How to Move Past Food Guilt & Enjoy Eating
Following on from our earlier blog discussing language used to describe food (If you haven’t read this, you can find it here on our website) I wanted to talk to a topic close to my heart…
I would love for you to know about ways that you can reframe your choice of language to help move past hurtful and harmful feelings that may pop up along your food peace journey. Particularly feelings of guilt and shame.
If you are becoming familiar with the work of Intuitive Eating, you might have heard the concept Making Peace with Food (Principle 3). If this is not familiar, that is ok also as I will share the general gist in the context of this blog. However, I would highly recommend you do a little further research, as Intuitive Eating is most powerful when explored as a set of 10 principles rather than in isolation. A great way, if it feels accessible, is having a read of the latest Intuitive eating book ‘INTUITIVE EATING A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach’(link here).
MAKING PEACE WITH FOOD
Making peace with food is a process of moving away from pathologising food as “good” and bad” and moving towards a more neutral outlook where you can offer yourself unconditional permission to enjoy all foods. Again, as discussed in our previous blogs, this is not about “letting ourselves go” but rather moving towards a place of food freedom, and nourishing ourselves from internal cues, rather than external factors.
The further along this process you become, the better you can attune to your body’s needs, and trust in your ability to do so. You will also be less likely to associate events such as eating certain foods OR having a certain food thought with criticisms and feelings of guilt or shame.
Usually, when initiating this process, it can feel uncomfortable, especially if you are still working through ways to reject intrusive diet thoughts and food rules. This is normal! No matter where you are along your food peace journey, one of the most important components to help move past feelings of guilt and shame, is offering oneself unconditional self-compassion. You are where you are meant to be along your journey, and you are always learning. There is no right or wrong.
So next time you are noticing feelings of guilt or shame, I invite you to do exactly that, notice them.
Here’s how it can look during an eating experience:
- Intrusive thought: “I shouldn’t be eating this…” “I am so bad for eating this…” “I have no self-control..”
- Take a moment to pause and notice: “I am noticing myself say that I shouldn’t eat this food”. Usually when you are saying should and shouldn’t this is an external rule that you have been conditioned to follow.
- Sit with the thought: Know that you don’t even need to understand why, just noticing that the thought is happening is an important step.
- Offer yourself self-compassion: “It is ok to feel this way and be unsure about what I am eating. I am not alone on this journey and I am doing my best. I have unconditional permission to eat all foods”. Feel free to change to whatever may resonate with you.
- If you decide so, you can continue to eat the food and stay tuned into the experience.
If you feel that you can get a little more curious…
(Continue from Step 5)
- Explore the feelings of guilt: “I am noticing that I’m feeling guilt/shame/worried… What is it about this food that makes me feel this way? Where did I learn to feel this way about this certain food?”
- Explore the food itself: “What was it that brought me to eat this food? How am I enjoying/not enjoy this food? How has it left me feeling after eating?”
- Get curious about the experience: “Is there anything new that I have learned from this experience?”
Journaling your thoughts can be a great way to process these thoughts, and this can offer much discussion and support in future therapy/work with a Dietitian.
I feel it’s also important to acknowledge how difficult this process can feel on your own. I would love for you to consider making peace with food in safe environments AND this can mean that it may not always feel safe, and that is ok.
Try starting in environments that feel comfortable e.g. when alone or in the presence of people that “get it”. It can even be a great opportunity to start with your trusted Intuitive eating Counsellor and/or Dietitian. This is an area we love supporting our clients with at Glow Group. So if we can be of help we would love to hear from you!