Food guilt is the norm in our society, but why should it be?

Food guilt is the norm in our society, but why should it be? Understand the rationale behind the guilt, and how to let it all go.


Many people feel and express guilt when they eat certain foods.  

It’s everywhere.

Get on social media, and within 5 seconds you will see someone associate guilt with the food they just chose to post and eat.  Or you overheard someone at the gym say, “Just ran 5 miles, so now I can go enjoy some ice cream and not feel guilty.”

It’s a destructive “I feel guilt when I eat X” cycle, but why does it happen? And how does one stop feeling guilty about food?

Let’s talk first about what is going on when you carry guilt about food in your mind.

When you restrict yourself from foods that you deem “bad”, the little part of you that houses your guilt gets to stay cool, calm and collected.  Everything in your world seems right.  Everything except the fact that you are hungry and not satisfied by the carb-less kale salads you are eating.  

But your guilt is low, which probably feels nice and gives you a sense of control over your life.

Eventually you get to a point where you can’t deprive yourself anymore and you let go of deprivation. In other words, you let yourself eat what your body is craving.  

That extreme desire stemming from the restriction of a certain food leads to extreme eating.  The more you restrain yourself from that food, the more off limits that food becomes and the more you will overeat when you finally allow yourself to have the food.

Deprivation is reduced, but now your guilt is high.  

This is also the point you vow to never eat “X” again, and the seesaw between guilt and deprivation starts all again.  All the while, you are asking yourself why you have no willpower around food.  

However, willpower is not the issue here: the real issue is actually deprivation.

Many people can see-saw between guilt and deprivation for years.  However, by giving yourself permission to eat all foods, you give yourself permission to walk away from deprivation and, as a result, walk away from the guilt.  

So how do you stop the guilt?

Walk away from the deprivation and stop making restrictive rules for yourself around food and a diet mentality.  And in order to stop restriction, you must first stop labeling food as “good” or “bad”.  You must give yourself permission to eat foods that satisfy you, and allow all foods to become legalized in your mind. As you walk away from deprivation, you will find yourself also walking away from the obsession with that food.

Isn’t it nice to be able to have your thoughts back in other areas in your life that may be more productive and beneficial to your life?

Starting utilizing your brain space to think about living your life to the fullest, and recognize that the food you eat and your body’s unique shape is only a tiny component of living a fulfilling life.

Read the 2-step process to stop the guilt in the original article.

Kylie Mitchell, MPH, RDN, LD is a Houston-based Registered Dietitian helping individuals create a healthier relationship with food without restrictions. By promoting positive body image, Kylie is driven to stop disordered eating and help people fall back in love with a healthy relationship with food and their body. Read more from Kylie at immaEATthat.