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Ditch the diet: 4 ways to eat guilt-free

Maddi Ginsberg

Changing habits is an emotional processes by nature. They can be borne out of unhappiness, an intrinsic motivation such as being able to keep up with one’s kids, or simply a desire to lead a healthier lifestyle. Whatever the reason, lifestyle changes are often deeply personal. While some people love engaging in health and fitness communities, others would rather keep their information in a private app and never say a word about their goals. But no matter how you slice it, almost anyone who is trying to make a change in their diet has experienced food-related guilt. One study found that 80% of women and 70% of men suffer from food guilt. So what is food guilt and why does it happen to so many people?

Food guilt is most often induced by eating “bad” foods – candy, pizza, cake – which may be considered outside the normal range of “healthy” foods. It can be onset by a “bad” meal or, for some people, even just a bite of a food they would not normally eat.

What is it about these foods that make us feel guilty? It’s different for everyone. Generally speaking, American society’s obsession with healthy eating can make it seem “better” to opt for a salad (nutritious, lower in calories, green) rather than a burger (oily, higher in calories, processed). In some cases, people have arbitrarily decided (perhaps after reading a misguided article or two) what foods are “good” or “bad” and feel guilty after eating a “bad’ food as a result of this categorization.

Think about it: the holiday season is inevitably full of indulgences. Did the thought of exercising for a bit longer or eating less cross your mind? It’s a natural reaction, but it’s a reaction we can all live without.

If you want to beat food guilt, think about why you have it in the first place. What triggers your guilt? It might be specific foods or it might be an internal feeling. Now think about why. Do you feel bloated after you eat it? Did someone once tell you that X food was healthier than Y food and now you feel bad after eating Y food? Once you find the root of your guilt, you can start to alleviate it.

Don’t be competitive. Have you ever gone out to eat in a group and had someone announce that they were going to “be good” and get a salad? You had been working hard that week and you were ready (and excited!) to reward yourself with a treat meal. This little announcement might cause you to rethink your choice. Don’t let it! Other people’s diets and food choices have no impact on your personal diet. People who announce their food choices are probably just looking to be rewarded with kind comments by others. Don’t let their insecurity get you down.

Don’t try to “work it off.” We’ve all been there: you eat a few too many cookies, then pledge to hit the gym extra hard the following day. Bad news: you can’t out-exercise a poor diet. In fact, exercising is the least efficient way that our bodies burn calories. So what should you do? Don’t worry about it. In order to gain one real pound, you would have to eat 3500 calories over your caloric limit. That’s over 5000 calories in a day! As long as you’re not going over your calorie budget on a regular basis, one day won’t derail your diet. So forget about cookies of the past and just keep sticking to your plan.

Don’t get angry. If you become angry at yourself after eating more than planned, think about why. You know one or two “out-of-the-ordinary” meals won’t reverse all of your progress. If you let minor setbacks get to you, you could be getting into a dangerous mindset. If you try to restrict and lower your calories below what Noom has set for you, you are likely to binge later on. This binge-restrict pattern is very difficult to get out of once it’s become habit. The best thing you can do for yourself after overeating is to continue as planned. Don’t try to account for the extra food, and don’t be angry at yourself. Everyone slips up in dieting, even those who have done it countless times. Forgive yourself and move on.

Remember, food is not the enemy. Food isn’t meant to torment you. It’s meant to be pleasurable and even fun! You need food to live, so you might as well enjoy it every time. Food is a wonderful activity to enjoy with those you love, or even solo. Try to savor every meal you eat and don’t get too concerned about every single calorie going into your body. If you follow the basic rules of Noom, you will see the results you deserve.

16 thoughts on “Ditch the diet: 4 ways to eat guilt-free”

  1. mandyfitness says:

    Not sure I can agree with this 100%. Its the lack of “guilt” of eating high fat, high sugar/carb foods that has lead to obesity. Its the lack of feeling compelled to “exercise” and “move” that has contributed to our epidemic.
    Food isn’t the enemy, correct. But food also should not be a source of entertainment. We are the only species that eats other than to feed and nourish ourselves. We also drink and do drugs….so….

    Living organisms maintain themselves by acquiring nutrients from their environments. The energy they extract from their environments permits them to initiate controlled movements. Basically, we are supposed to move, and by doing so we utilize nutrients we obtain from food. I dont think food enjoyment and pleasure is really a primal animal instinct. 😉

    However, it probably isnt realistic to tell people to stop enjoying eating. But we should , as much as we can, eat when we are hungry, listen to our internal cues and choose nutrient dense foods that also supply us with the amount of energy that is needed for our activity.

    1. Levi says:

      If it wasn’t supposed to be pleasurable, why do we have taste buds? Oh, right, because pleasurable foods tell our brains that we enjoy this thing. Also, it’s how we learn nutrition, our brains learn the outcome of ingesting different nutrients and then triggers cravings for things that will replenish those deficiencies. Yes, there are the sweet tooth cravings and such, but fundamentally, we learn to eat due to pleasurable responses TO what we eat.

