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How to Stop Feeling Guilty After Eating

Have you ever wondered, Why do I feel guilty after eating? Learn how to stop feeling guilt after eating and improve your relationship with food.

girl wearing orange tank top and eating ice cream

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Many clients come to me wanting to learn how to not feel guilty after eating.

When clients are on their way to practicing intuitive eating on a regular basis, we always acknowledge that it’s a learning process.

This means that it won’t always be easy. Learning takes time, and has ups and downs.

Even if your ultimate goal is to stop feeling guilty after eating, you may continue to feel that guilt (and challenge it!) for some time before it completely goes away.

Let’s talk about some of the main reasons for feeling guilty after eating, and how we can learn to challenge these preconceived notions.

Why Do I Feel Guilty After Eating?

I hear it so much! “Why do I feel so guilty after eating?”

The main reason you feel guilty after eating is the influence of diet culture. However, food guilt shouldn’t be affecting your life the way it is.

It’s likely that you don’t feel guilt after eating everything, but moreso, certain foods.

buffalo chicken pizza and veggie pizza | www.bucketlisttummy.com

Do you feel guilty after eating a veggie-rich salad? Or just, a cookie, or a slice of pizza?

Likely, it’s the latter.

Because we’ve been preconditioned to think these foods are “bad,” and may automatically lead to weight gain, or us being unhealthy.

Make you’re thinking, I feel guilty when I eat xyz foods, or when I overeat.

This is a prime example of the food police in action – making us think that eating certain foods affect our moral value, making us good or bad.

This is far from the truth!

Guilt after eating is not a normal reaction to food and not a form of “normal eating.”

You shouldn’t have to suffer guilt after eating regularly, since eating is a foundation to life.

And, having a good relationship with food is good for your health!

But I Don’t Know Anything Other Than Guilt After Eating

While intuitive eating can ultimately improve your relationship with food and your body, it is not all puppies and butterflies all the time.

It can still be hard and challenging if you are conditioned to feeling guilty for eating xyz.

For example, mentally, it can be difficult to come to peace with the fact that you might just want sweets throughout the day.

Spoonful of cherry chocolate chia pudding closeup

Especially once you give yourself unconditional permission to have them.

It’s not easy to accept that if you’re new to intuitive eating – it may lead to more food judgment and shame towards yourself.

Heck, it’s not always easy to accept that even if you’re an intuitive eating veteran.

You could be questioning yourself like, “Why do I still want MORE chocolate or MORE cookies?” I’ve been there, you guys.

I used to constantly wonder how to stop feeling guilty for eating ice cream every night, when it was all I could think about!

bowl of ice cream with scoop of vanilla, strawberry and chocolate with chocolate sauce and berries on top

Believe it or not, it was because I was labeling ice cream as “bad” in my head, and then felt I was “bad” for eating it.

The cycle of food restriction had me in its grips.

So, I wrote an ebook all about it – my hunger ebook works through these food fears from the ground up, helping you lay a foundation for a positive relationship with food.

ACHIEVE FOOD FREEDOM THROUGH INTUITIVE EATING

Grab Our Intuitive Eating Guide to Help You Achieve Food Freedom!


Your guide to food freedom ebook



So, the ultimate goal is to change “I feel guilty after eating” to “I feel nourished/full/satisfied,” etc. Fill in the blank.

You can use neutral terms to describe how you feel.

Rather than words like “bad,” “fat”, “overeating.” Those words are negative and make you feel morally wrong.

You are never morally wrong for eating.

How to Stop Feel Bad After Eating Something Unhealthy

To get to a point to see food neutrally, you have to practice challenging and reframing those unhelpful thoughts about food.

Rather than labeling food as healthy or unhealthy, could you label it in a different way? Or not even label it at all?

What would it be like to eat what sounds good in the moment, without having to do compulsive exercise to earn it?

orzo salad with goat cheese, veggies and greens in clear bowl

Continue with Food Neutrality

Sometimes, our first reaction may be to question why we want something.

