Do you adhere to a healthy ‘food lifestyle/diet’ for weight loss reasons? If so, how’s it working out for you? Do you ever feel shame or guilt related to the foods you have eaten (or not)? If your answer is yes, I would like you to read on, because food guilt and shame should not be something we welcome into our lives. They can mess with our joy and happiness and make us feel unworthy, and even a failure.  

Our relationship with food can be very complex, especially if we struggle with body image issues. Guilt and shame are two emotions we sometimes link to food, and although the two are similar, there are distinctions between them.

Food guilt is a negative emotion where you feel bad for something you did or didn’t do related to a decision or behavior around food, the emphasis is on the ‘thing/issue/event’ — ‘I did a bad thing’.

For example, you made a tray of cookies, absent mindedly ate a few too many while standing in the kitchen. Perhaps you wish you had made a cup of tea, put two cookies on your plate, slowly eaten and savored them sitting at the table or in your favorite chair. This would have made an event of your treat time, you could have been satiated so you wouldn’t have eaten another four. That’s food guilt. You felt guilty you ate too many and didn’t savor them. The guilt was not attached to you as a person, rather the act of eating too many cookies.

Food shame would have you thinking ‘I’m awful’. I shouldn’t have eaten those cookies, I didn’t even sit down to enjoy them. I’m never going to reach my health/weight loss goals. This is a judgment about you as a person (‘I am awful’) because of something related to food.

Have you ever woken up in the morning feeling pretty good about yourself? You’ve worked out this week, had some girlfriend time, things are going well at work and life in general. Next, you step on to the cold hard surface of your bathroom scales in your bare feet and then kerplunk……you see the number on the scales and your feel-good day comes crashing down around you and it’s not even 7am. A multitude of things go through your mind and most often joy, and celebration are not it. Guilt, shame or down right frustration?

Many of us experience food shame because we live in a culture where health, diet and body image run rampant. We read the latest research on food, the latest food and exercise fads and we often think we need to be strict with our eating plan in order to pursue our ideal image. When we break the ‘rules’ of a diet or other eating advice, we feel guilty and, in turn, question ourselves and even question our worthiness. Who needs this? Really? No thanks.

Being at peace with pizza and pie.

I am sure you know that nutrient dense, unprocessed, whole foods can assist in weight loss. Just think how satiated you are after a balanced, healthy meal; you have a sense of feeling full for longer, which in turn may help you to eat less and create a calorie deficit.

However, you can eat crap and lose weight too. Yup, you can eat pizza, fries and chocolate and still lose weight – if you have a calorie deficit.
Now, I’m not telling you that you should eat crap if you want to lose weight, (because if you ate nothing but fast food and soda your health would suffer), but technically it doesn’t matter about the quality of your food if you don’t eat more calories than you burn. Sooooo, the odd meal or day when you eat the pizza, fries, cake and cookies is not going to derail your life, just don’t eat them like it is your last meal on this planet every day!

If you have a day of eating which makes you feel anything less than 100% physically and mentally make a decision to get back on track with the next meal or tomorrow at the latest, don’t wait.  

  • Pile at least half your plate with greens and vegetables.
  • Drink water
  • Make a green smoothie
  • Pull back on the heavy, dairy and red meat laden meals for a few days to give your digestion system a rest
  • Exercise
  • And perhaps most importantly, plan and prep your food for the next few days  

Food is a huge part of our social lives, it’s not realistic to skip happy hours, birthdays, weddings and only drink water and eat salad at events. I remember I went on a diet/detox at the end of November for two weeks. What on earth was I thinking?!?! I didn’t really have weight to lose, I wasn’t having any health issues, I just thought I would do it (I know, right?!). I went to a Christmas party and only drank water. I kid you not. Do I remember the party for the people I mingled with or the fun I had? No, I remember it because I ate carrot and celery sticks, drank soda water and wanted to go home at the earliest opportunity because I didn’t mingle or have any fun. NEVER AGAIN!

Life is all about balance and so is eating well/clean eating. The idea that you can’t have a vanilla latte or a piece of coconut pie because they aren’t healthy is ludicrous! Will this mean you won’t get results you desire? No, but it will take you longer. So be prepared that if you want to have your cake and eat it you need to up your exercise ante or cut back on the calories and feeding yourself healthy, filling, satisfying food will help.

Food shame and guilt serve no purpose whatsoever in our lives, so don’t be afraid to find a balance, pizza and pie can be your friends in moderation.

Don’t make foods off limits, you can get results, eat well (and sometimes don’t) and enjoying life!  

80/20 my friends. Do things well 80% of the time and the other 20% will look after itself.


1 Comment

  1. Victoria

    I thoroughly enjoyed this and all your other newsletters, they make me feel “normal”. Thanks, with huge love 💕


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About Zoë Dodds

Life, Health, and Fitness Coach

Zoë has a passion for helping and empowering women to the best version of themselves.

With 20 years’ experience in the health and fitness industry, she delivers inspiration and wealth of knowledge to her clients, some of which she shares in her blog and weekly newsletters.

Originally from England, Zoë has lived in Seattle for 9 years with her husband, two grown-up children and a Labrador called Jordi.

Click here to read more.