Letting go of guilt around food.

by Elizabeth on January 30, 2013

Let me just preface this post by saying I am not perfect. My eating habits have really improved, especially over the past few months, but I still have guilt after meals (see the turkey and cheese panini below, I never would have considered it as a lunch option a few years back).

The rational part of me thinks, “How is eating food wrong, or something to feel guilty about?” Maybe you can relate or offer me some tips that have helped you overcome guilt around different foods.

Guilt is defined as remorse for committing an offense or crime against someone. Could eating food, whether healthy or not, be considered offensive? That doesn’t sound right to me. It’s definitely not a crime. So why do so many people experience guilt about something that is a necessary part of life?


For me, looking deeper into my guilt, I found these (less comfortable) emotions.

1. Fear. Controlling food was my way of controlling life. I have a lot of fear around letting go of all the rules that made me feel safe and in control for so long. I also have fear that if I let myself have good things, I won’t be able to stop.

2. Sadness. I worked so hard for so many years to perfect my rules and habits only to be bitch slapped (excuse my language) by reality and realize life in an eating disorder wasn’t what I thought it would be. It led me and my family to immense amounts of pain and suffering. At the same time, it’s really sad to realize something that was such a part of you really has no place in your life if you want to have a fulfilling and vital existence.

3. Anger. Putting so much thought and planning into food can allow me to not feel righteous anger at people or myself when it’s needed.

I think there are gifts and purposes in every uncomfortable experience. What would be the purpose of guilt? For me, guilt around food can serve as a reminder to practice moderation and balance. I need to eat, but that doesn’t mean I need to go overboard. I think from now on, instead of getting overwhelmed by guilt with food, I will ask myself, “How can I use this meal/snack/dessert to practice balance and live a more moderate life overall?” Practicing moderation in meals will help foster self-trust to live life moderately across the board. The all or nothing mindset simply isn’t helpful.

Let me jump back to the control piece because many people I know have been in this boat at some point in their life. I am learning to make friends with “out of control.” I think it is necessary if you want to have any kind of decent life on this planet. When I’m honest and list the things I can control, I come up with: my attitude, choices, and behaviors. That’s pretty much it. I am learning more and more how to do life on life’s terms and all I have control over is how I show up for it. After much time spent trying to control and manipulate, it didn’t really work out in my benefit. I’m willing to try something different.

And if I want to enjoy a few of these once in a while, I’m going to work on truly ENJOYING it, and leaving it at that.



Do you struggle with guilt around food?

{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jade January 30, 2013 at 7:28 am

Yes, I definitely struggle with this and often go “overboard” instead of just feeling satisfied or enjoying the moment. Definitely something I am constantly working on. It was good to read your words about it.
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2 Sarah @PickyRunner January 30, 2013 at 8:05 am

I’ve always been pretty open about my guilt. It’s definitely there. I try to let it go but sometimes it’s hard. I know you can do it! Control is the biggest thing, so once you can let go of that, you’ll be free :)
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3 Katie @ running4cupcakes January 30, 2013 at 8:24 am

I think we all have guilt at one time or another. With me it is usually around sweet and having too many of them! Moderation is key for me. Thanks for sharing.
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4 SW January 30, 2013 at 8:27 am

The quote ” When I?m honest and list the things I can control, I come up with: my attitude, choices, and behaviors. That?s pretty much it. I am learning more and more how to do life on life?s terms and all I have control over is how I show up for it.” really resonated with me. I think I needed that reality bitch slap today. Thank you for that.

I struggle a lot with guilt around food, but lately have been trying this method of “allowing” myself to be ok this one time and next meal, if I really have to freak out, I can freak out. I guess it’s a false sense of control. But I also think it’s a really prime example being present in the moment. Whatever happens later, that’s later. Right now, I’m giving myself the permission to live life as an eater.


5 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:35 pm

We all have our days where it’s helpful ;-) Please continue to allow yourself to do that!


6 Carly @ Snack Therapy January 30, 2013 at 8:50 am

Inspiring post. I just like to look back and ask myself, “did that cookie I ate a year ago negatively effect my health or my body?”

No, of course it didn’t. It’s one cookie! Why stress about something today that will be completely irrelevant in the future.

My biggest tip? Don’t feel guilty about your guilt. It’s just a part of life and a part of the process!
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7 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Those are two great tips! Thanks for sharing them with me!


8 sara @ fitcupacker January 30, 2013 at 9:10 am

I do sometimes, but then I realize, everyone’s bodys are different and I am a healthy eater 95% of the time! So I should be able to enjoy a treat every once in a while…I have put myself in some serious guilt before and then I wonder, why did I do that, and then I work out extra hard etc or go in freak mode the next day..why do we put this extra stress on ourselves? lol
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9 Amanda @ .running with spoons. January 30, 2013 at 9:34 am

Guild surrounding food is definitely something that I struggled with a lot in the past, and even though things have gotten so much better lately, there are occasions where that guilt definitely pops back up. The only difference is that now I have a way easier time dealing with it and brushing it off, whereas before I would do my best to avoid it by avoiding anything that I thought would make me feel guilty. Life is too short to say no to that cookie, and at the end of the day, a treat doesn’t make a lick of difference to our bodies at all, but it does a whole lot of good for our minds.
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10 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Amen. I agree wholeheartedly.