      1. mandyfitness says:

        Because healthy foods are delicious and are supposed to be!!!! Have you ever went through a long period of no sugar and realized how tasty fruits and veggies really are? The problem is, our taste buds are desensitized to naturally delicious, natural foods thanks to processed foods. And I once heard on Dr Oz, we are addicted to our food people! So no, I do not buy your argument to justify to continue to eat processed, high fat, and high sugar foods, that we are addicted to. I guarantee you, if you ate all natural foods that our bodies were designed to consume, we would naturally return to a normal and healthy weight, and we would no longer overeat. Read the latest research on epigenetics…..our cells rely on certain vitamins and minerals, and many genes of certain diseases are turned on later in life bc of our bad habits.

        1. Levi says:

          I don’t recall arguing the idea to continue to eat unhealthy foods. I was describing why we get these cravings. Have you ever seen a dog eat grass? They don’t eat that naturally, and that’s not always to make themselves throw up like most people believe. It’s also a sign of nutrient deficiencies and they are finding ways to fill that gap. (Changing dog food can help stop their habit, because just like humans changing foods, they get what their bodies are missing)
          I’m speaking more on a fundamental, psychological, subconscious level. Some people have developed that habit to eat “bad” foods and just like the point of this article says, the goal, the trick, is to try to overcome that subconscious urge.

          1. mandyfitness says:

            The article sounds like it is saying to be forgiving and don’t try to overcompensate when you consume foods that you view as “bad” for you.

            “Remember, food is not the enemy.
            Food isn’t meant to torment you. It’s meant to be pleasurable and even
            fun! You need food to live, so you might as well enjoy it every time.
            Food is a wonderful activity to enjoy with those you love, or even solo.
            Try to savor every meal you eat and don’t get too concerned about every
            single calorie going into your body. If you follow the basic rules of
            Noom, you will see the results you deserve. ”

            Being a health nut myself, I can definitely interpret this for myself as “Don’t beat yourself up if you accidentally eat a cookie”

            But most people are not in my mindset, and if they are reading this article, they probably have some serious weight to lose. So you have to be careful, because many of those people will misread this as “Its ok to eat those cookies, no need to go back to healthy eating tomorrow or even work it off and exercise tomorrow. ”

            There are two sides to every statement.

            We all have cravings and impulses and urges. Heck, half the time time I don’t want to get up in the morning and go to work, or help my kids with homework, or wash dishes. These are impulses, but ultimately, I know the work needs to get done. Well, why is that different than eating? Why is it OK to succumb to our urges that push us further away from our goals, because its food? What if it was drugs? You get my point…..

            The way to break the habit is to change your mindset. I guess I am old
            school and believe in tough love….but how about this idea: Don’t keep
            the trigger food in the house!!! If you can view the trigger food like
            you would poison, would you still consume it?

            The guilt for many people is a necessary evil to break habits and develop new ones. I know, there are people who take things to the extreme….but I would bet if more people felt a little guilt and shame when they ate something that promotes bodyfat and other health problems, they may consistently make better choices.

          2. Levi says:

            TLDR;
            I understand you’ve gotten what you’ve gotten out of it. I hope others read it for what the article says and get out of it their own as well.

          3. mandyfitness says:

            Honestly I struggled w binge eating and bulimia for a number of years. I remember when my dietician would encourage me to eat small amounts of my trigger foods. That was the worst idea ever ! Like telling an alcoholic to take sips of alcohol.

            I am not trying to argue here ..,just want writers be careful of what they say and be mindful of who their audience is. Being an ex compulsive eater myself , changing my mindset and abstaining from trigger foods like the ones the article mentioned was key to my recovery

          4. Antoinette Dickerson says:

            That was the key, your recovery!! I’m glad things worked out for you, but there are millions of overweight people in the US alone. So some will share your same story and then there’s all the others. I’m not saying your wrong at all. I’m saying there are many ways to fixing this one issue, and everyone will not agree or be successful on the same regimen or treatment.

          5. Tullia Benfenati says:

            Everyone brings his/her experience, of course, but I know that people like myself, who spent the last 40 years (out of 52) worrying about diets and weight, feel guilty about practically everything they eat or drink.
            And that’s also why many people are not consistent in their efforts to lose weight, they try to obey to a system of very strict rules, and when they break even a minor one, they are not able to get back on track and send all their efforts to hell.
            But I also noticed that in the US you very often think that eating ealthy = losing weight (or keeping in shape). Well, let me tell you it is not so automatically true.
            I was born and live in Tuscany (Italy): beautiful countryside, natural healthy food, I grew up in the sixties-seventies eating plenty of fruit, veggies, home-made food etc. And when I started gaining weight it wasn’t because of junk food, but just because I don’t need to eat much to live. Sad but true.
            So I just need to eat less then the average people do, and feeling guilty because I feel like having an ice-cream or a pizza doesn’t help a lot.
            I can choose between having an ice-cream, eating less for lunch or dinner, and feeling ok, or having my ice-cream feeling terribly guilty and eating even more because of stress and low self-esteem, or craving ice-cream for days, without enjoying any food in the meantime.
            I chose the first option, of course, and that’s why I appreciate Noom, because I can eat all sort of food and still lose weight, without having to discuss about it very much.
            I hope you understand what I mean, English is not my mother language and sometimes is not easy..

