While waiting in the checkout line at the grocery store, I always look at the magazines. I like to have an idea of what is going on in the celebrity world and see if there are any new or interesting fitness headlines on Shape magazine or Women’s Health. While browsing the other day, I saw a number of headlines revolving around guilt free snacking, guilt free meals, and guilt free Thanksgiving. With holidays around the corner, everyone seems to be worried about weight gain, holiday parties and how to not over indulge. However, I think this it the wrong way to look at it. Holidays provide a great way to spend more time with friends, family and around good food. The idea that indulgence should lead to a guilt hangover promotes a dysfunctional, damaging relationship with food.
Guilt by definition means “the fact of having committed a break of conduct, especially violating law and involving a penalty” or “the state of one who has committed an offense or a feeling of culpability from a sense of inadequacy.” This begs the questions, what is the crime and what is the penalty?
Let’s state the obvious. We need food to survive, to thrive, to feel strong and to be healthy. So how does eating which is so integral to our survival invoke such feelings of guilt, culpability and inadequacy? In the processing of striving for better, healthier, fitter bodies, we have forgotten about the joy of eating and cooking. We have forgotten that our bodies are smart. They know what they need to feel good. They know when they are hungry and when they are full. It is our minds that have begun to interfere with this natural balance.
In all honesty, this is how it used to be for me. When I first became vegan, I struggled eating at restaurants, and being around people whose diets differed from mine. I worried all the time that I was eating too much or too little or not the right combination of things, in order to get the most nutrients. All the busy thoughts not only took away the joy of eating but also made me start to gain weight. Because I was not listening to what my body was telling me, and because I was spending so much energy thinking about food, I started to over eat, eat when I was not hungry, and eat food that I though I “should” regardless of if I liked it. It was when I slowly took a step back, and started to tune into my intuition that I began to break bad eating habits, feelings of guilt, and weight gain.
For me, Thanksgiving is all about family. I get to spend time in the kitchen, cooking food that nourishes the people that I love most in the world. While I probably eat more on Thanksgiving than I do on any other given day, I do not feel the need to beat myself up over it. For the most part, I don’t even pay attention to it, anymore. Eating is not a crime. Eating too much or not the “right foods” should not involve a penalty. Listening to your body, being around people that you care about, and feeding yourself food you have cooked with love, should only invoke feelings of joy.
Be thankful for your body, for the food that is readily available for you to eat, and for the people that you call your family.
Have you ever struggled with feeling guilty about food?
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Related: How Intuitive Eating Changed My Life
Photo: Kelly Garbato via Flickr