By Melissa Milne
For many years, I turned the simple act of eating into a twisted dance of denial, temptation and remorse—trying to exercise and eat healthy and then beating myself up for every teeny tiny indulgent slip-up. I’d eat only foods that sounded like they were “safe”—stuff labeled “fat-free,” “low-carb,” “diet" or “lite.” And by the end of the day, starving for sustenance, I’d break down and grab at anything sweet/salty/fatty and convenient in sight. This only made me feel guilty—and terrible about myself.
Each M&M was like a little poison pill, each slice of bread was smeared thick with guilt and every bite was some flavor of failure. Judge Judy had nothing on the mallet-wielding magistrate in my head, who sent me running for the dreadmill, day after day after day to pay penance for my crimes against carbs.
There are many women who suffer from serious eating disorders that doctors can diagnose and treat. But there are far more of us who suffer from something else—something that drives us to eat too much, diet too much, sweat too much and fret too much. The name? Food Guilt. I had it for years.
You probably have it, too.
In a recent poll I conducted for my new book The Naughty Diet—an anti-diet book designed to improve your relationship with food by balancing the nutrition you need with the naughty foods you want—a whopping 80% of the 10,000 women surveyed admitted to feeling guilty after a “decadent restaurant meal.” We can all agree that’s no fun for anyone. The same number said that whenever they felt Food Guilt, post-dinner sex would be completely off the menu. Double bummer.
“The Naughty Diet spot-reduces every woman’s biggest trouble area: guilt. It works wonders for the body and mind.”— Dr. Jennifer Ashton, ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent
Food Guilt is one dirty, little secret; no one talks about how icky they really feel after a rich meal or decadent dessert. No one wants to be crowned Miss Buzzkill of the table. As I’ve spoken to thousands of women about their Food Guilt issues, I’ve discovered that there are strategies that can improve our food feelings and change our attitude. Here’s how you can jump off the merry-go-round and make food your friend—and Guilt your Bitch. And if you're sick and tired of feeling bad about yourself, join my Naughty Diet Movement now on Facebook and Twitter!
Food Guilt Cure #1
Quit Food-Shaming Yourself
Guess what? You’re not what you eat. (Which is good, or else I’d be puffy, pasty and flaky like my morning croissants.) Eating “good” food doesn’t make you a good person. Al Capone enjoyed healthy homemade spaghetti with walnut sauce and a glass of Prohibition-era wine most nights! Likewise, eating “bad” food doesn’t make you bad or gangsta, no matter how nasty dat nutrition label. When you shame your food, you shame your body. Shame on you!
Food Guilt Cure #2
Follow The 75/25 Rule
NaughtyDiet translation: 75ish/25ish. This is the rule that helped Maria Menounos drop 40 pounds and stay not only slim and smokin’ hot, but happy, too. The idea is simple: just eat healthfully 75 percent of the time, in whatever way you see fit. Maybe that’s one indulgent meal a day and three small, nutritious nibbles. Or maybe it’s eating smartly for four days in a row, then saying screw it on day five, when you crave cheese and fries. Either way, a woman needs to have too much every once in a while—too much fun, too much sex, too much spending, and yes, too much food—and feel okay—nay, good—about it.
Food Guilt Cure #3
Shred Your Thoughts
This is a trick taught to me by Tasneem Bhatia, M.D., who blends Eastern and Western medicine. The next time you catch yourself red-handed—or orange-handed, with an empty bag of Cheetos—and you feel guilt bubbling up…grab pencil and paper and write down exactly how you feel. “I broke the rules. I feel horrible.” Now, rip that piece of paper to shreds as if it were an old Valentine from a cheating ex. What worries you masters you—so fight back by tearing your woes to pieces.
Food Guilt Cure #4
Evacuate the Zone
Promptly exit the scene of the food crime. Seriously, even if it’s on a sun-drenched terrace overlooking Lake Como, and Clooney’s there, whispering in your ear about how Amal and he are going through a rough patch, and his breath is like sugar blossom tickling the nape of your neck…leave! There’s nothing but Guilt to be gained by lingering over the debris, calculating the caloric damage of all foods demolished. New location = new beginning.
Food Guilt Cure #5
Once you’re in a new locale, do something new to distract yourself. Go for a stroll outside to walk off the Guilt. Get a manicure and your hands will be clean (not guilty!) Hit a bookshop or library and get lost in some fiction far, far away from the realms of Food Guilt. And if you want to sit at a coffee shop and write a love letter to George, do it. The most important thing is that you distract yourself and move on to something new. Otherwise, lingering Food Guilt will just set you back onto the denial/temptation/remorse dreadmill.
For Melissa’s Complete 10-Step Plan to Beat Food Guilt and Body Shame, Be the First to Get The Naughty Diet Now on Amazon!