If you're feeling guilty after eating unhealthy food, after a cheat meal, or simply after eating too much, you've come to the right place.
I'll explain exactly why you need to stop feeling guilty as quickly as possible (and what you should do instead).
We're all humans, and guilt is one of the most natural emotions we feel when we eat (or do) something "wrong". In fact, guilt can feel so natural, that most people feel like they have no say in the matter.
But a simple, scientifically proven fact is that you do get to decide how you feel.
(I bet you're already feeling just a little less guilty after reading this.)
Before we get to how destructively useless guilt can be (and what you need to do instead), here's a quick overview of what I've covered in this article:
The typically useless guilt trip experience (after eating too much)
We all know how horrible it can feel. Especially, if you've been suffering for days before it happened to you.
You've been exercising your ass off. You've been really careful about your diet. Hell, you can't even remember the last time you had a decent meal!
It was tough, but at least it worked. The results were already showing on your bathroom scale, and you could even start noticing them in the mirror.
But now, you've gone and ruined it all!
You couldn't resist the temptation, so you went for the forbidden stuff (and you didn't hold back at all). You wish you could call it a "cheat meal", but it was more like a "cheat feast".
Now, you don't even dare stepping on the scale anymore, because deep down you already know it. All that denial, deprivation, and suffering was for nothing! You've destroyed days of hard work in less than half an hour of mindless eating!
And now you're at the point where you're wondering...
You're telling me I shouldn't feel guilty about all the junk I just ate?
Yes, that's exactly what I'm telling you. And this isn't just my opinion (I'll show you the science on this in a bit). But first, you need to understand why humans "love" to feel guilty so much.
People can find it incredibly hard to let go of their guilt, because these emotions feel so natural to them. When you suddenly break all those promises you made to yourself, you can't really help feeling guilty about it.
These guilt trips can be so overwhelming, that most people feel like there is no way they could avoid feeling this way. They feel like their guilt is simply happening to them.
When you're going through these intense emotions, it really is no surprise that you never even realize how much damage you're doing to yourself. In such a state of mind, it's only natural for you to completely overlook the fact that far less painful (and way more effective) options even exist.
But the problem runs even deeper.
Even strong feelings of guilt can't stop you from overeating again
Yes, some people (including the experts) think guilt, sometimes a very intense negative emotion, can be a good thing for us. They believe that guilt can actually help us stop shoving junk down our throats after a while.
I don't really blame them for making this mistake.
After all, when we feel really guilty, most of us honestly believe that we will never eat a single bite of junk food ever again. We feel so bad, that we actually believe that we could never go down the same road again.
But don't you think that if guilt worked, it would have worked by now?
You see, the main problem with guilt is that the timing is completely screwed up (it is actually the exact opposite of what it should be).
You tend to experience the most intense guilt on a full stomach. Usually, right after you have, yet again, fallen off the wagon. From that point on, your guilt always starts fading away (slowly, but surely).
Days (maybe just hours) later, after those intense emotions are long gone, you are no longer protected by them. You have arrived at a point, where you again feel relaxed and careless enough, to commit another eating crime against yourself.
In other words, guilt becomes the strongest as soon as it's already too late, yet it is the weakest right when you need it the most.
This is why guilt can never be an answer to ending overeating
If guilt is supposed to make you stay away from the unhealthy food, then you better count on introducing a hell of a lot of guilt into your life.
Just think about this for a while.
If you wanted to rely on guilt to stop you from eating junk in the long run (ideally, for the rest of your life), then you'd have to feel guilty pretty much all of the time.
And you know that we're not talking some weak feelings of guilt that live somewhere in the back of your mind. We're talking about a full-power emotion of guilt. One, that would be strong enough to continuously overpower even the strongest of cravings (and you know how overwhelming those can be).
You know this would never work, even if you actually were crazy enough to insist on going down that road. Knowing that a much easier (and much more effective) alternative exists, that makes even less sense.
Scientific proof that guilt over food is causing more harm than good
This study has compared two completely different kinds of people.
The first group of people felt guilty after eating chocolate cake, and the second group felt guilt-free pleasure and enjoyment (after eating the exact same thing).
What the researches find out will probably surprise you (but you'll also see why it makes perfect sense).
The people, who enjoyed the unhealthy stuff without guilt, were able to control themselves around food much better, than people who felt guilty about doing the same.
The people, who carelessly enjoyed the fattening stuff, were MORE SUCCESSFUL at reaching their weight loss goals than people who constantly worried about what they were eating.
Yes, this proves that guilt is actually holding you back, but...
This is how you can stop feeling guilty after eating too much
I know that trying not to feel guilty about the bad things you do to yourself, goes against your natural instincts. But clearing your head IN SPITE of what you just did to yourself, still needs to be one of your top priorities.
I know this is easier said than done, but in the end, the only way to get rid of these feelings is to keep reminding yourself that they are harming you.
No matter how real guilt feels, you need to keep reminding yourself that guilt is actually the scientifically proven road to weight gains.
In the end, we are all going to eat what we're going to eat. We're going to make the mistakes that we're going to make (whether we feel bad about them or not).
And if I learned one thing from my own struggles with weight, guilt is definitely not the way to go.
No matter how real they feel when they occupy your mind, the feelings of guilt, sadness, and desperation need to be replaced with feelings of forgiveness, hope, and optimism ASAP.
You've now seen the science on how feeling guilty after eating a single cheat meal, lots of unhealthy junk food, or simply after eating too much healthy foods, will do you more harm than good.
So the next time you start feeling guilty about something you've just eaten, I want you to try to remember how pointless (and harmful) these emotions really are.
You have probably been programming yourself to feel guilty for years, so you can't expect to get rid of your emotional reaction overnight. But this is definitely something you want to start working on TODAY!
Getting rid of guilt is definitely a step in the right direction, but on its own, this is still only a minor piece of the whole weight loss puzzle.
If you want to learn more about using the power of psychology to get better at controlling yourself around food, you can subscribe to my free newsletter.
1. Kuijer RG, Boyce JA. Chocolate cake. Guilt or celebration? Associations with healthy eating attitudes, perceived behavioural control, intentions and weight-loss. Appetite 2014;74:48-54.