Woman enjoying eating a meal

Woman enjoying eating a mealBy Danielle Johnson RDN, CDN, RYT

It’s that time of year again – the holidays! A time of year where we gather with loved ones to celebrate and eat delicious, decadent food. It’s not uncommon that we may indulge a little more than usual this time of year and feel immense guilt over it. Guilt is defined as a feeling one has when they believe they have done something wrong, it is a learned behavior.

Food is no exemption to guilt, all thanks to diet culture. Diet culture is like the big invisible bad man that always lurks over your shoulder, whispers in your ear making you second guess your choices and possibly leading to maladaptive behaviors (food restriction, fad diets, over exercise, negative self-talk). Diet culture makes us think of foods as “good” or “bad”, which we then internalize into thinking we are a “good person” or “bad person” because of the food choices we make. This completely takes away the health aspect of food and instead shifts it to an aspect of “status,” leading to guilt and shame when we have the “bad food,”

What can we do? Start by reframing “good foods” to “nutrient dense foods” and “bad foods” to “nutrient poor foods.” This can be helpful to make food choices that align with your goals and reduce self-internalization. Next, get yourself into a comfortable seated position to prepare yourself for meditation. Maybe dim the lights, play soft music, diffuse essential oils, or just find a quiet happy place for yourself. Slowly start to connect to the natural rhythm of your breath, exhaling your feelings of guilt, inhaling new feelings of gratitude. Repeat to yourself as you continue to breathe, placing your hands over your heart:

“Feeling guilt is a normal, human emotion.

The things I feel guilty for, have been taught to me through example.

One of the things I have been taught to feel guilty for, is eating ‘bad’ food.

I recognize that I internalize ‘eating bad food’ as ‘I am a bad person,’ causing me to feel guilty.

I recognize that ‘eating bad food’ does not make me a bad person.

I recognize that there are other reasons to consume this food – one of them being pure enjoyment.

Eating food for pure enjoyment can feel uncomfortable because I am used to feeling guilt.

I release food guilt and allow myself to enjoy tasty food I consume on a special occasion.

I release feelings of food guilt to allow myself the space for food gratitude.

I recognize food security is a privilege and a blessing.

I am grateful to have access to nutrient dense foods to nourish my body.

I am grateful to have the ability to choose foods that nourish me for my health, and nourish me for enjoyment.

I deserve to eat. I deserve to enjoy the food I fuel myself with. I deserve to enjoy being surrounded with my family.

I am grateful to be alive, to be here, breathing, thinking and being.

I will make the effort to raise awareness of my emotions and how they affect my thoughts and behaviors about myself and food.

I will make the conscious effort to express kindness, compassion and gratitude toward myself and my blessings.”

 

Take a few more deep breaths in and out, allowing these messages to resonate deep within your psyche. Thank yourself for taking a few moments of peace and gratitude for yourself. Repeat this mediation as often as necessary – life is too short to feel guilty over food.

 

Danielle Johnson RDN, CDN, RYT is a registered dietitian. A graduate of Long Island University CW Post, she works in the Center of Excellence in Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery at Mather Hospital where she specializes in surgical weight loss and medical weight management.