          6. Medda says:

            I just read through this whole exchange and I understand both (all three, rather) sides of the point. As someone who has trudged my way through binge eating disorder-turned-bulemia-turned binge again, a few short years ago, my goal was reduced to the smallest nutshell of wanting freedom with food–not freedom from it. I have been through layer after layer of motives, belief systems regarding food and exercise, victory and despair. I currently find myself in a place of peace. On the way, I was the person who could not forgive herself for her poor decisions, learning the hard way that my unforgiveness only compounded those choices and led to further destructive behavior. I think folks who identify with that mindset are the author’s intended audience. As far as Mandy’s point about tough love, I had many points at which I would have given many things to have had someone in my life offer some accountability. If I got it, I certainly did not recognize it. I married a beautiful man who had no grid for my struggles. He wrestled competitively for most of his life, a crazy high metabolism and no problems with eating whatever he wanted. His weight has not fluctuated more than 5 pounds in the 11 years I’ve known him and he has no ailments outside of a bum knee from an old injury. He does not go work out and never thinks twice about what he eats despite having a sizeable sweet tooth. His version of tough love was to tell me to put up with the trigger foods because my choices were my own. I had to climb a steep mountain to keep foods in the house that I considered triggers. There is a great chance that I would be much slimmer now if I had been feeding only myself and had total jurisdiction over the pantry’s contents. However, if not for that scenario, I may not have been nudged into deeper freedom. I found myself with an opportunity to take advantage of a rigorous situation: how do I get myself to make good choices in an environment over which I did not have total control? I learned that there is an idealism in me which is strong enough to override impulses and bad habits. I don’t even know how to articulate what it was, but the notion was implemented with the question, “would I be happier if I did eat “x” or if I did not eat “x?” Sometimes the answer has been yes, sometimes it’s been no. I had to repeatedly search deep within myself to discover what is really important to me. Asking myself this question turned a new page in my life. It isn’t my focal point anymore, but from time to time I find myself asking it again. I transitioned into a different stage where my internal dialog became “You are a grown-a!$ woman and can make a decision you’re willing to stand by,” haha. This question has not been limited to regarding my food choices, either. I have had to find my own unorthodox inspiration to pursue joy in my life. Along these lines, I learned some other things about myself. It turns out movement, not merely exercise, is something I cherish, so I make it a priority in my day. I discovered that the only reason I was so concerned with my body image was because other people made it their business to criticize me (I went through a season of heavy criticism at a sensitive age. Not all had to do with my body, but much of it did). Once I moved past being so self-conscious, I didn’t mind being a little chubby. In fact, I like my curves and they do not get in my way! Something I never expected began to occur as soon as my attitude settled into contentment. Every couple of weeks I think to weigh myself. And you know what? I am a few ounces less each time! I know that this rate of progress is not for everybody, but for me it is golden. It simply confirms that if in my mind I am free, the rest really does take care of itself. My greatest motivator is, has been and will always be joy. It doesn’t matter if there are chips, kale, cookies or quinoa in the kitchen; what matters is that neither healthy nor unhealthy food control me. Also, I have learned that it is wise to be okay whether or not those around me are.

    2. BigAl1825 says:

      Most research shows that exercise alone does not help lose weight. Exercise stimulates the appetite, and most people eat more to compensate.

      Regular exercisers, those who are health-conscious, tend to have healthier eating habits than those who do not exercise, and most of the weight loss can be tied to that.

      The idea that all of our weight gain is tied to lack of exercise is not born out by data, and it’s a myth perpetuated by the exercise industry, and producers of harmful foods that want to convince you that you can still consume their product if you just get off your lazy butt, effectively blaming us for the impact of what they encourage us to consume from infancy.

  2. patstar5 says:

    Our brains are wired to seek out sugar… But we have no need to stock up on carbs unlike our ancestors who probably stocked up when fruit was in season and then ate low carb the rest of the year.
    I’ve lost 70lbs on a low carb high fat diet with no grains, sugar, or processed food. I didn’t count calories either.
    I don’t know if it’s because of grain removal or that I’m in ketosis but my appetite went way down after starting this diet. It is easy to fast if I want too. There is no “hunger”, just eat when you are hungry.

    1. TrophyWife says:

      I agree a low carb, high fat diet is the best especially for diabetics or pre-diabetics. With me it stops cravings and in between meals snacking. Most diets suggest eating small amounts several times s day. That has never worked for me. Fasting is also very helpful.

      1. patstar5 says:

        Exactly! I’m down 75lbs now. Though I’ve up the carbs to around 100g,I might be cutting them back again. They tend to make me overeat though starches like potatoes are usually fine.
        I wonder who paid for the studies saying to eat multiple times a day and to eat whole grains. Terrible advice.
        Humans have been fasting for over a million years, this is something that modern society doesn’t want to do. It seems we are designed to go without food every so often. I still usually eat only 2 meals a day.

        1. ltlombardi says:

          Makes sense! Probably the food industry. Every industry wants you to consume more and more often

  3. kristigraves says:

    In the recipe section what does the over budget blue line mean?

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