Do you find yourself overcome with guilt or shame after eating your favorite foods because you feel like you’ve failed another diet? Do you apologize for “being bad” when ordering french fries or get anxious when someone brings donuts to the office? It doesn’t have to be this way! “Making peace with food” (one of the principles of intuitive eating) is all about giving yourself full permission to eat ALL foods. In doing so, you are able to start rebuilding your relationship with your favorite foods. Check out our 3 tips to start getting rid of food guilt:
By labeling foods as “good” or “bad”, we give those foods unnecessary power. Food does not have moral value. You are not “good” for eating a salad or “bad” for eating french fries. As you practice intuitive eating, you will find yourself sometimes choosing a salad because you feel like some refreshing vegetables. Then other times, you will find yourself enjoying the taste of salty, crunchy french fries without guilt. By giving yourself permission to eat ALL foods, diet culture has less of a hold over your food choices. You won’t feel pressured to choose what diet culture tells you is the “better” option all the time. Instead, you begin to be able to choose what sounds and feels good for your body in the moment without food guilt.
Avoiding foods because of arbitrary diet culture rules usually backfires. Fighting the natural human desire to eat a food you enjoy often leads to feelings of deprivation or more obsession around that particular food. For example, if your latest diet tells you to avoid cookies, suddenly you may be craving cookies more than ever. Instead of having one cookie and moving on with your day, you may find yourself unsatisfied. As you continue to avoid the cookies, you may become more focused on them and eventually may even end up binging on them.
Once you start to tell yourself you can enjoy your favorite foods whenever you want, the scarcity effect will subside. With this, food obsession and food guilt subsides too.
While adequate nutrition is absolutely essential for human life, food is so much more than just fuel. Food is nostalgic– like your grandmother’s famous meatball recipe that has been passed down for generations. It is social –like catching up with a friend over a couple slices at your favorite pizza spot. Food is culture –like trying new cuisines when you visit another country. It is creative –like experimenting with a new recipe you found on pinterest. And of course, food is meant to be enjoyed!
For more guidance on making peace with food, consider meeting with one of our HAES dietitians.