. Invite friends to eat with you. Add spices and other ways to boost the flavor of your food. Supplement your diet with your favorite exercise regimens. Your diet doesn’t have to be a painful experience. You don’t have to miss your old diet because your current one sucks. Make your current, healthy diet something you can enjoy.
Sometimes, it’s not about your diet
If you find it hard to control how much you eat, the problem might not be your diet. Like we’ve established, the cycle of restricting your food, binging them, then feeling bad about it is a sign that you don’t have much control. The problem might be you’re trying too hard to control what you eat. Having an overly-strict diet can seem practical at first, but it ruins your relationship with food in the long-run.
Think about your favorite food. Now, think of not being able to eat it again. It sounds hard, doesn’t it? You might think that it’s easy. However, in reality, the short-term result of restricting food is you start craving the for it. That makes dieting a lot harder if you’re not careful, and if you don’t set the right incentives to continue it.
Mental disorders from guilt after eating
Guilt and shame can be a product or lead to decreased self-esteem. This decreased self-esteem is linked to depression and anxiety. Food guilt, when not managed well, can lead to eating disorders. It can even isolate you from the people who can provide the support you need. You might start thinking that since you can’t follow your diet, you’re not good enough. You might even think that not
following your diet makes you a failure. These thoughts and feelings can lead to mental disorders, which we want to avoid with the help of this article.
How to Deal With Food Guilt
Not feeling guilt after eating is easier said than done. Emotions are a lot harder to change than thoughts because they’re more automatic. So instead of trying to tell you how to feel, we can start with changing your mindset about food.
Redefining your relationship with food
You need to know what guilt after eating is like and what events lead to it. Like we said, it can manifest after specific events, but it can also manifest in different ways. It can be when you feel bloated after and tell yourself that you’re fat. Sometimes people exercise excessively after eating just a small dessert. When you look in the mirror after a full meal, and feel the instant regret of your decision. To you, what does food guilt look like?
Next you need to recognize that your decision isn’t necessarily a good or bad one. Eating a small snack or eating a plate-full of your favorite food isn’t automatically unhealthy. Your choice to eat something you like can be seen as a good one. Next time you decide to take those small bites of sweet cake, enjoy it. Focus on how good it made you feel. Cherish that feeling since it’s not something you can’t binge.
However, we also recognize that this decision will make you feel bad later. What you’re actually doing is invalidating the good feelings you had from eating. Be aware of these feelings and thoughts that follow. Is it guilt? Is it frustration? Do you think you’re gaining weight? Are you worried that this might be a slippery slope into eating more?
Treat yourself with kindness
Focus on the positive parts of yourself and experiences, and accept that the choice you made now was still a happy experience even if you plan to make very different ones in the future. Talk to yourself like you would a friend or relative going through the same thing. Of course, you wouldn’t tell them “you’re getting fat” or “you’re weak for not following your diet.”
You’d tell them that there’s more to them than just their weight or looks. You’d probably tell them that they can try again another day or that their choices don’t define who they are. Either way, being kind to yourself can go a long way in getting rid of food guilt. You can even bring your friends and family in and open up about your struggles. Creating a support system for yourself is never a bad thing to have when making big transitions in life.
Instead of punishing yourself, reward yourself
Guilt after eating can show in various ways. Many people criticize themselves for going against their diet. They even punish themselves with more exercise that they don’t want to do. Punishments only lead to negative experiences towards very healthy actions. Instead, reward yourself the times you do follow your diet. Maybe not with food, but with other things you enjoy. Buy yourself something nice. Do something you enjoy. There are many ways to celebrate your fitness goals, and turn dieting into a positive experience.
Know what food triggers these feelings
Alternatively, if facing your feelings head-on is too hard for now, you might want to avoid the food that causes guilt after eating. You can treat these feelings like fears. You can steadily learn to have them without feeling bad. Start by making a list of food you can eat without feeling bad. Then, make a list of food that gives you food guilt. Slowly, you can work with small amounts of the food in the latter list. In fact small portions of “unhealthy” food isn’t going to drastically change your health overnight. You’re allowed to have it in small bowls from time to time.
When you have these foods and start feeling guilty after eating them, tell yourself positive things. Tell yourself that you’re strong and you’re still the same healthy person. Recognize that having all kinds of food in moderation is healthy. You’re still in control of your diet because you’re managing not only your food intake, but also your feelings. In this way, you might even learn to enjoy these small portions of food. The key to dieting isn’t avoidance. It’s balance.