Is It Beneficial To Beat Yourself Up After Eating Junk Foods?
Guilt \ˈgilt\: noun
1 : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty; broadly : guilty conduct
2 a : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously b : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses, sin or from a sense of inadequacy : self-reproach
3 : a feeling of culpability for offenses
Guilt. In many ways food has become the new sin the Western world, one that justifies self torment and lowers self esteem everyday. You have that extra slice of chocolate cake, the glass of wine at the company party or the applepie at the family holiday dinner and in the moment there is no mistake that you do enjoy it. Sometimes rich and fatty foods can be almost sinful for lack of a better word, but you feel absolutelyterrible afterwards, and you really wish that you had not eaten the foods that you had. The guilt for some can be overwhelming, but the question remains, are these feelings of guilt really helpful? The answer is a resounding no! In fact what we know of human behavious is that the more you beat yourself up about eating something that you feel that you shouldn’t have the more likely you are to keep eating it! Interesting cycle, and one that has helped most of us stay locked in a constant and unsuccessful struggle to improve our eating habits.
Understanding Our Patterns Of Food Consumption
The first step to understanding the harm that guilt inflicts upon us when we associate it with food is to understand our patterns with regard to food consumption. Know thy enemy and know thyself and in a thousand battles you will never be in peril. These words written by a Chinese sage thousands of years ago apply just as much to war as it does to behavior modification as it is only through an intimate understanding of ourselves that change can be effected. Most simply make the resolution one day that they will no longer eat unhealthy foods and as valiant as this may be it is almost always unsuccessful. If it were that easy then weight management would not even be an issue and as most can attest this simply isn’t the case.
It Is A Mistake To Believe That Our Slips Are Caused By Lack of Willpower
To change the way we eat requires something far more than a resolution or diet, there must instead be an unrelenting commitment to a very real change in lifestyle. For this to happen we have to divorce ourselves from the destructive perspective that somehow there must be some form of atonement for any failures that occur while we are on the path of change . It is human nature to believe that when a ‘wrong’ is committed, that some form of guilt is required, usually followed by some form of penance as well. The problem is that when the ‘wrongdoing’ comes from eating something that we believe we shouldn’t nothing positive comes from it and it can be the starting point for lifelong eating disorders as one of our most basic acts as human beings is defiled by what we perceive as a lack of willpower.
Over the course of my career as a personal trainer I have seen so many men and women suffer tremendously from this way of thinking and the sad part is that society itself plays a large part in reinforcing feelings of guilt and failure in those that are struggling to control their weight. When people stray from their perceived perfect eating plan by eating something that falls into the category of forbidden, they tend to fall into a downward spiral of self hatred and disgust. This self inflicted form of flagellation is followed by a resolve to either exercise more, diet harder or employ some extreme method to compensate for the ‘damage’ done by their indulgence. Sadly this is an all too familiar refrain for most people today.
Guilt Has No Place In A Healthy Mind and a Healthy Body
Physiologically speaking, there isn’t anything that can be done to compensate for a slip in one’s diet. Nothing at all. What is done is done and any attempts to try to undo the past are wasted exercises in magical thinking. You eat something and there is nothing that you can do to reverse the fact- the universe does not have a rewind button and so we must simply move on. By wallowing in guilt we only bring ourselves closer to the likelihood of developing an eating disorders or at the very least lose some of our self respect. None of this has anything to do with the intended goal of living better and healthier lives in healthier bodies. Instead the slips must be looked upon as what they are; learning experiences that teach us more about ourselves since every slip holds the information necessary to help avoid their continued reoccurrence. With this attitude in mind, guilt no longer has a place in our relationship with food.
Guilt Makes You More Likely To Keep Eating The Wrong Foods
If you decide that you are no longer going to eat unhealthy foods, your new attitude only serves to supplement your original behavior where eating unhealthy foods were acceptable. Behavioral psychology reinforces what many of us have learned through objective observations;. namely that the very habits that we seek to change resurface because they are not fully forgotten. New and old ways of thinking co-exist as opposing impulses that will always be in competition unless steps are taken to disarm undesirable attitudes. Simply put, the more you beat yourself over the head about eating that piece of cheesecake, the more you help yourself recall the image of you eating it and the harder you are making it for yourself to forget about eating cheesecake.
What needs to happen is a gradual shift in eating patterns over time where new foods replace old foods. In time the new foods stay at our primary level of consciousness and the desire for the old ones simply fades away. This leads to a true definition of health; one where we want the foods that are good for us as opposed to avoiding bad foods because we know they are bad for us. Disarming those attitudes requires a fundamental change in perspective, a change that comes only with time and patience. It is only when you are able to enjoy foods that are good for you that you will be able to break the cycle. In the meantime, do your best not to eat the wrong foods, but if you do just keep going and don’t look back! Have a wonderful and guilt free holiday season!
NYC Personal Trainer Kevin Richardson is the most sought after personal trainers in New York City, a lifetime drug free bodybuilding champion and the founder of the Naturally Intense System of Diet & Exercise™. His high intensity 10 minute workouts have been helping people get better results in less time for the past 19 years! Get a copy of his free weight loss e-book here!