Freeing yourself from dieting and weight obsession
“I shouldn’t have had that chocolate cake”
“I have to eat this high protein bread, it’s really good for me although the taste is awful”
At some point in our life we all have that inner voice that tortures us right before we eat something or makes us feel guilty afterwards. This feeling of guilt occurs when you consume a meal that might be labelled as “bad” like fast food, pizza or sweets.
“I am a loser… I just had pizza for lunch and now my colleagues have invited me for dinner at my favourite restaurant. What am I going to do? I can’t go, I have to go to the gym to exercise, but there is not enough time. I feel so bad, maybe I can find a healthy alternative like a salad. But what if they want to order dessert too? That restaurant makes the best fudge cake in town that I can’t resist. I need to have more self-control. I feel so worthless. I need to exercise more tomorrow to compensate.”
Feelings of guilt easily result in self-restriction, shame and hopelessness. There is nothing bad about wanting to lead a more healthy and active lifestyle. But there’s a big difference between adapting positive changes to become a better version of yourself and restricting and devaluing yourself by following unhealthy trends like denying your appetite, pushing yourself to eat certain “healthy” food or forcing yourself to exercise in ways that you do not enjoy. People are becoming too harsh on themselves.
Those feelings of guilt and hopelessness however are not related to food at all. What lies behind those feelings is self-hatred and lack of self-acceptance.
Living in a society where social media and television play a huge influence on people’s diet and exercise perception, it’s no wonder we put pressure on ourselves to look a certain way.
“Eat this to get rid of the extra belly fat”
“Follow my diet and in 5 weeks you will have the body you’ve always wanted”
“Those 10 foods that you eat daily which make you fat”
If you start feeling guilty after eating a piece of cake or a slice of pizza it begins to define the way you feel about yourself.
You need to start considering this type of thinking as flawed, distorted and damaging to your soul. Is feeling guilty going to help you reach your goals? Is this really going to encourage you to become happier or healthier or to make better eating choices?
Try to think of someone you know and admire that has a lot of confidence, and is at peace with their body and their relationship with food. Are they constantly feeling guilty after they have eaten something with many calories? Are they feeling guilty for attending an event and not going to the gym? Are they constantly searching for the next cleanse or diet plan?
OR– Are they just enjoying their meals without thinking about it too much? Do they allow themselves to have their favourite treats in moderation with joy instead of shame? Are they feeling comfortable with their body?
No matter how thin we are, or how much exercise we do, if we don’t change the way we look at ourselves we will never be satisfied and subsequently happy.
Are you caring for yourself or are you trying to control yourself?
The perspective you see things really does have an effect on your behaviour and habits. Identifying and understanding your thought process and behaviour is a key aspect for recovery. Starting to enjoy food again with no guilty feelings involved, will help you deal with your emotions in a healthy way.
Detect the unhealthy thoughts before or after you eat something and then begin creating a new, more positive story in your mind. Eventually you will stop seeing the food as your enemy.
Just remember that big changes don’t happen overnight and its fine to feel guilty at the beginning, as long as you don’t pre-judge yourself.
Your worth and value as a person has nothing to do with the food you eat or the “diet rules” you follow. Food is to nourish your body and nothing more.
Approach yourself with kindness instead of judgment! Accept and love yourself and who you are, as you are, right now.
Clinical Dietitian- Nutritionist MSc, BSc