Savvy Therapy

“Lots of people say they are “carrying guilt” or “weighed down by guilt.” Are these just expressions, or is there something more to these metaphors? “(Hotchkiss)

Research indicates that emotions become part of the body’s systems – it’s called embodied (in the body) cognition (thinking).  Guilt is defined as “the fact of having committed a specified or implied offence or crime” but it also means” make (someone) feel guilty, especially in order to induce them to do something.”  So you feel guilty if you have done something that broke your moral code – such as stealing something;  or you are made to feel guilty for, perhaps NOT doing something, such as helping out at home.  

Food guilt can prompt you to feel helpless and out of control, which may make your weight-loss efforts backfire.  You should never feel guilty about eating any food.  There is no such thing as ‘helpful’ food guilt. Any type of food guilt is harmful to mental health and can keep you trapped in the cycle of yo-yo dieting.

Guilty feelings about food are common among people who regularly restrict what they eat.  Over time, you will have feelings of deprivation, and the food that is restricted will continually occupy your mind.  This likely leads to a time when you give in and you end up eating the food that you were restricting. It usually ends up in binge eating and subsequently feeling guilty. People on diets think that they have no willpower or that they failed, but in reality, it’s the diet that failed them. Binge eating is a natural response to food restriction in some instances.

Your attitude toward food is important: Some research has found food guilt is stronger among people who perceive they have overeaten, even if they haven’t. Other research has examined the associations people make in their minds for indulgent foods like chocolate cake — Do you find it celebratory? Does it make you feel guilty? — and found people in high-stress situations who associate chocolate cake with guilty feelings are more likely to have unhealthy eating habits, negative attitudes toward healthy eating and lower levels of food-related self-control during stressful situations. These guilty feelings may cause people to eat more than they would want to in higher-stress situations.

If you’re more likely to associate chocolate cake with guilt than celebration, then you probably also consider some foods (like fruits and vegetables) to be “good” and other foods (like chips and sweets) to be “bad.” For some people, this traces back to childhood; you may have learned it from your parents and internalised the message before forming your own opinions. Labeling foods this way can lead to negative thoughts about yourself, if you eat things you think you shouldn’t.

When you eat ‘bad’ foods, you end up feeling guilty about eating them. In reality, food has no moral value. All foods should be viewed as neutral. View all foods as neutral and give yourself full permission to enjoy all foods in moderation.



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