This topic I am talking about today is really important to me, because I believe this is something all of us experience at some point in our lives yet none of us seem to talk about it enough. Some of us can just “get over it”, but others can really struggle with feelings of guilt after eating junk food or overeating in general. I personally can feel very disappointed in myself and annoyed at myself after eating a certain amount of junk food or having a takeaway. I know that I do not have it enough for it to be something of concern, but I still find myself beating myself up when I over indulge or have too much of something I deem as junk.
Why Do We Feel Guilty After Eating “Bad Food”
Naturally, it is understandable. Foods that have particularly high levels of sugar can cause absolute havoc on how we feel and it is important to understand how sugar works on the body. Like recreational drugs, sugar releases opioids and dopamine. It also has been shown in studies to affect our brain in ways similar to addictive drugs, causing addictive behaviors such as bingeing, withdrawal, and cravings. Furthermore, too much sugar can directly cause anxiety and irritability. This is called reactive hypoglycemia, or a “sugar crash” and we have all heard of it: that feeling of happiness after eating a tasty but junky meal, followed by feelings of guilt, irritability at one’s self and sadness once the spike of sugar has worn off. This is because too much of the sweet stuff causes your body to release an excessive amount of insulin to process all the sugar. This leads to a too rapid reduction of blood glucose, or blood sugar levels, causing your body to release adrenaline to compensate. This is the “fight or flight” chemical that causes the anxiety and irritability and it can affect us all in different ways, hence why some of us feel more guilty than others.
Let’s be real about this. We know that things like pizza, cake, sweets and chocolate are not the most nutritionally dense foods. Does that mean we should just not eat them? No, of course not! Too much of anything is bad for you, so it is important to have a balanced diet and indulge in treats now and again IN MODERATION. However, after sugar fueled binges, our bodies need time to recover and if we do not follow the right steps and do everything correctly, we end up in a vicious cycle of eating clean for a short period of time, followed by bingeing on crap, followed by eating healthy again to compensate, leading to low moods, guilt, weight gain or maintaining weight if you are trying to lose it and overall feelings of poor body image and low self-esteem.
How Do We Recover After A Bad Food Day/Binge And Overcome Guilt?
The first and most important step that I would recommend is going against the title of my blog post, and that would be to stop referring to things as good and bad food days. I simply titled it that to grab your attention, because I know we all associate it as that. (Hehe got you!)
Acknowledge that harboring feelings of guilt and shame associated to food does not help the situation. It’s just food. One pound equals 3500 calories. Even on a “terrible” day, it’s hard to overeat by more than 3500 calories. Even if you have, what’s a pound anyway, what’s even two pounds or three pounds? It is not a lot and you are not going to jeopardise your health after a day or few days of over indulging. Also, those feelings of guilt only worsen how you feel because guilt is an emotional response that has stressful triggers that can cause poor digestion or indigestion, which physically makes you feel rubbish. Guilt is impermanent and it will go away in the same way that all the food you have eaten will also go away.
If in the moments following a binge or overindulging session you feel this way, try walking and moving. This will speed up digestion and help the food pass out of the system a bit quicker and can release positive endorphins that can improve your mood a bit. In the morning, start the day off with some hot water and sliced lemon as it will make you feel refreshed and it will soothe your tummy. If you have just eaten, wait for the food to go down a bit and then have a cup of peppermint tea when you are calmer and more relaxed as it will relax the stomach muscles and make you feel more at ease.
How To Stop It From Happening Again
If you feel trapped in a cycle of over indulging or bingeing then there is likely more going on under the surface. To stop consistently eating things that are making you feel unhealthy, you need to address the reason why that it is happening in the first place rather than guilt tripping yourself every time it happens. You can learn from your eating habits and learn to make better ones without beating yourself up about it constantly. Start to keep a food diary and time log of when and what you are eating and also your mood at the time.
How do you feel in the morning? Are you tired/lethargic/ready to roll back in to bed or are you buzzing and ready for the day ahead?– You might need more sleep and a more substantial breakfast. Make sure you are hitting 7-8 hours of sleep a night and that on waking you have a healthy breakfast such as porridge and fruit. This will set you up for the day and prevent bingeing and cravings. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
Are you bingeing/over indulging late at night?- If so, you are likely not getting enough nutrition in the day or you are under-eating during the day. When your body is starved both of nutrients and food, it goes in to survival mode and will start reaching for any food that is available and you go in to a state of eating anything and everything. This is why I think diets and calorie counting suck, because you feel restricted. I never count calories. I just try to eat intuitively and make healthy choices during the day and I try not to beat myself up when I eat something unhealthy. Try having fruit instead of sweets and make sure you are getting enough healthy carbohydrates during the day to keep your glucose levels steady and energy levels regular.
Learn To Love Food-
Food is such an amazing thing, It is the fuel for your body and natures best medicine. When you eat a diet full of whole, natural foods such as beans, pulses, legumes, whole-grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, you really do feel fantastic because your body is getting everything it needs. Try incorporating colour in to every dish and eat the rainbow. I really do hate calorie counting in any form so I make sure my diet has variety, balance and colour. Food is to be enjoyed, not to be feared and having treats now and again is okay. In fact, I encourage it! A healthy diet is all about moderation so if you want a cupcake, have one, just make sure you are still getting everything you need in your diet.
Know When To Get Help
This will not be the case for everyone but some of us may have a deeper issue. Guilt now and again is very natural. In our society we are wired to be watchful of food, and guilt is very common. But, there comes a time where guilt and other emotions towards food can develop in to something more sinister.
If you find yourself doing any of these things or seeing a close relative or friend doing these things, you/they may have an eating disorder:
- Constant dieting.
- Hiding food or food wrappers.
- Eating in secret.
- Eating to the point of discomfort or pain.
- Self-induced vomiting.
- Laxative use.
- Excessive exercise.
- Frequent bathroom trips after eating.
- Excessive Guilt And Shame Around Food
However, never assume someone has an eating disorder. If you are concerned for your self or a friend, you need to tread very carefully. If you are concerned for your self, I would recommend seeing a psychologist or doctor and checking out the B-Eat Website (I will link below) For guidance and information. Please read this first before you approach someone about your concerns as it can be a very touchy, deceptive illness. Remember that an eating disorder is not just about food, it is an actual mental illness and is very emotionally tied to the person. Click here for more info.
I do hope this post was of some use to you. Here on my blog, I want to encourage and help others to live a healthy, happy, beautiful life and that is my main goal. If you have any questions feel free to drop a comment or send me a message privately! Thank You for reading and see you soon! xox