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Tips to Deal with Food Guilt

Food guilt is a common part of re-establishing your relationship with food and must be overcome to start to see foods neutrally. These are some of my favorite tips ot deal with food guilt.

Text for tips to deal with food guilt

I know Thanksgiving can be a major source of anxiety around food for many people. Many of my clients felt stressed and wanted to talk about how to manage the holidays.

Sometimes, it’s the abundance of food around, and other times, it’s the pressure of all of the people too. Either way, what’s supposed to be a joyous, once-a-year gathering can easily be turned into a day of stress, anxiety, and food fears.

So, let’s talk quickly about how to cut that stress and anxiety down and deal with food guilt.

Tips to Deal with Food Guilt

Many of these tips on how to overcome food guilt focus on being present and being practical. In a vulnerable moment, it may feel that everything we’ve eaten is wrong or bad, but if we can step back, take a deep breath, and approach the situation in a new way, it usually helps.

It’s okay to feel full

Feeling full can be a pleasurable part of life. Full of life, joy, abundance, nutrients, company. If you find yourself wanting to eat more than you are accustomed to, that’s okay. It’s completely normal to eat for pleasure sometimes, not just hunger.

It’s okay to eat past your hunger signals and enjoy that extra piece of pie with the company. It’s okay to put extra butter on your roll or use the sugary canned cranberry sauce.

In the future, you’ll remember how extreme fullness feels, and maybe you won’t want that extra piece of pie. But, it’s okay if you do too. More tips on feeling fullness.

Remember, one day of food choices will never make or break you.

white bowl with chocolate ice cream and chocolate drizzle on top

Stay present – It’s only one day, one meal and/or one snack

Honestly, this is how I break it down with my clients. Just like one workout won’t put you in shape, one day of eating won’t change a thing. Habits, or repeated actions, make your lifestyle, not one day or one food choice.

If you find your mind wandering, and thinking about what you ate yesterday or worrying about what you’ll eat later or tomorrow, try to bring yourself back to the present.

Remind yourself to simplify it. It’s only one meal, or one snack, or one day of eating.

Your body knows how to handle and digest food.

Stop with the have to’s and should’s

Cut out the food guilt distractions and challenge the food police. “I should have more veggies on my plate.” “I have to work out before I eat that piece of pie.” “I shouldn’t have that, I already ate a sweet today.”

Would you want your loved one, or sister or brother, or daughter or son, to feel guilty after eating a piece of cake? Why put yourself through that? Treat yourself with respect.

If you want a food, have that food. Satisfy the itch. Many of the Thanksgiving foods are foods that we only have a few times a year, so take the time to really enjoy them.

In the same respect, if there’s a food you can live without or really just aren’t crazy about, no need to feel like you “have” to include it on your plate. Eat what you want, and leave what you don’t want. Simplicity is good.

pumpkin pie with marshmellos on top

Enjoy the company

When you put the focus on food, it’s easy to stress or become overly anxious. But, what if you put the focus on creating memories with those around the food?

Teaching someone how to make part of the recipe. Sharing recipes with loved ones. Sharing a delicious dessert with your significant other. Watching your parents enjoy another round of wine.

Take these memories in – they really are far, few and in between as we age. When we focus on only the food, we miss out on so much more.

Banish the Food Guilt

Treat movement and exercise as enjoyment, not punishment

I like running in turkey trots or doing a morning walk with the family. But, I wouldn’t do it if I hated it or to punish myself. Nor should you.

Don’t engage in exercise you don’t enjoy just to punish yourself. Don’t try to work off or burn those Thanksgiving calories, you’ll be doing more harm than good with your mindset.

When you think that way, you’re sending messages to your body that it’s not good enough, that enjoying food is wrong. We don’t want to send those messages. Movement is a good thing – but only when you enjoy it. This article says it well.

Most of all, enjoy the day. Focus on the present – not the what if’s, could have’s or should have’s. Wishing you a happy, enjoyable Holiday!

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu?


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  1. I don’t feel any food guilt during the holidays as it is expected that we enjoy eating a lot during this time. I just do fitness routine more frequently to burn the calories I get from eating a lot.

  2. This is definitely the most sensible article I have ever read! It just feels so light when you say it’s okay. Thanks for posting this!

  3. YES YES YES!!!! 🙂 I love the reminder to treat exercise as a privilege, not punishment for eating. And the company this year at our house was amazing; I felt so free around the food and so free to eat intuitively. I think that I owe it in a great part to God providing bloggers like you who have changed my mindset around food and fellowship and eating and exercise so much just this past year.

  4. I diddo Ellie with ” I think people get anxious because they think they have to binge.” Yes this holiday, especially, is connected to probably eating more than you “usually” do, but I kind of hate how it’s been titled as the day where you eat until you feel painfully full. I like that it is a day where you get to have new foods or foods you only get once or twice a year, but eating until you feel sick or overly full? Where’s the joy in that? I think there is this huge fear that has come with this “expectation” that you will eat so so much, when if we were able to take a step back and think – “no, I still have control over my choices and will eat as much as I feel comfortable eating and just really savour and enjoy the taste of each bite” – it would be a lot less intimidating for people. That all being said, thank you for the reminder that is OKAY to feel full.

    Happy Thanksgiving Sarah! Hope you are finding lots to be grateful for in South Africa!! Will you be able to find turkey!? aha

    1. Totally agree! We definitely have this idea in our heads and people set out to live it out – it doesn’t have to be that way but it is for many people. I didn’t get any turkey in South Africa, kind of wanting some now though!

  5. Being present is important to me, how can you be present when all you’re thinking about is food? Sure, it’s fun, but that she not all this holiday is. I think people get anxious because they think they have to binge. That’s not true and personally I hate feeling that way. I’d rather just eat until I’m not hungry, then eat again later when I’m digested. I hate seeing all these “how to survive eating season” guides because WHEN IS IT NOT EATING SEASON?!?

    Have a great day Sarah!

    1. I totally agree Ellie – people put all this hype into it and sometimes it gets the best of them. I love just approaching it like any other meal 🙂