Food guilt

In this episode, Claire explores the why behind food guilt and offers tips on how to embrace a truly drama-free relationship with food.

Show Notes
Program note: Hey, glad you’re enjoying the podcast! In this episode, you might hear Claire talking about Nutritional Freedom and Foundations. Since we launched the podcast in 2020, we've undergone a makeover to improve the membership experience. For more, listen to our "And we're back! All the updates!" episode.

Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Flourish podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, founder of Flourish. We're on a mission to help women get healthy for good. Join me each week for a new episode that'll help you sustain healthy habits and nourish your body so you can Flourish in life.

When it comes to nutrition, does it feel like you know what to do, you're just not doing it? Or maybe you find yourself stuck in this annoying all or nothing cycle. If it sounds like I'm reading your diary, well, that was my diary for a while too. And it's also the story of the thousands of women I've personally coached.

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Claire Siegel: You're listening to the Nutritional Freedom podcast. I'm your host, Claire Siegel, registered dietitian, founder of Nutritional Freedom, and total stationary nerd who's sharing episodes each week to help you ditch diets and get healthy for good.

We'll dive into what really works when it comes to creating sustainable nutrition and health habits, ways to improve your body image, and how all of this helps you live a life that's in alignment with your values. Because that's what really matters, right? Let's dive in.

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Welcome back to the Nutritional Freedom podcast. So today's episode is all about an issue, an issue, that is really near and dear to my heart because, gosh, I just lived with it for so many years. Like I always associate this feeling—by the way I'm talking about food guilt. In case you missed the title of this episode, we're talking about food guilt today.

But I always associate this feeling of food guilt with nighttime, because I just remember these like distinct, you know, moments in my decade of diets as I call it that I would just go to bed feeling so guilty about what I ate. And the only cure or the only salvage, I guess, for that guilt... because it really didn't cure it. But the only way to make that guilt go away or feel any better was to make a plan to diet, like to make a plan to fix it.

And it sucked. Like there was no other really no other way of describing it. I really did waste so much mental and emotional energy feeling guilty about food. Like as if it made me a terrible person somehow, right? Because like that's when we should feel guilty is like, when we do things that are actually wrong. We shouldn't feel guilty for eating.

So food guilt is this like totally unnecessary, totally unhelpful, negative emotion that plagues so many people. So the other day on the Nutritional Freedom Instagram we actually asked you what makes consistent nutrition feel hard. And you said things like loss of control, uh, eating anything that isn't perfectly "clean" makes me feel so guilty—and by the way, if that's you, check out our recent episode on clean eating, because I think you'll find it quite interesting—uh, standards I've put in my head to make me feel like I had to be all or nothing. So major. And then one of you just straight up said "guilt," which I think just really sums it all up.

Because if you think about it, like if guilt weren't part of the picture it would be easy, right? It'd be easy to achieve consistent nutrition while maintaining a drama-free relationship with food. AKA, exactly what we guide our Nutritional Freedom members through. So let's talk about how this guilt actually shows up in life.

So you eat until you feel too full and you feel guilty. You eat dessert and you feel guilty. You eat something that's not whole30 compliant and you feel guilty. You eat more than your friend and you feel guilty. You eat more than your partner and you feel guilty. You feel hungry and your partner isn't and you feel guilty. You break your intermittent fasting window early and you feel guilty. You say you're going to give up sugar for the week, and then you cave for an office cupcake and you feel guilty.

This guilt doesn't feel good, and you know it. And, listen, I'm not saying that you should only experience emotions that feel good because that is really not the case at all. That is not what I'm saying. In fact, we help our clients actually get a lot more comfortable experiencing this full range of emotions because we need to. Learning to manage and process the lows also allows you to fully enjoy the highs, okay? Plus trying to avoid the necessary negative emotions actually stirs up so much unnecessary pain. I have a name for this. I call this the chain of emotional avoidance, but that is probably for another podcast. I did a recent Instagram post on it, over on my handle.

So the food guilt doesn't feel good, which you already know. But unlike those other negative emotions that don't feel good, this one actually happens to be completely unnecessary. I mean, I want you to think about this. What purpose does food guilt serve? Does the food guilt actually help you eat more nourishing foods in the long run, long-term? Probably not. Chances are, if you experience food guilt, you have a really kind of chaotic way of eating. You're all in and then all off. You're all on and then all off.

I know for me that was my experience. Like I had so much drama around food. Not just like emotionally with the food guilt. I mean, that was obviously part of it, but I had this like physical drama around it too. Like I was either super hungry and like actively denying my hunger cues or I was absolutely stuffed and also actively denying my fullness cues in that case. So it probably doesn't help you, you know, consistently nourish your body.

Food guilt also probably doesn't, you know, nourish a healthy relationship with food. I mean, in many ways, it's, it's very antithetical to a healthy relationship with food. So what purpose does food guilt serve? I mean really when you boil it down to that, you're like, man, I don't really get it. Like why do I keep doing this to myself?

So I once read that the only reason you should feel guilty about food is if you stole it or if you killed the chef. I kind of loved that. I, that one really, really stuck with me. So, okay, so here's what happens. You do the thing with food, whatever it is. You feel guilty. You suffer in that guilt. And then you choose to keep it.

