Why Do We Feel Unhealthy after Eating Healthy?

Written by: Ankita Kathad – MA (Clinical Psychology)

Last updated date : May 19, 2022

There are so many times in our lives when we just avoid our favourite food item out of fear. We fear consuming unhealthy calories. We feel so guilty that we avoid that dish completely. Remember that time when you were craving your favourite ice cream but you skipped the thought because the guilt wasn’t worth the pleasure? But what happens when our fear stops us from eating even healthy food? This article explores why we feel unhealthy after eating healthy food. We also understand what to do if we are worried about eating unhealthy food.

Chapter 1:

Feeling Unhealthy after Eating Food

Guilt is an emotion that we experience when we think we have done something wrong. We are not born with shame. Feeling guilty for eating is because we term some food as ‘good’ and some as ‘bad’. Usually, healthy food is labelled as ‘good’ and unhealthy food is labelled as ‘bad’. Over time the guilt of eating becomes so strong that it starts becoming our dinner or mealtime companion. We can start feeling guilty even after eating healthy items.

Social media is full of messages about what we should eat and what we should not. It is full of influencers who try to impose their dietary habits on others. We feel compelled to follow their food habits. This is why traditional food items which are healthy may also seem unhealthy to us.

We feel that consuming any kind of food can make us fat or bulky. This fear is deeply rooted in the belief that our bodies arent’ good enough. When we idolise the body type which we see on social media, we feel guilty that our body is not perfect. The media gives out an unreal perception of an ideal body.

Media also gives out biased perspectives on ‘clean food’. Food habits and preferences are based on many factors. What is clean food for one culture may not be so for another culture. The media imposes majority culture on the masses.

Diet culture often victimizes all kinds of food that contain sugar and fat. People who follow these diets feel that they have to completely avoid these foods. They don’t realise that some amount of sugar and healthy fat is essential for our body.


Chapter 2:

What Are the Sources of Guilt?

Why do we feel unhealthy after eating healthy? We feel this because when we eat something that is not a part of the diet, we think we are breaking rules. Even if what we are eating is healthy.

We feel worried about eating unhealthy because there is a problem with self-control. We feel that even if we consume small amounts of unhealthy food, we will not be able to control ourselves from eating more of it.


Chapter 3:

What Happens When You Are Worried about Eating Unhealthy Food?

When you are constantly worried about eating unhealthy food, it can affect you mentally and physically. If we worry so much, we will never enjoy our meals. We can never have fun with friends. Our rules can annoy people who live with us. We can never engage in conversations during mealtime. This is because of mind is always preoccupied with thoughts of health and eating.

We will avoid all kinds of food that aren’t in our diet. People who are always worried about eating unhealthy food will not touch anything that is not listed in their diet plans. This worry becomes a habit. We will keep checking food labels. We will always calculate obsessively. When we feel unhealthy about eating then we will start cancelling meal plans with friends.

This anxiety can cause health issues. We may avoid food that is essential for our health. For instance, we will completely cut down fat from our diet. Some amount of fat is essential for a healthy life. There is a likelihood that we will annoy others around us with our demands.


Chapter 4:

How to Stop Feeling Worried about Eating Unhealthy?

Worry and guilt are learned behaviour. We can also unlearn them. These behaviours are a result of unrealistic core beliefs and media portrayals. We feel unhealthy after eating because we think that even a small bite of food will drastically increase our weight. We feel very sad about breaking the rules and think that it is an unforgivable mistake.

The following steps can be used to stop feeling worried about eating unhealthy food


Chapter 5:

Understand Your Body

Instead of blindly following a diet plan that you found on the internet, try to understand your body. Read about body types, understand your body type and prepare a diet plan that focuses on wellbeing and not on societal standards of a slim body. Learn about the local healthy food items. Sometimes we tend to feel that a food item is unhealthy because it is cheap. This may not be the case always. Local fruits and vegetables are cheap and healthy.

Understand your body needs. Try to incorporate healthy eating habits rather than extreme dieting. We feel unhealthy while eating healthy food because we think that the only diet plan that we see others following is the right one. Our bodies are different and our needs also differ.


Chapter 6:

Don’t Be Hard on Yourself!

You may be feeling that you are cheating yourself by breaking diet rules. But permit yourself! Don’t beat yourself for consuming the food that made you happy. Try eating one food item at a time. Try eating food that you feel is less unhealthy. For instance a packet of baked chips.

When you are with friends, try to focus on the conversation instead of constantly thinking about what’s on your plate. It will take practice. Try doing it at home first. Like a dress rehearsal, do a plate rehearsal! Take a plate and put small portions of all kinds of food. You can visualise food if you don’t have anything at home. Try to relax and positively affirm that you are not sinning by eating food. All this while being mindful of what you are eating. Overeating of any kind is never helpful.


Chapter 7:

Food Journal

Maintain a food journal. Note down the healthy food as well as unhealthy foods that you have been avoiding. Write your thoughts and feelings about them. Make food logs. Whenever you eat, enter it in the journal. Write how you felt at that time. This way you will have more clarity on why you feel guilty and what you can do to reduce that guilt.

Write about your achievements in the journal. Whenever you eat a food item that you have been avoiding, note it down. Write down the steps you followed while eating it.


Chapter 8:

Seek Help

Lastly, if you are feeling guilty and unhealthy after eating healthy food, you can seek professional help. You can speak to a therapist who will help you overcome feelings of guilt. Moreover, they can connect you to a nutritionist too. You can talk to people who face similar problems. At Epsychonline, some courses and articles can help you understand more about food guilt and ways to overcome them. Do check them out.