The Thanksgiving Day sweet potatoes, the Christmas cookies and the New Year’s champagne come with a side of guilt every year don’t they?
My friend Jessie Mundell posted on Facebook recently that she was working out New Year’s Day and a guy next to her said, “You feeling guilty too, huh?” When did it become that food is bad and the gym is good? This is a prevailing attitude: food induces guilt that the gym can some how undo. In a perfect world, food is just food and the gym is a healthy thing to do. But that’s not really how we feel is it?
We have a lot of guilt around food, treats and indulging – and to counter it we sentence ourselves to “doing time” at the gym. Our attitude about this stuff is totally messed up, but let’s be honest, who doesn’t feel that way this week?
Who didn’t indulge in a little more chocolate lately and is feeling a little or a lot guilty about it?
Sounds like a typical January if you ask me. This is certainly what the women in my practice, but if you’re anything like me, guilt is not a once a year problem. Guilt is my go to emotion – I can feel guilty for pretty much anything short of perfection.
It shows up big time as a mommy each time I’m less than 100% patient, every time I have to say, “Mommy’s working right now” and every time I model less than perfect behavior to my daughters around food or body image. Sound familiar? I know it does. Guilt is common.
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Should we worry so much if everyone is doing it? Can it really be such a bad thing? I mean, we all feel guilty for eating sugar. We feel guilty for having too much wine. We feel guilty for missing a workout yesterday or guilty because it’s been so long we don’t even know where our gym card is. I think it is a bad thing. A very bad thing because guilt makes us say stuff like: “I hate myself for doing that.”
That horrible thing you did can be anything from having one cookie to binging on a plate of cookies. Guilt seems to have no appropriate response. A bite of a cookie can send us on as big a guilt trip as if we ate a baker’s dozen. It is one of the attitudes or ways of thinking about food, exercise and weight loss that get us way off track.
Guilt makes my list of the 5 Fattitudes that get us into trouble when it comes to consistency.
The Fattitudes are the mindsets or attitudes that either take us off track and or keep us slogging along but feeling terrible when it comes to eating well and exercising.
Here’s what happens when we feel guilty:
It takes the enjoyment out of any treat. When we are in guilt’s grip we have a fleeting moment of enjoyment about: sleeping in and skipping the gym or eating a piece of cake or having wine. Then we sink down into guilt for giving in, for messing up and that just squashes the enjoyment right out of it. Most us don’t even make it through the treat, we feel guilty before we even start!
This leads to a halfhearted indulgence at best. Guilt just plain ruins it. Guilt leads to berating yourself for being so bad. You start to say things like:
What’s wrong with me??!! Why can’t I just not eat that stuff? Why can’t I just go to the gym like I planned on? Or the worst, “I hate myself for doing that.” How can something as tiny as cookie can breed big self-hate like that? Guilt, that’s how.
And worst of all, guilt starts the shame spiral which looks like this:
You feel bad for eating a cookie, then you feel bad for being so weak, then you feel bad for needing to lose weight tin the first place, then you feel bad for not being better in any manner of ways from how you parent to how messy your kitchen is…and now you’re just plain ashamed of yourself.
What does this have to do with sticking to a diet or healthy eating plan? As you go from one thought to another, feeling worse and worse, it prolongs getting back on track. It keeps you mucking around in guilt’s messy little puddle rather than getting back to business. That is how guilt kills consistency.
Here’s what the shame spiral looks like for many of you this week:
You were going to get back off sugar after Christmas. But you ate a bit of chocolate yesterday. As you ate the chocolate you felt guilt creep up and started wondering what the hell is wrong with you that you can’t make it one day without sugar? You plan on going to the gym, but something got in the way: busy getting back to work after the Holidays, the kids, the laundry, etc.
Now it is dinner time and the chocolate guilt is running the show as you say, “Well I totally blew it today, I might as well eat whatever, have some more chocolate and a glass of wine and try again tomorrow.” Tomorrow comes and you feel too sluggish and guilty from the day before that it feels monumental to not have chocolate for breakfast, take a nap instead of going to the gym and pretty soon it’s pizza for dinner.
Guilt took you from one bite of chocolate to a series of bad choices and a nasty shame hangover days later. You simply can’t make good choices for yourself when you feel so bad and guilt feels very bad.
The antidote to this Fattitude is to counter how bad you feel by doing something that makes you feel good again – right away. It may feel you have to force it, but do something that helps you reset.
Something like: A walk outside. Gives you some exercise, some fresh air and a moment to shift your thinking. A hug from someone you love. For me it’s my girls, their hugs seem to cure about any bad feeling I’ve ever had. A pedicure. A glass of water with lemon. 10 push ups. 20 squats. It could be something as simple as declaring, “I’m back!” or “Enough!” The only requirement is that it must make you feel good enough to pull you out of guilt’s grip.
Because here’s the thing: you are only EVER one choice away from being back on track, from being BETTER, from being where you want to be. You have the choice in each moment to get back in the game, to kick gilt to the curb.
And the tool, in guilt’s case, is simply to get feeling good again. Guilt is one of the five biggest barriers to consistency that I’ve seen with the women I work with – not to mention, the one I personally know the best. I know firsthand how damaging this one can be and how easily it can get you adrift in a sea of feeling terrible.
This is one problem to solve if you want your weight loss journey to be one of ease and not one of total misery. Does feeling good instead of guilty erase calories or mean that wine is now a weight loss food? Of course not. You still have to eat well and go to the gym, but you can do those things from a place of self-love, a place of nourishment instead of punishment.
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And as you know from years of dieting, you can’t keep going when you feel bad. Sooner or later you say, Eff-it, pass the cookies. In order to keep doing BETTER, guilt has to go. Guilt goes by the wayside by feeling good instead, but what about the other Fattitudes: comparison, deserve, unfairness and it’s too hard?
To help you be more consistent and master all 5 of these miserable mindsets, I’ve created a 21 day Fattitude Adjustment program delivered via email that will give you not only one tool for each Fattitude but two or even three for the real toughies.
In just three weeks you can have these defeating attitudes whipped into shape and find doing what you need to do for yourself much more effortless and much more filled with love. The program launches January 14th and I can’t wait to share it with you.
Get signed up here to be notified just as soon as it’s available! 2015 is gonna be pretty amazing huh? I can’t wait. P.S. You’ve got one more day to grab the FREE 7 Day Habit Change Program I put together to help with your New Year’s Resolutions. Grab that here.