How to Let Go of Food Guilt After the Holidays*

It happens every year. You’re invited to a Christmas party. You start nibbling on the hor d'oeuvres until, before you know it, you’ve had 10 cheese balls and too much wine. You wake up the next morning feeling ashamed for “eating bad” last night. Next weekend is the office potluck. Everyone in your office brings a dish, and you can’t help but try a little of everything that quickly overflows your plate. You leave the office feeling guilty again. Then, you arrive at your relative’s house for Christmas dinner. You haven’t eaten all day to save room for the feast. You marvel at all your favorite dishes: mashed potatoes, stuffing, and turkey smothered in gravy. Starving, you fill your plate with heaping portions. Next up is dessert. You tell yourself you’re only going to have one piece of pie. And then one piece turns into pie, two Christmas cookies, and your Aunt’s eggnog. You wake up the next morning feeling guilty. On New Year’s Eve, you declare your new year's resolution to lose weight, starting with banning all carbs from your diet. Two weeks later, you can’t resist a piece of bread, and you feel guilty again. Does this sound like you?

Every year brings the same pattern, starting around November. Winter arrives, and with it comes Starbucks holiday drinks, pumpkin pie, and mashed potatoes. Many Americans eat these heartier foods from Thanksgiving to around New Years Eve. From holiday dinners to office potlucks to Christmas parties, Americans celebrate the holidays as a season of indulgence. Then, many people end the year feeling fat and guilty for all the food we ate. Come New Years Day, we get a gym membership and start a new diet that lasts all of two weeks.

The holiday season and its aftermath often breeds food guilt, where one feels guilty after eating “bad” foods. Someone with food guilt avoids a bad food, like pizza or cookies, as their enemy and feels guilty when they give into temptation. The new year’s diet and gym wave only perpetuates the problem as we label some foods as “bad” versus good. We start elimination diets that aren’t sustainable in the long run. This unhealthy cycle morphs our perception of food as the enemy instead of nourishment and fosters a negative relationship.

Over time, food guilt can lead to an eating disorder, such as binging and purging. Evelyn Tribole, co-author of Intuitive Eating, explains, “If you tell yourself that you can’t or shouldn’t have a particular food, it can lead to intense feelings of deprivation that build into uncontrollable cravings and, often, bingeing.” Food guilt can lead to an eating disorder because it distorts one's perception of food.

Looking at Food Through a Godly Lens

Mark 6 gives us a glimpse into Jesus' perspective of food. 

And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things … And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled.
— Mark 6:33-34, 41-42 NKJV

Before he divided the food among the people, Jesus look up and recognized God as the Provider; he thanked him and blessed the food. Jesus saw food as nourishment, a blessing, a gift from God. Food is not your enemy. It does not have to be a source of guilt or an obligation. Each meal we have God is providing substance to keep us going so we can do His will. Every single day you can buy and eat food is a blessing! Recognizing this, you eat each meal with gratitude, saying “Lord, thank you for giving me this food to nourish my body.”

The First Step: Shift Your Mindset

Food guilt is all mental, so the first step to letting go of food guilt is changing your mindset on your body and healthy eating habits. If you really want to stop feeling guilty about eating and start building a healthy relationship with food, you need to come to terms with these universal truths about body confidence:

  1. Your body will recover. One day or even one week of indulgence will not ruin your entire life. Even if you gained weight, you can lose it. So forgive yourself, for the office potluck cookies, that second Christmas dinner plate, for it all. Forgive yourself, and let it go. You cannot do anything to change the past. It’s time to focus on how to change your habits in the future.
  2. Your body is a temple. Before you roll your eyes, let me explain the scripture that inspired this common phrase. “Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:19-20). The writer, Paul, makes an analogy between the human body and temples. God adopts those who believe as his children, saving us from sin. In being God’s child, we also house the Holy Spirit within to guide us in God’s will. So the scripture-backed phrase “your body is a temple,” gives your body greater significance. Your body isn’t just for you. God wants to use you for a greater purpose. That first requires an able, healthy body.
  3. Your body is a precious gift from God.  Your Heavenly Father crafted every fiber of your body, imperfections and all. He crafted it that way so you could fulfill his purpose for your life. For example, perhaps you were born with a chronic condition that affects your speech. With faith in Christ, you push past this condition and win a speech competition. That inspires others with your condition to not let the condition hold them back from their dreams. In this way, you are showing the marvelous work of God. See how God made you on purpose, with purpose? And you can’t do his will if you’re treating your body like trash.
  4. You owe yourself grace. Who’s influencing your eating decisions? Maybe you’re constantly taunted with negative self-talk or you may have a parent criticizing your every meal. It might feel like the world is against you, but God is for you. He doesn’t condemn you. James 4:6 says God gives greater grace. Give yourself the same grace God gives you everyday.

