I follow a couple of healthy food and recipe accounts on Instagram and have recently noticed a lot of them talk about “guilt free” recipes and snacks. And that phrase just…bothers me for some reason.
Why is the word guilt even remotely associated with food and the way we eat? It’s remarkable that such a strong emotion, guilt, is tied to something as basic and necessary as providing sustenance for our bodies to function. Eating is an essential function of the human body. You literally will cease to function if you do not eat.
It speaks volumes that, in an attempt to eat healthier, it’s become a trend to take some of our less than healthy foods, ya know the ones we love but end up regretting having eaten later, and make them slightly healthy enough, or not as fattening and dubbed it guilt free.
This kind of imagery is very detrimental. It just perpetuates the “fear” associated with gaining weight by eating a cupcake, which further exacerbates the guilt. If you want the cupcake, have it. But what you DON’T want to do, is have 10 of them in one sitting. MODERATION is key.
The term guilt free is a trap on both sides.
Firstly, the thought of something being guilt free can lead to overindulgence. Oh, it’s a guilt free cookie dough ball…it’s made with quinoa and all kinds of other healthy stuff – I’m good to down 6 of these right? I mean…it’s healthy! WRONG. Adding the term guilt free mentally flips a switch in most folks heads that gives them the green light to overindulge. Granted, the quinoa cookie dough balls probably have less sugar and fat that regular cookie dough, but either way you’re still missing the point of eating right if you down the entire batch in only a few (or one) sitting. Guilt free or no, you my dear, have failed in learning moderation.
Secondly, I don’t like the idea that guilt should in any way shape or fo be associated with eating. And if those feelings of guilt DO exist when it comes to a persons daily diet, then it’s time to take a serious look at the way in which you relate to food. Good isn’t meant to make you feel guilty. It’s meant to nourish your body. What makes things complicated is that in out day and age there are SO many foods that may taste delicious or are quick to make/consume, but don’t nourish us nearly as well as a more natural and whole food counterpart. Add to that the emotional value that we place on food…it may remind you of a special memory or a loved one or provide some kind of familiarity and feeling of pleasure when you are eating.
But does it FEED you? Really and truly, FEED you the things you need and not the things you want. Do you eat more for joy or more for necessity? And if it is more joy based eating, then I wonder how you feel…how you TRULY feel when that meal or snack is complete. These are questions you have to ask yourself. I know there have been times in my heavier days when I felt a little guilt about eating too much of a bad thing. Yea it felt great when I choked down, but afterwards I kinda felt like whatever pleasure I got from eating was gone once I stopped eating. And worse, I felt bad for indulging too much. I personally had to, and still do, evaluate the way I look at food. I am making myself take the time to cool for myself. I’m always short in time, so Sundays are my days to cool and prep meals and snacks for the week. I get excited about my prep time. I look forward to it. And best of all, I know what I’m eating and feel happier and more empowered by that. My indulge days or moments are still there. I allow for a meal out or happy hour with friends – I know that in out society food is a means of bringing people together socially, so I’m not trying to change the system…I’m finding ways to function within it and still come out on top. Guilt and regret are no longer words I associate with eating. My advice to you is to try having a quick check in with yourself before you dive into the “goodies.” My check in sounds something like this…
Me: I think I want to eat *insert unhealthy meal/snack here*
Myself: Are you sure?
Myself: Ok, then you’re not gonna feel bad about this later right? No moaning and groaning about trying to burn the calories later, because you know that NEVER happens no matter how much folks say it.
Me: Yep, I’m willing to take the hit for indulging this time.
Myself: Ok, cool. Enjoy!
That is how I manage my cravings. Sometimes a snack or treat just isn’t worth it. And in those moments I will swiftly say no. I’m a big believer in living with no regrets. Learn to question your dietary habits and question why they are the way they are. It’s completely fine to do a quick check in with yourself to make sure you’re making informed choices about what you eat and when.
Make every meal a guilt free one by practicing accountability and setting realistic expectations on what you eat and what your food can and cannot do for you.