HOW FOOD-RELATED GUILT ACTUALLY MAKES YOU SICK
There's one thing I always repeat when it comes to eating and dieting: I fucking hate fad diets. To me, there's nothing that sucks the joy out of life more than having to count your calories or forbidding yourself to eat the things you love. I also think that unless you actually hate food, it's never gonna work in the long run.
To me (and a lot of experts), there's nothing worse for your body than putting it through extremes... Like eating 200 calories a day for 2 weeks and then stuffing your face for another 2 weeks. Stability and balance are two of the 3 guidelines I use at all times to make sure that my diet works for me.
And when I say diet, I don't mean it as in "dieting" I mean it in the correct use of the term diet:
Diet: The kinds of food that a person, animal, or community habitually eats. *
So basically, my eating habits.
But even more than being bad for your body and hurting your weight in the long run, there's one thing I hate even more about fad diets: The guilt associated with food.
I've always felt like food-related guilt was super unhealthy and I avoid it at all costs. Besides the obvious slippery slope to an eating disorder (which is NO JOKE), food-related guilt can actually physically make you sick.
I learned that recently when I did some extensive research for my gut health post. Basically, if you haven't read it, you need to drop this and start with this post (here).
I'm not gonna get super technical here, but there's a thing called the intrinsic nervous system (or enteric nervous system) that has a huge impact on your gut health and the way you react to certain foods.
In a nutshell, the enteric nervous system is like the brain of your gut. It's also a direct link between your actual brain and your gut. What it does is mainly transfer information from the gut to the brain, and vice versa.
So just like the regular nervous system will send signals to your brain to feel pain if you put your hand on the stove, the enteric nervous system will send signals to your brain if you eat bad foods, if you eat too much, etc.
Where it gets interesting to me, is that signals are also sent the other way around. So if you're telling yourself "Ohmygod ohmygod, ohmygod, why am I eating this chocolate cake again, I'm so bad, this is soooo bad for me, I can't believe I have no self-control, I'm such a slob, I'm gonna be so fat and ugly"... Guess what's going to happen?! Your gut is gonna get the message that you're basically poisoning yourself and it's gonna react accordingly.
So, you know how when you tell yourself that you're gonna miserably fail an interview and you end up so nervous and clumsy that you don't actually get the job? Well, the same principle applies to food-related guilt, too. Crazy, huh? Knowing that, I think the only viable option is re-training the way we view food.
I personally make the conscious decision not to feel guilt, food-related or not. I mean sure, if I fuck up and hurt someone I love, I'll feel guilt. But I don't allow myself to feel guilt for the things I love doing. So if I really want to watch an episode of the latest cooking show on Netflix in the middle of the day on Tuesday? No guilt. If I wanna eat half a pint of ice cream after a shitty day? No guilt either.
I just don't see the point in doing things and feeling guilty while you're doing them. It seems so counter-productive to me... Almost insane. If you know what you're doing is so bad, why do you keep doing it?! I don't think eating half a pint of ice cream is that bad, because I don't do it every day. That's called balance, and it's arguably the most important thing in life, in every aspect and capacity.
I don't give myself a hard time for indulging in the foods I love here and there. Because I also take pleasure in eating a balanced diet. That means a healthy breakfast, a lean lunch, fiber, proteins, healthy fats, the right supplements... And sometimes ice cream. Sometimes fried chicken... SO WHAT? You know what I could be doing? Smoking crack. I guess fried chicken twice a month isn't so bad now, is it?
By letting go of food-related guilt, not only are you able to live a more fulfilling life, but you're also promoting self-love, by being kind to yourself... And not making yourself physically sick, either. If you ask me, that's a win-win on every front.
Just like it's perfectly fine to reward yourself with a day at the spa after a big promotion, it's perfectly fine to reward yourself with a treat here and there.
Because food-related guilt also promotes an unhealthy relationship with food, viewing treats as a bad thing is bound to make you fail, no matter what diet you're following. Here's an example:
I love candy. I have the biggest sweet tooth ever. From 18 to 22, I basically lived off Milka chocolates and bags of Lindt. But sugar is bad for you. More than most of us would like to admit. And I know that, too. So I found a solution that's better for me than candy and chocolate, but still satisfies my sweet tooth: Now, I eat smoothie bowls. Yes, I get sugar from fruit. But I also get fiber from it, and lots of vitamins. And I eat a reasonable portion. I mix it with healthy supplements, I add ingredients and toppers that don't have that much sugar, but still taste good. And you know what? I'm perfectly happy that way. And I also feel much better, because my body gets good fuel. Not just chocolate and crap.
But here's the catch: I still have chocolate here and there. I know myself, and the worst thing I could do is tell myself I can't have it. Guess what's gonna happen then? That's right, all I'm gonna be thinking about is eating chocolate. I'm gonna become obsessed with the thought of biting a strawberry Milka bar, but still not allow myself to do it. And I'm gonna be miserable. NO THANKS. Instead, I found a healthier option for my day-to-day, without demonizing the actual thing that's not healthy for me. And because I usually eat healthy, I don't have to see chocolate as the devil. I'm free to just enjoy it when I get a craving and I'm happy at all times. Not just when I'm eating chocolate.
I'm not gonna lie, it took me some time to acknowledge my bad habit and retrain myself. But it was SO worth it. And if I can do it, anyone can do it. Wether your thing is fried chicken, an animal-style In-N-Out burger or chocolate cake, you can find something healthy that you're gonna love just as much. And then still have the burger here and there, when you're really craving it. And it's gonna feel that much more special than just having it mindlessly every other day.
The moment you allow yourself to have that special burger here and there, you won't feel bad about it, and your body will actually be able to handle it better, because your brain won't be sending the message to your enteric nervous system that you're eating poison. Simple, huh?
So ditch that food-related guilt, enjoy life, and the occasional burger. Or fries. Or chocolate. Whatever.
I also want to know what's your "guilty" food? Anyone else a sugar bug like me? Hit me up in the comments below or leave me an update on Instagram.
Love you guys, Jenny xx