What to do when you feel guilty about overeating?
Do you feel guilty when you overeat? Is food guilt a this a good thing or a bad thing? Do you feel guilty about not being able to do enough for your body weight and health? In this episode, let’s unpack guilt. Stay tuned.
Hi there. How are you doing? You know, I once did a program, a body image program which was quite good and I got a ton of value from it. In that program, I became friends with a wonderful, bright woman from California. And I remember this one instance where we were discussing about our recent overeating episodes. I was feeling very guilty about this last binge that I had a few days back. But my friend who also happened to binge a few days back said, “Girl, don’t feel guilty. Why are you feeling guilty. After this program, I have decided to never feel guilty no matter how much I eat. I crush the guilt the moment it arises and eat like a badass.”
Now lemme tell you that she thinking this way is not her fault. This is how I have seen many experts talk about guilt, especially in the field of intuitive eating…which is another topic that I would dive in in near future. This is a common advise. F the guilt. You should never feel it just because you ate something that you love. Period.
Now this advise…and this line of thinking is a problem. Firstly because you cannot get rid of guilt just by resolving to not feel it. The only thing you are doing then is suppressing it and pretending that its not there. And with time, the guilt that you suppress makes you eat more, not less which by the way is not a very beneficial way to live.
So today, I want to give you 3 powerful insights about guilt so that you are not stuck with underlying guilt as well as take advantage of this powerful emotion and make it work for you.
Now, guilt is human emotion that constantly nags you when you do something wrong. It’s something that doesn’t let you forget about that thing that you did that you are not very proud of and keeps you from moving forward.
The first & foremost thing that I want you to know about guilt is that no one can make you feel guilty. I mean this might sound obvious but let me tell you that we don’t operate as if this is obvious.
We are quick to say things like you make me feel guilty by saying this or that…
No, get this clear ! You can never ever make any other person feel guilty. Its an emotion that is always generated by self. Ok.
The next thing that I want to unpack here is about the genesis of guilt. Guilt is generated when you don’t meet an internal standard that you may have set for yourself whether or not you are conscious about it or not.
So its a red flag. Its actually very useful because it helps us distinguish between right from wrong. It helps us become aware of a bad behaviour…bad in the sense that a behaviour that doesn’t serve us or may even harm us. The capacity to feel the guilt helps monitor our behaviour…right!
So lets say you overeat and then feel guilty about it…and lets say, you read somewhere or someone says, you shouldn’t feel guilty about eating, Guess what…you will miss the wonderful message that guilt is alarming you about. Now I'm not telling anyone to dwell on guilt and beat yourself up…nop…that is a completely toxic way to be.
What I’m saying is you need to pay attention to when you feel guilty. And that way, guilt is your friend….right. It serves a purpose from an evolutionary stand point. It is wired in our DNA because it provides a generalised roadmap of what is right and what is wrong for you in the moment. You know who doesn’t feel the guilt, sociopaths…no, seriously. Feeling guilt is being human.
So fully feel the guilt when you notice it in your body either after you take a specific action or just before you take an action. Notice it and fully allow it to run through, instead of talking or eating yourself out of it.
Having said this, I also want you to look at guilt in its entirety.
Guilt is a useful emotion and it is generated by your own self when you fail to meet an internal standard. This is what I just explained by you. But there’s more to guilt which brings me to my 3 very important aspect which is questioning your guilt.
What I mean by questioning your guilt is becoming thoroughly aware of why you are truly feeling the guilt…what is the internal standard that you haven’t met that is causing you to feel guilty…and is that internal standard, let me tell you will always be a belief.
Let me give you examples
Say I overeat and then feel guilty. So I know the reason I am feeling guilty is that one of my internal standards…a value in fact, is that its important for me to eat what & how much my body requires…my health including body weight is a value that I have created for myself in life. And so if I go against this standard that I have set for myself, I feel guilty…right.
And this clarity around why I feel guilty when I overeat came only when I did the work in finding out my belief…the standard that I had set for myself unconsciously. I never this during my diet days. I used to overeat, feel guilty….never process the guilt and then guilt drove more overeating and this is how the cycle of overeating continues for every body. And I always used to think that its the overeating that caused the guilt or that my mom or husband caused the guilt.
Lets take another example,
In today’s day and age, I don’t think the society leaves any chance in judging your actions and even letting you know about them.
Say as a mom you feel guilty…lets say feel that you not doing enough…now I’m giving you this example because I have noticed that this is the most common conversation in the kid’s birthday parties that I go to.
So the reason why you being a mom has nothing to do with you not doing enough or your husband saying that you should be doing enough. The reason is that you think that you should be doing more. Its impossible for the amount of work or some person to in-still guilt inside you. And the thing to question here is if guilt is coming rom your belief that you should be doing more, do you want to keep that belief? Does that belief even serve you. Can the amount of work a mom does for her child be quantified?
So questioning the belief beneath the guilt , whether or not that belief, that standard serves you or not in your life is the key. Whether you want to keep that standard for your self. Now as a mommy, let me tell you that I do not want to keep this belief that “I should do more” or “Im not doing enough for my kids” in my life. I don’t see any upside in thinking this way and so firstly I don’t feel guilty about this aspect and secondly if I do happen to feel the guilt, I come straight to what my brain is offering me that time & then question that simply as a witness. In this area of my life, long time back, I decided to adopt this belief, “Im always doing the best for my kids and my best looks different on different days.”
In the context of the weight and the health area, my purposeful and conscious internal standard is that “My body matters and being at my ideal weight is important to me”. I like keeping this belief and so if I do happen to overeat, I feel guilty which serves as a wake up call that I find very beneficial. And it helps me to put me back in alignment with my values and desires in life.
So my lovelies, guilt is a tremendously helpful tool whose purpose to put you back in the driver’s seat. I would in fact encourage you to increase the awareness of feeling the guilt, whether it is when you overeat or miss your workout or eat what is not on your plan. And also cultivate the skill of distinguishing between valid, automatic guilt from invalid guilt, meaning questioning the belief beneath the guilt and whether or not the belief is worth keeping.
I also want you to know that holding onto the guilt serves no purpose. In fact this does harm than any good. It disconnects you from your true being that is pure love and compassion. If you did something that was “bad”, you must fully feel the guilt, became aware of the sponsoring thought and then let it go. Staying stuck in guilt and non-forgiveness towards the other or the self simply robs you of creating your best life. And this certainly affects your weight and health outcomes as well. So many times, chronic underlying guilt because of a past event or present day circumstance drives our overeating where we keep food to numb out from feeling any guilt. Right…Don’t fall in that trap. Look at guilt as a way to transform your dysfunctional beliefs into functional, beneficial ones.
Whether you are an overeater or not, your dysfunctional relationship with food is merely a misguided attempt to look after your self. The goal is not to stop feeling guilty but to use it in a way that serves you to explore and question the sanity around unhelpful beliefs.
Thats it for now. If you found this episode valuable, consider leaving me a review on I tunes. That way I will be able to help more amazing women like you. I will talk to you very soon.