Food guilt is something we have all probably experienced at one point in time. In our society, there is a distinctive onus, particularly on women, to maintain a certain slender appearance. And while eating less nutritionally supportive foods regularly can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, learning to enjoy your food without guilt is an essential part of creating and maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle.
There are certain unhealthy ideas and behaviours that stem from food guilt such as eating less supportive food too quickly and having an ‘all or nothing’ approach. In my previous blog post, I discussed how eating too quickly can have negative physiological symptoms and it is well known that incredibly restrictive diets can result in prolonged ‘bingeing’ habits as a result of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality.
It’s also important to know that guilt isn’t just psychological, it can also have physiological symptoms. Guilt and other stress-inducing thoughts and emotions trigger the release of cortisol which can have a negative impact on your digestion meaning nutrients from your food are more likely to be stored at fat. Of course, this is not to say that positive emotions can counteract less supportive foods but treating yourself should be exactly that, a treat! A positive, occasional experience!
So, here are three top tips for avoiding food guilt and enjoying food as part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle;
1. Savour it
Take some time out of your day to really enjoy your treat. Try not to grab something sweet as part of your deskside lunch but instead make sure you are truly savouring every bite of whatever delicious thing you’ve chosen. As we discussed previously, rushing your food can trigger the release of cortisol which negatively effects digestion and cause nutrients to be stored as fat. Taking your time to enjoy your food means you’re more likely to feel satisfied and the food is more easily digested.
2. Moderation is better than restriction
Being too restrictive of your diet can cause harmful bingeing habits. Try having your treats in moderation, making portions smaller and less often. Swapping out certain foods for healthier versions is a great way to keep something you love without trading in the feeling that food gives you. For example, try switching from milk chocolate to dark chocolate for a richer, less moreish taste with the same relaxing effect.
3. Consciously enjoy it
Food is meant to be enjoyed! Working to make your eating experiences more positive can not only help you maintain a healthier diet but can also make you happier. You’ve chosen to eat something because you like it and it makes you happy – so embrace that! Happiness is a huge part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.