I used to think some foods were bad and some good, I used to judge my self-worth on what I ate. So the more ‘good’ foods I ate, the better I was. Eating ‘bad’ foods made me bad. As I type this now, I realise that it sounds ridiculous, but I remember judging myself and feeling so guilty after indulging on higher calorie and less nutritious foods.
I have learnt that there is no such thing as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods, just food. Sure, some foods are more optimal for gut health, some are more processed, some foods are higher in nutrient density and some higher in calories. What matters is that your diet is something you enjoy, that it keeps you healthy, is something you can stick to and is congruent to your goals.
In the past when Dan and I have indulged in our go to favourite, ice cream, he used to simply decide that he wanted it, enjoy eating it and then not give it another thought. I, on the other hand used to feel indecisive, eventually have some, but not too much, god forbid! Then I’d spend days after making myself feel guilty. How ridiculous is this? Who do you think was healthier overall? The guy that had more calories one day and then moved on, or the girl that consumed more calories and beat herself up about it for days?
Broadly labelling certain food groups or types as good or bad, placing huge restrictions on yourself and making yourself feel guilty if you go ‘off plan’ is unhealthy. I believe that having this type of mindset is worse than occasionally ‘treating’ yourself to a food that you enjoy.
I have found that when I label a food as bad and regard it as totally off limits, I can’t help but think about it and crave it more. If I ended up eating that food, I felt out of control and guilty. Contrastingly, when I know nothing is off limits and I am in control of what I decide to eat, that I don’t have to eat according to some strange grading system, I feel empowered and in control.
It strikes me that women struggle with ‘post indulgence guilt’ more than men do. Perhaps this is related to the pressures women feel to appear perfect.
I can’t say I never feel guilt now, it still creeps up whether that be after a trip to the cinema including sweets and popcorn, or after eating birthday cake. But the difference is, instead of getting caught up that feeling, I take note of it and try to remind myself I’m being unreasonable and let it go.