With Halloween behind us and Thanksgiving and Christmas approaching, tis the season for food guilt. Whether it’s left over candy from your little ones’ trick or treat bucket or the feasts that are coming up, food guilt happens. Food guilt and my eating disorder went hand in hand, so I’m no stranger to dealing with that overwhelming shame and sinking feeling.
Many will kick up workouts or start with the holiday diets and restrictions, but what if I told you that not only can you get rid of holiday guilt, but you DESERVE to let that guilt go as well. I know that food guilt is human nature, because diet culture has programmed that into us, but now is the time to say fuck diet culture.
Let’s create food freedom and banish all restrictions. Restrictions and diets aren’t the answer anyway, because they can lead to excessive guilt, disordered eating habits, and it can take a negative toll on our mental health. Move on from food guilt, because your worth has nothing to do with your weight or body.
5 Ways to Get Rid of Food Guilt
Honestly, the holidays are some of the most challenging times for my eating disorder recovery. I genuinely hate the holidays because of body shame and food guilt. Many family members think I’m just a colossal Grinch, but there’s more to it.
In my family, my eating habits and ED history are always in the center of conversations. I can’t walk into my parents without my mom commenting on my body, how I look, and about all of the food waiting in the kitchen. Whether her intentions are harmless or not, I struggle so much every single holiday.
Remember that it is never okay to comment on someone else’s body, especially those with a history of eating disorders. Whatever your intentions may be, pointing out something like appearance can be very detrimental to someone’s mental health. Think before you speak, and if you’re on the other end of this, educate rather than belittle.
I want to say that food guilt wouldn’t even be a thing without diet culture. We wouldn’t need to relearn how to let go of body judgement let alone how to eat without feeling some type of way if it wasn’t for the negativity and toxic nature of diet culture. It’s time to say goodbye to all of the negative associations surrounding food, because we all deserve to love our bodies.
1. Let go of food restrictions.
When we restrict what we eat, we can get cravings. That can cause us to spiral with guilt and disordered habits. Restrictions with food can also lead to eating disorders and can really mess you up physically and mentally.
Let go of food restictions one by one. I know it’s not easy to stop something cold turkey. Work at it little bits at a time if that’s what it takes. Slowly work your way up to food freedom.
If you don’t put restrictions on what you eat, you’re less likely to have guilt or shame hanging over your head. You’ll be able to fully enjoy the holidays without an inner mean girl telling you that you don’t deserve to feel beautiful. Those restrictions along with guilt have zero positive outcomes.
Don’t let diet culture make you feel like your guilt is a result of your willpower reminding you to make “good” choices. Willpower is a term they use to make your mental strength the scapegoat if you eat something diet culture deems “bad.” Food shouldn’t be labeled good or bad, because it will only make the guilt worse.
2. Acknowledge that food is more than fuel and nutrition.
Food is bigger than good, bad, healthy, and unhealthy. These labels lead us to disordered habits, which CAN hurt you physically and mentally. Food is more than nutrition and fuel.
Let go of all of the negative food associations, because they are aiding in your guilt. Those associations are what is holding you back. Food freedom will help you let go of so much more than feeling guilty about eating. It will allow body acceptance to start happening.
Viewing food as only nutrition makes it harder to accept our bodies if we eat something we don’t think is “necessary.” Food, in general, is necessary. When we continue to place restrictions and labels on food, we have a more difficult time accepting and liking our bodies.
When we don’t like ourselves, our physical and mental health are affected. Eat, and eat without worrying if every bite you take is nutritional. Obsessing over something like this is what led to my bulimia, so believe me when I say food freedom is better for your health.
3. Enjoy your food.
What in the hell is the point of our sense of taste if we don’t use it? Eat foods you enjoy, and enjoy your food. Why punish yourself by not eating what you like? Again, doing that can lead to even worse disordered eating habits. It can bring you down mentally, and that is the last thing you deserve.
You deserve to enjoy your food, AND to enjoy your holidays. The holidays are meant as celebrations. We gather and we feast. It’s about gratitude and being present with the ones you love.
Don’t feel guilty for enjoying what passes your lips. There no point in flavor or taste buds if you’re going to eat things that you dislike and restrict what tastes good. Enjoy your food, because it can be so magical.
