I am very familiar with the feeling of guilt. No, I don’t have a terrible secret. Many women experience this feeling as they continue on their journey to better health. They describe themselves as being “good” or “bad”, depending on whether or not they have followed their eating plan for the day. They describe foods as being “good” or “bad”, depending on their fat, calorie or carb content. My question for all of you would be this: Is this actually helpful?

According to Dictionary.com, this is the definition of the word guilt:
1. the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, esp. against moral or penal law; culpability: He admitted his guilt.
2. a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
3. conduct involving the commission of such crimes, wrongs, etc.: to live a life of guilt.

Oh my, we are talking about FOOD, not committing assault or murder! I have been playing the weight loss game most of my life, and can admit that I too have viewed food and eating in similar terms. I have used food to punish myself and reward myself. When I am “bad”, I don’t get to eat foods I like. When I am “good”, I get to eat things that taste good. The problem is that the “good” foods used to reward are often not very nutritious and do not help me reach my goals, therefore once I have rewarded myself I have been “bad” again! See how this can turn into a never ending roller coaster?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what food really is, and how I can help my clients let go of this guilt. Definition 2 comes closest to what I think women who are trying to lose weight and get healthy feel in regard to food. They often feel that if they eat something not so nutritious they have committed an offense. And it reality, this offense is imagined. Check the law books, I bet that eating a brownie is not on the law books as a serious crime. So why do we treat it as though it is?
In part I believe that society and the diet industry has programmed us to think this way. We come to view weight loss professionals, whether they be the person behind the Weight Watchers counter or a dietician, as the food police. We often try to conceal our crimes by wearing light clothing before a weigh in or starving ourselves a couple of days before. If confronted with our crimes, we sometimes “confess” as though we are about to be thrown in the slammer. Once again I ask the question, is this helpful?

My answer would be no. Viewing ourselves as always being on parole makes us feel like we are “bad” for being overweight in the first place. Like we are second class citizens who need to be publicly flogged. I am a believer in positive thinking and positive energy. I think the more we think in these negative terms, the more negativity we will attract.
Instead, I believe in taking responsibility for our state of being and our actions. This means letting go of the “shoulds” and “trying” and actually taking positive actions. Punishing yourself is not a positive action, so throw away the handcuffs! You may need to take a look at the way you view the foods that you eat. As human beings we have the tendency to rebel when told we can’t do something, so making foods “bad” makes us want them even more. And if we think of nutritious foods as something used to pay penance for our crimes, this will definitely not make us enjoy or crave them.
Tastes can definitely be influenced by the way we think. Since I have trained myself to view food as something that heals and nourishes the body, I no longer crave some of my favorite “reward” foods. A few weeks ago I ate something that was on the “bad” list, something that I had not eaten in quite some time. It was too sweet, and tasted like chemicals. Why would I reward myself by poisoning myself with high fructose corn syrup and other artificial, possibly cancer-causing ingredients? It just didn’t make sense!

Is your thinking making sense? Are you punishing yourself, and running from the food police? If you are having trouble sticking to healthy eating plan, it is likely that you would benefit from examining your relationship with food and improving your relationship with yourself.

Author's Bio: 

Holly Amarandei is a life and wellness coach based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She specializes in helping women with PCOS lose weight, gain a positive body image, face infertility and other health challenges, and commit to living a healthier lifestyle.