But, the more we practice giving grace and accepting it with a neutral mind, the more we can move forward with our day.

It takes practice to see a cupcake neutrally and a piece of fruit neutrally if you’re not at that place.

clear bowl with chopped fruit for salad

While one may have more nutrients, they are both still neutral, inanimate objects, and feeling guilty after eating really has no place in your well being.

It doesn’t make you any healthier!

Know that eating the fruit doesn’t give you any superpowers over eating the cupcake.

It may give you more sustained energy from the fiber, but doesn’t make you morally superior.

Coldstone ice cream in cone bowl | Bucket List Tummy

Learn Your Hunger Cues

If we go too long without eating, we are much more likely to binge at our next meal, or even later in the day.

This is actually a safety mechanism from our body, to protect us.

It wants to raise our blood sugar, decrease our cortisol, give us energy – so it craves high-energy, quick foods, like simple carbs.

Kind Protein Bar

If you can learn to honor your hunger and eat when you actually feel hungry, we can be one step ahead of our body and not get to this extreme point.

Honestly, this is exactly why I wrote my hunger ebook. Tune in!

Don’t Fear Fullness

Feeling full can be a pleasurable part of life, although feeling fullness evokes a lot of guilt for people.

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.

white plate with piece of blueberry pie and ice cream

It’s okay to put extra butter on your roll because it tastes so much better.

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.

Practice Adding in Fear Foods

Now that I’m an intuitive eater, I allow myself sweets whenever I want them (which is every day). Sometimes, I even want multiple sweets per day.

Sometimes, I’ll check in and be like, “Is that what you really want?” With a no cheat days mentality, all food is always available. 

Knowing that it’s available and I can eat it whenever I want really takes the deprivation mindset away.

baked pbfit cookies in hand

It’s important to acknowledge that IF it is what we really want, that’s completely okay and natural. 

Don’t Deprive Yourself of Pleasure

Remember, life is meant to be pleasurable. We are encouraged to take pleasure in our food and what we’re eating.

Sometimes, a fun, hearty salad may be just what you want and enjoy.

Other times, the burger or pizza may be pleasurable.

And sometimes, only chocolate or your favorite sweet will do it. We want foods to provide food satisfaction to quench what our bodies and brains need.

Because we have to be honest with ourselves – if we want the dark chocolate, no amount of quinoa and strawberry salad is going to bring us pleasure.

ghiradelli intense dark chocolate sea salt bar

Our bodies are super smart. If you try to deceive them, they’ll catch on.

If we deprive ourselves of what we really want, we eventually reach a threshold.

Think of it like a seesaw or pendulum, swinging from one side to another. Pulling it back to one side really far will make it quickly swing to the other.

What to Do When You’re Feeling Guilty About Eating

Here are some things you can do when you’re in the thick of it and you’re feeling guilty about eating something.

Stay in the Present

Just like one workout won’t put you in the best shape, one day of eating won’t change a thing.

Habits, or repeated actions, make your lifestyle and define what it means to be healthy, 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.

pan with cooked orzo in it

Take a deep breath.

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.

Understand How Restriction Works

Ideally, both sides, meaning restriction and guilt, are in balance.

gold scale that is not in balance

So, if we restrict ourselves, one side goes down, while the other side goes up.

In this case, our guilt is low (since we haven’t “given in”), but our restriction mindset is high.

The more you work to restrain yourself from a food or food group you really want, the more desirable it becomes.

You’re therefore likely to feel more out of control and binge on it when you do have it because you’re in the restriction mindset.

However, if we give ourselves what we want, our guilt is then high, and our restriction or deprivation is now low.

Do you see how both ends are problematic?

We’ll never have even ground if we only think in these black and white terms.

To walk away from this seesaw completely, you have to give yourself full permission to eat whatever you want.

You can’t look back at foods and feel bad or guilty about a choice. You make a choice and move on from it.

When you’re thinking you have to stop feeling guilty for eating – Remember, you should never feel guilty after eating- eating is not moral.