Like I said, one doesn't experience food guilt and then be like, "Oh my gosh, well, that didn't feel good. I'm not going to choose to feel that way again. I shouldn't feel guilty about food unless I stole it or killed the chef. Silly me. I'm going to go back to having a healthy and normal relationship with food."

Nah. That is probably not how it worked. For those of us who struggle or have struggled with food guilt, it's probably pretty chronic. And what that signals to me is that in some way, consciously or unconsciously, you're choosing to keep it. You're choosing to keep that unnecessary emotion that you know doesn't feel good.

Okay. So let's, let's talk a little bit about that one, cause that's like a bit of a truth bomb. And I'm truly delivering it with all of the love and all of the empathy. I mean, I've been there in a major way,. And I also want you to stop feeling that way because it's such a freaking waste of your time. Okay?

So let's actually talk about that one. So I'm going to tell you a story from a very recent client call I had. Um, so in our Freedom membership, we have four stages that our clients go through, and so each one of the stages actually has its own set of lessons, worksheets, activities, like clear milestones here.

And we have this awesome tool that actually assesses where our members are in the journey. And so after a member takes this assessment, we talk about it together. And then we decide ultimately what, which stage she should move to. And so I was having, um, a call with one of our members, and she had mentioned that she noticed about like a 50% decrease in the number of monthly instances of binge-eating.

And I asked her what was happening emotional. And I asked her with that decrease in bingeing, what were you noticing emotionally? What were you noticing in your thoughts? Okay. You know, you're, you know, binge eating half as much or half as often as you used to, what's going on mentally for you, what's going on emotionally with you?

And she said in that department, she was feeling far less guilt. And listen, we celebrated that decrease in binge episodes, don't get me wrong. But I also had to pause and celebrate that, celebrate the decrease in guilt. Because here's the thing: so many of us hold on to those feelings of guilt and those feelings of shame because you think that that's, what's keeping you in check.

Like I said, this is what happens. You do the thing with food. You binge, you emotionally eat, you break your whole30, you break your fast, you eat more than your partner, or whatever the case may be. You do the thing with the food, you feel guilty, and then you choose to keep it. You choose to keep it because either A, you just don't know how to free yourself from it. You feel like this wash of food guilt just comes over you and you are powerless under the wave. Or B, you think it's useful in some way.

Again, you think it's keeping you in check. You think, "Oh my gosh, I binge every single weekend and then feel guilty about it. I don't like the guilt, but if I'm just okay with this, if I actually remove that guilt, I'm going to binge twice as much." And let me be the first to tell you that that is not the case.

Exactly what our client experienced. Decrease in bingeing, decrease in guilt happening at the exact same time, and that is not a coincidence. There is multifactorial work that goes into that to help improve her relationship with food and her relationship with herself, and to also improve her nutrition.

It's mental, it's emotional, and it's physical, the work that we do and Nutritional Freedom. But the results? Again, decrease in binge eating, decrease in food guilt, increase in overall relationship with food and overall relationship with self. That is pretty cool. Pretty freaking cool. What is so interesting is that as you embrace a really and truly drama-free relationship with food, it gives you this space to make food choices from your wise mind.

All right. We actually just had a call about this. Not exactly about this thing, but this concept of the wise mind came up in a call with Julie, our mindset coach in Nutritional Freedom. And she talked about your wise mind. So this is the part of you that balances your logic and your emotion. So from this place of having a drama-free relationship with food, you can make food choices from your wise mind. But when you're experiencing those really intense feelings of guilt and shame, your choices are based on pure emotion. Then when your logic kicks back in, you realize that you don't actually agree with many of those choices. And so this pattern continues, all right?

So if you experience food guilt frequently, if this is something that is like a regular thing for you, the end of every day or at the end of every week or after every, you know, whole30 gone wrong, whatever the case may be, what I want you to take away from this episode is that it is possible to be free from it and to embrace nutrition as part of your whole health picture. It does not have to be one or the other.

And I'd like to invite you to walk that path with the Nutritional Freedom team supporting you. We are so close to reopening our doors for new client enrollment into our membership program. So I've included the waitlist link down below. Add yourself to that baby to be the first to know when we open our doors. And Hey, listen, you didn't hear it from me, but we may even actually throw in a little special surprise if you sign up from the waitlist. All right?

Food guilt. Let it go. I was about to start singing. I'm not going to do that. No you're wearing headphones, that would be, that would be terrible. I so hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, leave a rating and review. Let me know. I want to hear from. I want to know what our podcast listeners are thinking and feeling. Hopefully not a lot of food guilt, and hopefully a lot of really positive feelings about the podcast. That's, that's what I'm here to do. All right? Have a great rest of your week and I'll see you next time. Bye y'all.

Claire Siegel:

Thank you so much for joining me for today's episode of the Flourish podcast. If you enjoyed it, please take a second to leave us a five-star review or better yet, share it with a friend. And if you're ready to start your own journey to get healthy for good with accountability from expert coaches and the support of an incredible community, head to the show notes to get started on your Flourish journey.

I'll see you in the next episode.

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Claire Siegel
Co-founder, CEO
Claire Siegel is the founder and CEO of Flourish. Claire has made it her life’s mission to help women create a sustainable approach to their physical and mental well-being.

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