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“You’re not skinny enough. Don't you dare eat that piece of pie. You have no curves. You're too fat to eat that. No one will date you at that weight.”

It's time to let go of the negative self talk. No! Reject these negative thoughts as soon as they enter your head, and remind yourself of these mantras everyday: my body will recover, my body is a temple, my body is a precious gift from God, I owe myself grace. As we enter a new year, I challenge you to speak these mantras everyday in the mirror. Because food guilt, you don’t belong in our 2018.

Additional Resources

Want some practical tools on fighting food guilt at each meal? Check out some of my favorite resources on Youtube:

*I am not a medical doctor or dietician. I am not certified to give medical advice. I am speaking from personal experience and research. Please consult your doctor before changing your diet or exercise routine.

**Photography by Monika Grabkowska and Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

How to Incorporate Self Care into Your Busy Life

As summer comes to an end, school and work are kicking back into gear, and life is about to get crazy!

You don’t look excited. I can see it now: summer road trips turning into rush hour traffic, kids getting ready for school in the morning, late nights in the library studying, missing dinner to do overtime at work. Can we just skip to Christmas vacation? To prepare for the chaos, we need a game plan, specifically a self-care game plan.

Self-care practices are regular activities that reduce stress, maintain our short- and long-term health and wellbeing (according to the University of Buffalo). In other words, self care is essential to maintaining wellness in our everyday chaos.

I learned this lesson the hard way my senior year of college. Working an internship three days a week, taking a full course load, trying to be active in two other clubs, and leading a small group, I overwhelmed my schedule with no way out. My days were filled with running from work to school to clubs to homework, barely getting 4 hours of sleep a night. As an introvert, I was socially and physically exhausted. I fell into a bad habit of people pleasing as I used what energy I had to try to please my supervisors and professors. I hated myself for making my schedule that way. Never before had I put so much on my plate that I flat out could not handle it.

Between the negative self talk, fast paced days, people pleasing and lack of sleep, I burned out within a couple weeks. I ran out of all I could offer. I could not be the best intern or student or mentor. I gave 10% effort to everything.  I needed an escape, source of fuel, a rescue boat. I needed self care.

Self care is not selfish. Prioritizing your wellness ensures you are the best you at home, on the job, in school. To my fellow Christians, you need to practice self care to be the best vessel for God’s work. Yes, God calls us to be selfless and care for our neighbor. In order to pour out, we need to be poured into. In other words, you cannot pour out of an empty cup.

Self care shouldn’t be something you do when you’re burned out, tired and ready to give up. Self care needs to be a habit, a part of your daily routine to help you get through the stress of everyday, so you avoid burnout.

Self care needs to be a habit, a part of your daily routine

Finding the BEST Self Care Habit for You

How did I find time for self care my senior year of college? First, I talked with my mentor, who asked what should have been simple question: “What do you like to do for fun?” I had no clue. I hadn’t had fun in that long. So like type A person I am, I made a list:

Activities I Enjoy:

  • Cooking a new recipe while listening to a podcast
  • Reading a good thriller
  • Taking a walk in my neighborhood
  • Watching cooking videos on Youtube
  • Journaling my prayers to the Lord in my devotional time

From here, my mentor helped me find pockets of time in my day to incorporate self care. No matter how busy you are, you’ll be surprised how much free time you have, whether it’s your metro commute or the two minutes waiting for your coffee to brew in the morning or your walk to class, etcetera.

