In the Blog

Food Guilt: Don’t Gotta Have It!

May 20th, 2014     by deb singh     Comments

Renée Suen

Ever go into a McDonald’s, eat, and then feel bad about it? Ever eat a fourth piece of pie and start looking at the label for ingredients afterward? Ever indulge in something decadent and fatty with friends for a celebration, only to find yourself pushing harder during your next workout?

Food guilt. Feeling guilty about the things I eat, and worrying about weight gain or my looks thereafter. What’s up with food guilt? Why do I carry it around like a handbag? How did it get here? Who put it here and how can I rid myself of it?

I know the origins of where my own food guilt was birthed and I hate to lay blame, but I know exactly where it came from. My mom has spent more hours than I can imagine talking about her weight, my weight, and other peoples’ weights. Man, she even commented on how much I had gained when I was pregnant! For years, she spent money on clothes that didn’t fit, hoping and trying to ‘lose the weight’ to fit into them. And consistently, she berated herself every time she ate an ice cream or indulged in something unhealthy, taking the all the fun out of eating it.

The next part of my relationship with food (guilt) is internalized oppression. I continued the legacy of feeling guilty after eating certain foods and thus perpetuating negative body image stuff. I adamantly look at food labels, always picking things based on their fat content. I will sometimes choose the ‘healthier’ choice but that often means, more preservatives and artificial ingredients. I identify as a recovering anorexic. This means, I would not eat food at different times in my life or limit the kinds of foods I ate. Up until I was 27, I was still only eating protein and vegetables and avoiding all carbs so I didn’t gain weight.

Being pregnant threw almost all of this out the window. I wasn’t into guilting myself or hurting myself. And I certainly wasn’t going to perpetuate this food guilt on my kid through my eating habits or my body’s energy in my body, constantly transferred to my child. Lots of folks told me, ‘Hey, you’re pregnant, you can eat anything you want!’ Maybe, but I aimed (for practically the first time in my life) to have a balanced diet. (And admittedly, baby helped tons with that, in that my cravings all came in line with what my body needed). I ate lots of vegetables, drank three litres of water a day, and stocked up on protein every chance I got. I wouldn’t feel full unless there was some sort of whole grain (read: carb) in the mix and I was satisfied with a small dessert at the end of the day, never feeling the need to overeat the sweet. It was the first time I didn’t spend time looking at labels but instead listened to my body, allowed for the changes and congratulated myself on gaining weight!

I guess one of the reasons I carry around this grocery cart of food guilt is because I grew up as a cisgendered girl and well, the messages to be a certain weight and therefore be beautiful were everywhere, even coming out of my own family’s mouths during dinner time! I also carry it around because I see how thin people are treated in the world, and as oppose to race, for example, weight seems like something you can control yourself.

But how do I get rid of food guilt? How do I create a relationship with food that is positive, loving, realistic and healthy? I think it started for me in moments where I learned about self-love, body image and fatphobia from women who engaged in fat activism. And who talked about their fat bodies, loving them and shared their experiences walking the world in fat bodies.

Another way I intend on ridding myself of food guilt is allowing for more balance in my diet and more moments doing things that feel good. Eating donuts feel good. Running and swimming feel good. Buying fun healthy snacks feel good. Buying clothes that fit feels good. If and when I’m over doing it in any area, it’s good to recognize that I might get trapped in worrying about my weight.

Ridding myself of food guilt won’t be an easy journey or one that takes a day, but I am determined to have a guiltless relationship with eating, food and gaining weight.

You can read more about fat activism here:

Article on Fat Activism (Rabble)

Pretty, Porky and Pissed Off (Rabble)

Tags: body politics

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