We have all been there. It’s 10pm and you just got home from who knows what, and all you can think about is that delicious cake you having waiting for you on the counter.
At first, you tell yourself you’ll be “good” and only have one slice.
But it’s so delicious, and it hits the spot more than anything has hit the spot ever before. So you go for that second slice.
You already feel guilty for going past your allotted first slice, but it’s like your primal urges have taken over.
But you can’t help but go for another slice. You make this one super thin so as to not feel even more guilt, but that slice just didn’t do it for you, so you get another thin slice to make it a full slice.
After this, you not only feel uncomfortably full, but you feel immense guilt.
Plus, you have to deal with the shame of your roommate seeing half the cake is gone the next morning.
If you’ve ever been in this situation before, believe me, I understand. And you are absolutely not alone.
And feeling guilty after eating doesn’t only happen after food binges. It’s common to feel guilty after eating any food that is considered “bad”, even if small amounts are consumed.
It’s also very common for people to feel guilty after eating large quantities of healthy foods. There are many reasons and triggers for feeling guilty after eating.
So, why do we feel guilty? Should we feel guilty? And how do we stop feeling guilty?
Why you’re feeling guilty after eating
So, why are you feeling guilty after eating?
Well, it may seem obvious to you. You feel guilty because you ate too much and this is a reflection of your self control and worth, right?
That is precisely how you are expected to feel.
We have been programmed since birth to believe that eating too much, or enjoying your food, or eating “unhealthy” food means we are sinful.
While, on the other hand, restricting your intake, only eating “healthy” foods even if they taste horrible, and exercising even if your body hates it, is praised and worshiped.
So, of course you are feeling guilty after eating! We’ve been constantly told, over and over, that overeating is “bad” and a reflection of how “good” you are.
But don’t feel guilty about feeling guilty! It’s normal and expected, and most people have these views.
The real question is, should you continue feeling guilty? Will feeling guilty help you stop overeating in the future? Make you eat healthier?
Should you feel guilty after eating?
The simple answer is… NO!
In fact, those who feel guilt and shame when eating “unhealthy” foods or overeating have been found to be less successful at weight loss.
So, feeling guilty after eating not only feels horrible, but it also could be preventing you from reaching your goals.
Knowing this, there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty after eating.
It won’t make you lose weight, or eat healthier, it will just make you feel bad and inhibit you from making improvements to your diet.
But there’s more…
Along with this, this idea that eating unhealthy foods is “bad” and means you have no self control comes from not so amazing sources.
Of course, this first idea that overindulgence equals sin stems from religious and cultural values, but this idea has been used for ages in commercial settings in order to, guess what?
SELL YOU THEIR PRODUCTS!
That’s where diet culture comes in. There are many, many companies who are profiting off you feeling guilty after eating.
They are the ones selling diet products, waist trainers, workout programs and “cleanses”.
So, not only are these values buried deep inside of us culturally, but they are constantly being thrown at us from these companies who profit off you feeling bad about yourself.
And there is another reason to stop feeling guilty! Don’t let yourself become prey to these companies who want to manipulate you into buying their products.
So, we’ve discussed why we feel guilty, and if we should feel guilty, but how the heck do we stop feeling guilty?
How to stop feeling guilty after eating
Ok, so now how do we stop feeling guilty after eating?
Well, this is a less straightforward answer. And it is going to be easier for some than others.
Luckily, there are some brilliant people out there who have had a lot of experience working with people who struggle with food guilt and have developed strategies to help overcome this.
I highly recommend trying out intuitive eating.
I know what you are thinking, isn’t that when you eat whatever you want whenever you want?
Well, that is a very simplistic way to put it, but there are actually quite a few principles that go deeper than this.
To sum it up, intuitive eating involves letting go your desires to have a different body, thinking of foods in a neutral way, not as “good” or “bad”, honoring your cravings with kindness, dealing with your emotions instead of using food to mask them, genuinely enjoying and savoring your food, and incorporating “gentle” nutrition while still eating the foods you love.
So, yes, it is a little more than just eating what you want everyday.
If you are interested in learning more, I highly suggest reading Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch (affiliate link).
It goes into detail about all of these steps and how to progress through them.
And if you want extra guidance, there are many Registered Dietitians who specialize in intuitive eating.
Find one near you using this link.
So, what can I do right now?
If you’re not ready to buy the book or talk to a Registered Dietitian, there are absolutely steps you can take right now to help with your food guilt.
First, I absolutely recommend doing a social media cleanse. Unfollowing accounts that make you feel bad about yourself and following body positive and intuitive eating proponents is a great first step. I discuss this more in detail in this article.
Also, it’s important to recognize that overeating stems from restriction.
So, if you are constantly restricting your calories and certain foods, it’s natural to want to overeat or gravitate towards “unhealthy” foods to satisfy your cravings.
And guess what, that’s ok! If you have been restricting for a while, it’s ok to overeat to compensate.
Once you stop restricting, those urges to overeat will start to diminish, believe me!
If this sounds incredibly daunting to you, start with small steps. Start wherever it feels good for you. This may be buying one “fear food” every week, or month. Or ordering a scary meal at a restaurant.
Again, I totally recommend the Intuitive Eating book since they really go into more detail about this.
Finally, mindfulness and meditation can be very useful. Taking your time to eat undistracted, and meditating after overeating can be helpful.
All in all, no one expects you to stop feeling guilty after eating in a day, or a week, or a month. It’s a journey, but you will be thankful you did it down the road.