You had a bad day at work and are feeling stressed, so naturally, you just want to unwind with your latest Netflix binge shows and a side of treats, no matter if you’re a salty or sweet type of snacker. The next thing you know, you’re five episodes in, and the snacks that were meant to last more than a week are gone in a single sitting. You feel a little guilty because you know that 100 grams of sugar or salt are never something your body will thank you for, but you know you had a tough day and rarely have a snack-party like the one you just did, plus you’ll be going to the gym tomorrow, as usual, so you let it go.
Now consider the same scenario, but instead of letting it go, you beat yourself up about how bad that snack-party is for your body. You feel guilty over your lack of control and feel you need to make up for this momentary lapse in food judgment. You limit your food intake the next day or spend extra time at the gym, all the while feeling like you’re atoning for a major mistake.
These two scenarios show the difference between a normal response to foodie misconduct and a detrimental amount of food guilt. You’ll know if you suffer from food guilt based on how hard you are on yourself for making food choices you think are less than healthy. Everyone makes unhealthy food choices now and then; healthy eating is about aiming to make good choices most of the time, not all the time. It’s from that unrealistic standard of perfection, a desire for an idea of “purity,” that we develop unhealthy food guilt.
Instead of viewing foods as bad or good, allow for moderation in all things; even cookies and chips have a place in our diets. Treating your diet as made up of many little conscious choices instead of one giant streak of good or bad eating will lessen your guilt when you have a moment of weakness in the face of those pastries at the coffee shop. You’re a human being, and humans eat!