The minute that clock strikes midnight on December 31st, all you see is diet, diet, diet.

Companies spend weeks leading up to Christmas encouraging you to indulge and then use the entirety of the following month convincing you to lose weight you might’ve gained from – you guessed it – indulging.

It really revs up in January, but you don’t have to look too hard to see this diet culture drip-fed to us all year round. There’s one word in particular that gets thrown around, and it’s recently started to really bug me.

Guilt.

“Feeling guilty after the weekend?”
“Guilt-free food!”
“Don’t feel guilty, you deserve a treat!”

You hear it all the time. Heck, excuse the pun but I’m ‘guilty’ of it myself! I’m so accustomed to this way of thinking, I associate foods like salad, vegetables, whole grains, etc. with being “guilt-free” and the likes of pizza, chocolate and wine (aka, everything I love) with a real, genuine feeling of guilt.

 

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I can’t count the nights I’ve laid awake beating myself up, feeling guilty and thinking of all the awful things that will subsequently happen as a result of eating something “bad”. When I really think about it, I don’t know if I’ve ever associated anything with such a strong sense of guilt as I do food.

Language like this has to have an impact, surely?! Surrounding food, something we need to literally stay alive, with negative thoughts can’t be good for us.

I’ll be completely honest, I have considered – more than once – making myself sick after eating because I’ve felt so disgusted. That’s not because of food. That’s because of guilt.

I’m grateful I haven’t gone down that route, but I can absolutely understand how easily the belief that we should feel guilty, ugly, greedy, embarrassed, unattractive, weak and, ultimately, worthless after eating certain kinds of food could lead to a very dark place.

I hold my hands up. I’ve used language like “guilt-free” in my food writing; you can probably find examples in this blog. But not for much longer. Diet culture plays tricks on us and, if you’re anything like me, odds are you’ve been conditioned to go along with it from a young age. As soon as I’ve got time, I’ll be going through old blog posts and correcting anything I feel fuels this “food = guilt” idea, because I’m so over it.

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Life is a learning curve. I’ve learnt I shouldn’t feel guilty about eating, because there’s no such thing as “bad food”. I’ve also learnt language like this is dangerous, whether in my own head or written down in a blog post. I’m still trying to change my way of thinking and actually enforce this newfound knowledge into my old habits, but I’m getting there.

Thing is, we like what we like. We need what we need. Some days, a bowl of vegetable soup and a fruit smoothie are wonderful, nourishing, soothing. Other days, we crave salty, golden fries, maybe sweet, luxurious ice cream, or even a huge pizza with heaps of stringy cheese all to ourselves. We like what we like, we need what we need, we’re all different and our relationships with food are too.

That’s just life, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

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