Guilt implies we are making food choices based on external signals vs. internal cues.

It implies we don’t trust ourselves.

The more we tell ourselves we shouldn’t eat something, the more we are setting ourselves up for a swaying seesaw – up, down, up, down.

This is an endless circle of bingeing and restriction.

empty plate with pie crumbs left

Accept Your Food Choices and Move on

It is not until we accept our choices that we find grace and gratitude.

What some of my clients have found helpful is acknowledging that they are human – not every choice will be perfect.

Perfect doesn’t exist.

And rather than celebrating making a “good” choice or “bad” choice, celebrate listening to your body.

Or making the choice that you actually wanted, vs what you should have had.

closeup of vegetarian nachos recipe

Celebrate eating 3 meals and 3 snacks a day.

You can celebrate eating consistently and nourishing your body throughout the day.

We’ll never be robotic. We have busy lives, and sometimes lunch on the go calls for fast food.

Other times, breakfast is a breakfast sandwich on the go because we didn’t meal prep breakfast.

Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese

Meal prep oatmeal is great when we can get to it, but not always stress-free!

And there are even some times we may be left to eat something we did prepare but we just aren’t in the mood for, but we eat it anyway.

Being flexible and adapting to each situation uniquely is important.

This is why I often challenge my clients to challenge their eating routine.

Edy's ice cream pint

We have to get rid of the “should’s” and work on reframing negative self talk because “should’s” exist in a perfect world, which we don’t inhabit.

“I should have gotten the salad.” Well, you didn’t because you didn’t actually want the salad.

“I should eat fruit instead of ice cream.” Well if you really wanted fruit you would have eaten fruit.

The majority of the time, we want to make our choices based on “wants,” not “shoulds.” Because “wants” imply you are listening to your body in the moment.

And that’s something to take pride in and celebrate.

There’s no need for feeling guilty after eating carbs, or any food group, for that matter.

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  1. Oh yeah, I’ve been there with weird food combos 😉 . This week I’ve been craving chocolatey things and so I’ve been listening to my cravings and enjoying things like homemade cake while staying at my friend’s house, the Chocolate Walnut Brownie Perfect Bars at lunch, or a warm peanut butter chocolate chip protein cookie before bed. In the past, I may not have been as comfortable or free eating something sweet a few times a day if I want during the week, expecially if I knew I wanted to go out on the weekend. Your posts are a great reminder to go with the flow and trust your body like I tell myself 🙂 .

    xxMeah

  2. SOOOO true. That is so true. I had to say it twice, because I have totally learned that I can not deceive my body into wanting a salad if I want ice cream or vice versa. If my body is craving a ton of veggies, a bowl of yogurt usually doesn’t satisfy. I LOVE how you described accepting the choices coming with grace and gratitude; that is so true. The more that we do accept those, the more we do find so much more joy and gratitude around food. I see that in you Sarah, and it’s so contagious!!! <3

  3. So so SO many exceptional tidbits in here. “….accepting it with a neutral mind, the more we can move forward with our day.” This is the goal, or at least, my goal. To just have a food choice be a quick easy food choice and then MOVE ON with my day. I feel I am very close to being there and find myself with this notion more and more – which is extremely freeing coming from a history of the opposite – but I’d still like to work to go even further with this.

    “But eating the fruit doesn’t give you any superpowers over eating the cupcake.” —> oh thank the lord yes. If only I could tell all the people I serve at my restaurant this each and every day……

    And this new idea of shifting what we celebrate from what we did or did not have to celebrating fully nourishing our bodies and giving our bodies what they want… this is gold.

    1. It is so empowering to hear your growth and how far you’ve come, Cora. And how hard you are working. There is light at the end of the tunnel!

  4. Since I’ve been reading all of your IE posts, I’ve definitely noticed a change in my body and how it reacts when I eat it! Granted there are some things I don’t do (i.e alcohol before a long run since my body hates it) but I’ve “given in” to sweets or late night snacks if my body is telling me it wants it and I’m actually hungry.