4. Your relationship to food matters.
Eating is one of the basic needs that we have as humans. Guilt and shame should not float around your relationship with food. Your relationship with food is bigger than needing to eat to stay alive.
Food is good in general, and when it comes to holidays, tradition is often rooted in foods and feasts. Food restriction is also at the root of why we can experience so much guilt, shame and addiction around food. Once you get past that first concept of letting go of restrictions, which may take some time, you can rebuild your relationship to food.
When we set up rules around what we can and cannot have, it only creates more fixation around food that we struggle to shake. This puts cracks in the foundation of our relationship with food. It also creates fear.
Don’t fear your food, because that won’t allow you to have a positive relationship with what you eat. This is another issue stemming from diet culture. Fearing our food doesn’t hold us “accountable” as diet culture would say. It brings negative thoughts and behaviors and causes an unhealthy obsession. Keep in mind eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any other mental illness.
5. Let go of comparisons.
Don’t look at another person who has a full plate and wonder why they aren’t gaining weight. Let go of comparisons. Stop fearing weight gain, and focus on yourself.
Be grateful that your body has brought you this far. Your body houses your life, and that’s incredible. Be grateful for your body, and do not compare it to others. Comparisons are very counter productive, and nothing positive comes from comparing ourselves and bodies to others.
Letting go of food guilt will help grow your self-love and body acceptance. If you are constantly comparing yourself and what you eat to others, that guilt will grow. Plus, grow your own self-love and not others. Don’t focus on other people, because this is about you. Mind your damn business, because your business is already beautiful.
6. Reassure yourself in those moments.
It may sound weird, but talk to yourself when those moments of panic and guilt creep in. Tell yourself it’s going to be okay, because it is. Eating what you enjoy without restriction or guilt is MORE THAN OKAY. It is good for your health.
If you need to give yourself a pep talk, then be the best damn coach you can be. You deserve to not only eat without guilt but eat what you love and still feel beautiful. Food isn’t the enemy, and that’s what you need to remind yourself.
It takes awhile to get good at those pep talks. I’ll admit that I reassure myself often when it comes to food, because eating disorder recovery isn’t a one and done thing. It’s okay to struggle, but work through it and remind yourself you deserve to eat without guilt.
7. Wear what makes you feel beautiful.
I get nervous at every holiday, because I have no idea what to wear. I used to worry about looking fat, but we need to get one thing straight. Diet culture, surprise surprise, has made us believe that fat is a dirty word.
Many of us also believe that being fat is the worst thing in the world. I hate to break it to you, but that is fatphobia caused by diet culture. You can unlearn it, I promise. Stop thinking of weight as an equivalent to beauty, and wear what makes you feel amazing.
Wear what makes you feel beautiful, and focus on those positive feelings. Be comfortable and fabulous at the same time. Find a balance that will make you confident, so you can battle food guilt and win.
F**k Food Guilt Too
I don’t know if I can say fuck diet culture enough, because it really is the reason so many of us struggle with food guilt and have a broken relationship with food in general. Don’t let it hold you back.
Finding balance with food and not obsessing over every calorie or bite is so freeing. It’s almost euphoric to not have that shame and negativity hanging over your head, especially during the chaos of the holidays.
I used to go to every holiday terrified and ready to cry. My food relationship was shattered, and I felt guilty for liking the taste of those classic holiday foods. I let it control my life and steal my joy. No one deserves to live or feel that way.
Now is the time to work on getting rid of the food guilt you may carry. It may seem redundant to tell you to give up on diet culture, repair your food relationship, and accept your body as you are, but those are the keys to living a positive life when it comes to food.
We are so much more than weight. Arbitrary numbers shouldn’t control your life or your joy, because as humans, we are meant for a bigger picture than all of that nonsense. You deserve to love your body AND your food. I know that fear and guilt don’t just fall off, but work on loving yourself just as you.
Work on not letting damaging and disorder behaviors hold you back from enjoying your holidays and traditions. You only have one life, so don’t waste it focusing on what brings you negative feelings. Celebrate yourself and your body, and in time, balance with all of it will just happen naturally.
If you learn to get rid of body judgement, food guilt, and restrictions, a natural balance will happen in your life. You won’t have obsessions or disordered habits surrounding food and your body. Things will fall into place and you’ll be happier.
I hope you see how truly beautiful you are.