The Food Guilt Phenomenon

HolidayGuiltIf there is such a thing as a perfect eater, a model muncher, a flawless feaster….I’m not it. I’m well aware that I splurge a little too often. I cannot avoid a sweet treat after a meal, be it a piece of fruit or a piece of dark chocolate. And when I get a little too busy or stressed, I fall victim to the quick bite to eat, which we all know is usually not the healthiest bite to eat.

But even when I’m in a stress-filled daze and make some of my poorer eating decisions (think potato chips, Wendy’s, chocolate), I practice portion control. I try to stay active so that those poor choices don’t destroy all of my hard work and so that a week of imperfect eats don’t pack on 10 pounds. And, at this dangerous time of the year, I’m trying to skip dessert unless it’s an absolute must-have option for me. (My weaknesses? Carrot cake, tiramisu, chocolate.)

Clearly, I’m not perfect. So one of my biggest pet peeves is getting picked on by dining companions for “being good.” Anyone who regularly makes healthy choices has probably heard the same thing. “Oh, you’re so good!” “Oh, look at you, skipping dessert.” “Oh, look at you with your to-go box!”

It might be your mom, it might be your Aunt Sally or maybe a socially unsavvy coworker, but I’m willing to bet that most of us have these food commenters in our lives. And I’ve caved to peer pressure before in situations like this. I’ve ordered dessert when nothing was really lighting my fire. I’ve gone back for seconds just because everyone else was doing it or someone commented on my food choices. I’ve felt silly for trying to eat healthy. When actually, what these finger-pointers are actually saying is, “Oh! I know I’m eating unhealthy foods, and I feel guilty for it!”

The take home message? Skipping dessert doesn’t mean that I’m chronically depriving myself. It might mean I don’t want it. It probably means I already had a cheesecake already today. But it doesn’t mean that I invite your comments.

If you’re a food commenter, think before you comment. And a reminder to all who eat: You’re not answering to your dining companions. You’re answering to yourself and only yourself. So stop the food guilt and embrace your choices. Hopefully they’re healthy more often than not. —Erin

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  1. Thank you for writing this. It’s not about ‘being good’—because so many times that leads to deprivation and bingeing later. It’s about being healthy. Amen woman. You know what. When people leave the resturant..no one remembers what anyone ate. I say just enjoy the food you’re eating. hit.the.nail.on.the.head.

  2. This is also a huge pet peeve of mine. I think people feel like they’re paying a compliment–but sometimes there’s definitely a hint of “will you cut it out so I feel better about my own stupid choices” that’s lurking behind these observations.

    Great reminder not to be influenced by it!

  3. amen. my (least) favorite: “that’s ALL you’re eating??” yes. lay off me. i don’t ever declare: “you’re eating ALL that?!”

  4. Sara says:

    I’m not a huge fan of sweets, so I rarely order dessert. I’m not depriving myself; I simply don’t want it! This isn’t a problem when I’m out with family, but when I’m out with certain friends, family friends, co-workers, etc. I get the same comments. Even when I explain that I don’t enjoy dessert, they still act like I’m just making an excuse.

  5. Metroknow says:

    I really appreciated this – I definitely get that kind of veiled guilt when I’m “on my game” diet-wise (meaning, uh, yeah I need to get BACK on my game this time of year). Your advice on being centered internally is spot on. Great post Erin – truly inspiring.

  6. We are always told to have a “game plan” before going to holiday gatherings, or other food traps where we may overeat. I can handle the food – it’s the food commenters I need a “game plan” for! I find myself doing all kinds of deceptive and sneaky things with food to avoid prying eyes and critical comments – it’s like I’m doing something wrong by making healthy choices with my food!

  7. I have learned the art of saying NO in the food arena & people just got used to it. I don’t even let the guilt thing get to me. If I don’t want it, I don’t eat it. If it something I really want & I think it is worth the calories, I eat it & stop at the portion I decide on. I am always right back it then. I may eat healthy for the whole meal & then enjoy a treat BUT it is always my decision, not anyone else making it for me.

  8. Evie says:

    love it…especially the “I probably already had a cheesecake today” comment! Very funny (and true). A large part of why I work out is so that I can eat yummy treats and not feel guilty about it. I would be miserable on salad alone!

  9. Kim says:

    I’m so with you on this! My biggest pet peeve is when people make the comment “you don’t need to watch what you eat” if I order a diet soda or a salad or anything else healthy. In my head I reply “I stay thin BECAUSE I watch what I eat, you moron! Maybe you should try it!”

    I don’t ever actually say that, just FYI.