11 Ashley @ My Food N Fitness Diaries January 30, 2013 at 9:40 am

I definitely used to have a hard time with guilt around food. It’s certainly not a fun way to live. I still have my moments, but fortunately I’m able to be a little more rational about it and catch my guilty thoughts before they affect me too much. It also helps voicing my guilty thoughts to my husband… I know he doesn’t always understand, but he helps me turn my thoughts around and feel much better about it.


12 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:34 pm

I can tell through your writing how far you have come. And you inspire me!


13 Hayley Reinert January 30, 2013 at 10:20 am

Whether it be food or any other thing I feel like everybody has something in their lives that they can’t control and for that reason they find things that they can control. For me, my way of controlling is cleaning. When I am upset about something, I come home and I clean, then clean, then clean some more and that is my way of controlling the situation and it makes me feel better. At times I feel like I get so focused on making sure everything in my house is perfect that I lose sight on other things. I feel guilty-whether it be for getting upset with my husband when he leaves things around the house or lose precious time with people I love because I am busy trying to perfect everything. Sometimes I just take a few seconds to myself to de-stress and think about my actions and what is important to me. I know this was a little off topic but I just wanted you to know that you are not alone in feeling guilt for things you try to control :)


14 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Hayley! I can’t wait for our dinner tonight :-) Thanks for being so open and honest!


15 Alex @ therunwithin January 30, 2013 at 11:28 am

I am glad you are coming to terms with some bad food relationships you have had, it is all a work in progress. Keep on working!
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16 Erin January 30, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I do not struggle with guilt over food, but it was something that I dealt with in my young 20s. I’m not sure how the guilt/obsession/unhealthy eating cycle finally ended, but I do know having children and just aging (in general) have helped.
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17 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:32 pm

That’s encouraging Erin! I’m so glad you have been able to overcome!


18 torontorunner January 30, 2013 at 2:08 pm

I’m not sure if you’ll ever know that your honesty and openness will be helping A LOT of people.
Great, great post.
It’s wonderful that you recognize and can look deeper into what the guilt means in your life. I can deeefinitely go overboard with the “comfort foods” and start eating it more as an emotional escape!
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19 Elizabeth January 30, 2013 at 3:33 pm

That means a lot to me :-) Thank you!


20 [email protected] January 30, 2013 at 8:43 pm

I don’t really feel guilty about eating certain foods. I do however “learn lessons” when I eat food I know will set off a ‘reaction’ and make me not feel good. But I think there is a difference between feeling guilty about eating too much vs. eating something that makes you sick
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21 Lindsey January 30, 2013 at 9:35 pm

Elizabeth, you are doing such a great job…at everything! I am very happy that you have made so much progress lately and it definitely shows in your beautiful smile. For me, like most women, hs and college were the worst when it came to feelings about controlling my food intake and not over-indulging. I found that when I finally let go of the guilt, my desire to over-eat went away! This could have also had something to do with not being a serious athlete anymore also….when I was I wanted to eat everything all the time! I know you know how that feels. Love you!


22 Elizabeth January 31, 2013 at 6:49 am

Thanks Lindsey! It means so much to me that you notice! Love you too :-)


23 [email protected] January 30, 2013 at 9:58 pm

I mostly feel guilty about food when I eat so much of something that I’m uncomfortable. For example… when I have pizza (for whatever reason) I REALLY struggle to just eat enough to be full/satisfied.
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24 [email protected] January 30, 2013 at 11:32 pm

I remember in high school I often had those feelings and I think for me it was about my insecurities. Since I’ve been married I feel like a lot of those feelings are not present anymore because I’m comfortable with my life and who I am at this point. Thanks for bringing these points up, I’m glad you are able to have more ‘guiltless’ eating=)
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25 Brooke January 31, 2013 at 8:11 am

Love this post L! Very helpful and makes so much sense! Loved reading everyone’s helpful comments too! You really are helping others with your openness and honesty and I love ya for that! :-)


26 Christina @thetinyrunner March 12, 2013 at 4:35 pm

I definitely struggle with guilt after eating. Almost every time I eat carbs or sweets. I think it is definitely getting better as I work through it though! Thanks so much for your honestly and sharing your heart!
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27 Renee @ Renee Runs Miles April 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

I have been struggling with this a lot lately. My friend and I are 7 and 5 months postpartum respectively and of course there is the struggle with our bodies after (3) babies. Well, she asked me to go on this specific diet with her for 2 weeks and I did 3 days of it and realized that I could never keep that diet for any extended period of time because to eat out at all, to eat any treats or any regular bread and a lot of healthy foods would be a “cheat” and I can’t do that. I would constantly be feeling the guilt over my food and I don’t need that. I struggle enough with accepting myself and feeling guilty over things, I don’t need to intentionally do it to myself. And I absolutely loved your line,

“‘How can I use this meal/snack/dessert to practice balance and live a more moderate life overall?’ Practicing moderation in meals will help foster self-trust to live life moderately across the board. The all or nothing mindset simply isn?t helpful.”

Thank you for that! That is exactly what I have been trying to formulate into words.
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