Food Guilt. Coming from a dieting and or eating disorder background this is something that is all too common. Feeling guilty about what we eat is reinforced in the culture at large as well. The terms good, bad, healthy, unhealthy, junk food, and clean eating have become part of our common vernacular around food. We don’t often seem to give it much thought, but even the simple use of these words reinforces the idea that food had a moral quality to it. This is absolutely not the case! I want to state this very clearly simply because I feel it needs to be said (and repeated over and over), food is not a moral issue!
That said, being that most of us come into the idea of intuitive eating having internalized this food guilt to varying degrees, it makes sense this is something we often struggle with throughout the intuitive eating process. One big way this can come up is having these thoughts that we aren’t eating “healthy enough” when we begin eating intuitively. When I first began the intuitive eating process, I still found myself keeping a mental tally of how many fruits and vegetable servings I had eaten in a given day, and felt guilt if I didn’t reach the number I had in my mind as the “correct” number of servings.
This guilty “I’m not eating well enough” feeling can really cause some problems. It can lead to binging, ignoring our intuition around what we actually want to eat, restriction, and continue to follow “rules” around food among other things. I’ve also noticed this come up with clients as well as with myself, once further along in the intuitive eating journey when we go through various (totally natural by the way) phases with our eating. For example, I notice my body feels best when I avoid processed foods, but every once and a while I will notice a period where I am eating more processed items for whatever reason. It can be easy to feel a sense of guilt about it and make this a negative thing in my mind.
However, guess what I’ve noticed? Those phases of eating that seem to be slightly out of wack for me personally tend to last longer when I do this. I find as soon as I tell myself “Ok you are eating too much of this, you need to get back to eating normally” (whatever eating normally means), I typically find it does nothing but extend the amount of time this eating goes on. This is what happens anytime we try to follow rules around our eating rather than our intuition. That said, it is really important to begin to do the work of dismantling those moralistic thoughts around food in order to be able to truly eat intuitively. The first step of doing this as simple as it may sound, is recognizing those thoughts when you have them and being about to replace it with a more neutral thought. For example, “there are no good or bad foods” or “my body will naturally get the nutrients it needs if I listen to it”.
Questions about guilt around food or anything else food/body image related? Please feel free to get in touch!