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Why You Should Ditch Food Guilt

September 21, 2013

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Every time I see “guilt-free” descriptions on recipes or blogs, I’m amazed and sad. I have a strong dislike of the whole guilt thing.

It just makes no sense when you think about it. Why should eating make us feel guilty? Why should enjoying food be a source of guilt? Because when we talk about “guilt-free” desserts, it usually implies there are foods we feel guilty about eating. Foods that are bad, foods that we're bad for having. Sinful foods.  Prime example: the slutty brownies recipe that was making the rounds earlier.

Do you remember Snackwell cookies? I was talking about them with my hubby, and he had the best take on them. “Those things were gross. You’d eat the whole box, and then get desperate enough to try the cookies that came inside the box.” The only reason why people at them was they were “guilt-free.” No, I’m not saying your guilt-free cake isn’t delicious, but the mentality behind it remains the same.

Usually right after someone talks about making a “guilt-free” dessert, invariably the next comment is: “Since this doesn’t have (sugar, gluten, fat) I had 2 big pieces!” or “So I didn’t feel bad about eating half of it!” I think that’s the problem. We eat more than our bodies need or want of foods we’ve identified as freebies. After all, they don’t count. And we generally enjoy them less, too. It’s food. Just food. Not a matter of personal virtue. Why give your power away to a piece of cheesecake? Or your scale, for that matter?

Think back to the last food you labeled “guilt-free.” Did you eat more simply because you labeled it as a “good” food? If so, why? And think back to the last time you ate a food you labeled “bad.” Did you feel guilty? Ashamed? Angry at yourself? Or did you simply enjoy the tastes, textures, and flavors? You and I, we create our norms based on the ways we speak and what we see and hear from others. What think and what we say matters. Bloggers, authors, teachers, parents, nutrition professionals…our words ripple out and influence our definition of normal.

I know this may sound like making a lot out of nothing, but I wish we could stop normalizing disordered eating.

Cheryl Harris has a Master’s in Public Health, is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Wellness Coach, and Certified Lactation Counselor. She strives to make healthy eating easy and works with her clients to make healthy eating habits stick for good. Cheryl has been honored as the Virginia Dietietics Association Dietetics Leader of the Year for 2012 and received a Leadership Award from Department of Health in DC in 2005. Cheryl is also a gluten-free expert. Her recipes can be found on her blog Gluten-Free Goodness. For more information on Cheryl, check out her website Harris Whole Health