Of course you want to stop beating yourself up over what you eat! It feels like an awful, constant obsession that holds you down. But for many, letting go of the relentless struggle with food guilt feels easier said than done.
Especially if you are in a bigger body, lifetime encouragement by doctors or family to lose weight reinforces the idea that certain foods are “good” and others are “bad”. My clients tell me this makes beating themselves up a deeply ingrained part of their mindset. Even though it hurts, it feels wrong to let it go: how else will they control themselves?
thought experiment: is it healthy to feel deprived, guilty, ashamed and anxious around food?
If you know that your food guilt creates a relationship with food that isn’t exactly healthy – you’re not alone. The way you beat yourself up and the guilt you feel when you eat is learned because our society tells us that the pursuit of weight loss is normal, and often the moral choice, for people in bigger bodies who do not meet the cultural ideal of “thin”. In my work, I often explore why common cultural beliefs about fatness are untrue (and harmful) so you can fully succeed in healing your relationship with food.
My No Guilt Framework was specifically built for clients in bigger bodies who want support to unlearn deeply ingrained negative diet thoughts they were often taught to them from childhood. Before I share my most helpful strategies to stop beating yourself up over what you eat, I’m curious: does your “tough love” attitude with yourself around food currently lead you to this cycle?
If you just said “yes. I’m stuck in the diet cycle” I want you to know that food guilt leads to many mental and physical health concerns. Our goal today is to start to move you toward the center of the pendulum which I call the “guilt free zone”. In this place, you will eat enough of what you want without any feelings of deprivation, guilt or shame.
Though our society normalizes this diet cycle, it is by no means normal to beat yourself up over food
If you are ready to respect your bigger body, it starts with how you think, and this post will give you my top 3 strategies to stop beating yourself up over what you eat.
strategy #1: give yourself permission to eat all foods
For many of my clients, legalizing formerly forbidden foods is the first step to healing. Do you know which foods cause you to beat yourself up? Make a list of these foods so you can officially start the process of neutralizing them. My clients go on to create permission to eat these foods by:
- making sure to buy former “forbidden foods” at the store
- giving themselves permission to eat whenever they want, and whatever quantity they want
- going out of their way to seek pleasure and enjoyment out of food
- committing to no longer “making up” for eating of any kind
Now, in reading this you may be thinking: “I can’t do this! I’ll totally lose control” – and you may. At first. That’s where our next strategy to “eat for how you want to feel” comes in. Over time, showing your mind and body that you no longer need to punish yourself for how you eat will help you to feel more at peace and in control around them.
strategy #2: eat for how you want to feel
Years of dieting can silence your connection with natural cues like hunger and fullness. My clients use my coaching support to start to notice these physical sensations before, during, and after they eat. (And actually stop when they feel satisfied!) By studying how their body feels, they are better able to choose the amounts and types of foods that make them feel their best.
When you eat, how do you want to feel? By letting yourself eat what you want, you can start to experience food in a way that no longer triggers thoughts like “why did I eat like that? I feel terrible!”, and instead say things like “I feel great. This was exactly enough.” A key component of removing food guilt is to stop eating when you feel satisfied. This is possible when you learn to trust your body instead of ineffective diet plans that don’t feel livable for you long term because they make you feel guilty and deprived.
strategy #3: learn skills to “talk back” to negative food thoughts
When you first start letting go of food guilt, your mind will not yet be “caught up” with your new way of being around food. This may mean eating former “forbidden food” triggers lots of judgmental thoughts. It helps my clients to be prepared for this barrage of negative self-talk with the skill of “talking back”. When we work together, I help clients to create an inner voice that:
- observes how you feel without judgment
- notices how food tastes: whether or not it is enjoyable
- encourages them to turn binges that feel like “failures” into learning opportunities to break the diet cycle
Over time, this work trains your brain to quiet negative thoughts, and instead, adopt a mindset around food that feels effortless and free.
it doesn’t happen overnight
How long have you been trying to change your body? If the beliefs and thought patterns behind your dieting behaviors have been ingrained for a long time, it will be important for you to engage with other people who know what you are going through and who can support you through the process of learning diet mindset.
Once you choose a strategy from this post you might like to try to alleviate your food guilt, also choose to interact with someone who can help you practice this new way of being around food. For example, can you:
- find validation in your experience through others stories?
- connection with like minded women on social media?
- get feedback and accountability to stop restricting in the face of food guilt?
- what will help you create a new culture around food, especially if people in your life aren’t ready to support you?
This post includes a few of the many skills I offer through my No Guilt Framework. Each individual will find different skills helpful at different times, and this post is by no means an exhaustive list of how to stop dieting.
I offer group and private coaching programs that help you create a plan and practice these skills with the focus and consistency you need to FINALLY be okay with your body. Apply for coaching and I’ll meet with you to describe how you can go from feeling completely stuck in negative body image to feeling free and peaceful around food, just like my clients do.