Valentine’s Day should actually be called “National Eat Chocolate and Drink Wine Day.” But for many of us, with chocolate and wine comes an unwelcome date – food guilt. Research shows that 80% of women (and 70% of men) feel guilty about their food decisions. Although these numbers feel a little startling, they are definitely not a surprise, are they?
For YEARS, food guilt was my constant companion (especially as I tried to stop counting calories – more on that here). Straying from my normal eating routine left me overwhelmed with guilt that felt like I had swallowed an entire chocolate cake.
Most Saturday mornings started with me walking to the bathroom and pulling up my shirt to look at my bloated belly, tears rolling down my face. I felt disgusted, guilty, and so frustrated with myself for indulging. This food guilt perpetuated a super unhealthy relationship with food where I constantly restricted my calories and obsessed (stop obsessing about trying to eat perfectly using these tips) over everything I put into my mouth.
Here’s the thing.
Food guilt sucks. It’s uncomfortable. It makes us think too much, and it keeps us from having a healthy relationship with food (my girl Lindsey Smith, the Food Mood Girl, has some great advice on this in her newest book Eat Your Feelings – check it out for more support on improving your relationship with food). However negative these feelings may be, they are not all bad.
Food guilt helps us understand the underlying beliefs and behaviors that are triggering us. This allows us to understand them, interrupt them, and improve our relationship with food.
If we can use food guilt as a source of data we can get more consistent, and stop thinking about food all the time. I’ll show you how to use food guilt as a tool to automate your eating and rebuild your relationship with food. It’s as simple as (my) 321 (system).
How to use food guilt to improve your relationship with food
3 – Ask why 3x
As soon as you start feeling guilty about something you ate, stop immediately and start asking questions.
Well – one question (why?), three times. We ask multiple times to get a little deeper each time.
Often, as we continue to probe ourselves, we identify the true reasons we’re feeling guilty. A couple common reasons include:
- fear of gaining weight
- fear of not being good enough
- the belief that we need to eat a certain way and deviating is something we *shouldn’t* do. (if you’re struggling with an eating disorder, please please please seek help. An online therapist might be a great place to start).
The key here is to let yourself get uncomfortable. With each answer, continue probing WHY until you feel as if you’ve made it to the real truth about why you’re dealing with guilt.
I walk you through exactly how to do this in the video below.
2 -find two reasons to be compassionate with yourself
This tends to be even harder than #1. Food guilt sends into this downward spiral of talking down to ourselves and making ourselves feel bad for one little decision.
Instead of getting on this negative train and spinning out of control, take time to consciously think of two reasons you should be compassionate with yourself. Again, food guilt is just data, helping us uncover the beliefs we have around food that are making us miserable.
If this is really tough for you, think about what you would say to your best friend, your sister, or your mom. You’d probably be way nicer to her! So turn that love around on yourself.
Below, I break down how I work through tough food guilt situations and try to find a bit more compassion in the moment.
1-spend one minute planning how you want to handle the situation next time
A lot of the time, when we make decisions that cause food guilt, we believe it is a spur of the moment thing.
All the sudden, you had this craving, gave in, and ate too much.
You went to happy hour and planned to have one glass of wine but before you know it, you need to call an uber home.
But let’s be real.
That’s not usually the case. Usually, there are behaviors we aren’t even aware of that set us up to fail. Instead of continuing blindly, let’s break them down, see what’s really going on, and come up with a plan.
When we have a plan in place, we are less likely to slip into behaviors that will make us feel guilty. It doesn’t need to be elaborate but just figure out how you want to deal with the situation in the future. That’s why I love Eat Your Feelings as a resource. It helps us understand how to deal with our triggers in the moment AND prevent them.
Lovely, if food guilt is still making you feel small, I created this system for you. If it helps, download my 321 system worksheet. I break everything down step-by-step so you can implement it in your own life. Grab it below!