Is it okay to feel a little guilty in your eating?

Last week I had a conversation with my friend all about guilt and eating. I love getting into these conversations with people! It’s always so interesting learning where people are holding and then being able to help them on the spot to gain some more awareness to help give them the tools to propel themselves forward. With her permission, I’m sharing our conversation and her takeaways.

It started with her making a comment about it being “okay” to feel a little guilty in your eating.

I countered this with two issues with guilt around food:

First — that most people define guilt with regard to food as in: “Ugh, I’m so bad that I ate that”.

That is actually not what guilt is at all, which leads me to point number 2:

That when we feel guilt around something that is not morally wrong, it is misplaced.

It then is more likely to cause us to continue in the behavior that we first started. And then we feel worse about ourselves, because remember, we’ve made it mean something bad about us.

And when it relates to food, this often leads to even more eating “unhealthy” foods, as well as binges.

So, no, it’s not okay to feel a little guilty for eating unhealthy foods, unless you’re eating on Yom Kippur when it is forbidden for you to do so.

She then said: “Maybe my guilt means telling myself, ‘I know it’s not healthy but I want it anyway’ — admitting my ‘wrong’ … vs ‘I’m horrible for eating pizza’.”

To which I responded…

“What’s wrong with eating pizza? Wrong is a moral judgment. Did Hashem forbid you from eating pizza?”

To which she responded…

“I think I may be misusing the word guilt…not in terms of I feel guilty because I stole someone’s pen… I know I’m trying to eat healthier but I want this pizza and I’ll feel worse if I know I didn’t enjoy it….”

To which I responded…

“Ah! Well, in fact, what you’re describing can more precisely be defined as shame. And shame is when we make it about ourselves, that we’re bad. Shame doesn’t help us move forward.

Ok so back to the original question: what’s unhealthy about eating pizza occasionally?

Additionally, the misuse of the word guilt is so often what leads us to throw in the towel and give up on trusting our instincts around food.”

To which she replied…

“The issue is if I’m trying to maintain eating a diet of mainly fruits and veggies, the pizza occasionally is ok…but I know myself, one slice leads to 2 and to 3. Today I had 1 cookie from the first batch because it was a ‘flopped type’ and one real one to taste. Then it was enough, and I didn’t want/need more…but I rarely have such good attitude towards food, and I need to.”

To which I replied…

“And I’m telling you that the reason one slice leads to two, three is due to the guilt so many people have around food. With the caveat that eating two or three slices of pizza on occasion is great, too. It’s actually also due to the fact that whenever we restrict ourselves with food, our bodies rebel and we go in the opposite direction and go overboard. But that’s a separate discussion. One little baby step at a time, and you’ll continue making progress. And believing that you can do it is step #1. :-)”

I hope this shared conversation gave you some great insights about your own journey. What do you think? Did this conversation trigger any interesting thoughts for you? Did you identify with some of the guilting and shaming? Let’s start an interesting conversation. Maybe it will open something new for you and maybe it will open up something new for someone else.

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