Now, it’s your turn. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing for fun. Let’s take your list and align it with a few guidelines.

The best self care habit for you is...

  1. Nourishing/Healthy: Your self care habits need to be healthy for your body, mind and spirit. Your practice shouldn’t be something that could hurt you over time. For example, you could eat your feelings away a pint Ben and Jerry’s, but that won’t build you up and sustain good spirits in the long run.
  2. Cost-effective: Your self care habit doesn't have to be a shopping spree, in fact, it doesn't cost money at all. Pick an activity you can afford to do everyday
  3. Mindless: Allow your mind to turn off and not be stimulated. This may require disconnecting from social media.
  4. Simple: Don't attempt a five-course meal or a 20 mile run, unless that's your thing. Keep your habit simple for easy satisfaction.
  5. Repeatable: Pick an activity you can easily do everyday with little effort.

Still can't think of a self care habit? Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Seven Summer Self Care Ideas

  1. Alone time: When’s the last time you stopped everything and checked in with you? Everyone can be recharged by alone time. “But I’m an extrovert” isn’t an excuse here. Have a mental check-in with yourself. What has happened in your life recently? What is coming up next? What are your current concerns? Acknowledge these thoughts and feelings.
  2. Pamper yourself: A little beauty treatment never hurt, whether it’s painting your nails, a mani-pedi, face mask, or a long bubble bath #treatyoself
  3. Talk with a friend: Do what you enjoy with the ones you love. Catch up with your parents, best friend, sibling, mentor, or a friend you haven't seen in a while. Now’s an excuse to visit your favorite coffee shop or go old school and give him/her a call.
  4. Escape in nature: Before the weather turns cold, take advantage of the summer sun. Find your local park or hiking trail. The Lord’s presence is palpable in his Creation, from the gentle breeze to the bright summer flowers.  
  5. Journal: Empty your mind and put your thoughts on paper. Check out my article on the benefits of journaling.
  6. Sleep: Sometimes physical rest is exactly what we need. Maybe you need to go to bed early tonight or take a quick snooze. You’re never too old for a good nap. #noshame
  7. Walking/Driving: Take a step away from the stressful situation. Go for a walk or drive with no destination in mind. Blast your favorite playlist, and let your mind go blank. 

Want more self care ideas? Check out Hey Girl Podcast, starting with their Self Care mini-episode

How to Make Peace with Food through Intuitive Eating

Who’s hungry!? Comment below the last meal you loved!

As fun as these dogs are, can you remember the last time you ate a meal alone? Truly alone--without another person or your cell phone or watching Netflix. When’s the last time you ate without any distractions? 🤔😳😣  I've got nothing. Guilty!

In our everyday busy schedules, we love to multitask, especially with food; whether it's scrolling through Facebook at lunch or eating popcorn during a movie or drinking coffee while driving, we do it all the time. However, multitasking during meal time leads to mindless overeating. For me, this is especially true when sweets are involved. Have you ever eaten an entire a box of cookies or bag of popcorn without realizing it? Mindless eating happens when we don’t focus on our food during mealtime.

Key to a healthy diet, mindful eating--more commonly known as intuitive eating--teaches you to listen to your body and be present at each meal for maximum satisfaction and awareness. You eat and select foods based on your body's natural signals. Eating mindfully can help you practice portion control, stop emotional eating, discover food insensitivities, and recognize your body’s hunger and satiation cues. Overtime, you will become more in tuned with your body knowing when you’re actually hungry, what food makes your body feel good, how much you can eat, and when you feel full.

Key to a healthy diet, mindful eating teaches you to listen to your body and be present at each meal.

4 Tips to Start mindful Eating

  1. Before your meal, drink water to satiate any thirst that may be mistaken for hunger.
  2. Avoid eating snacks out of their containers as they often contain more than one serving. When you buy bulk-packaged snacks, such as a bag of chips, section out the portions. You can do this by dividing the food into containers/bags or pouring out a section
  3. Take breaks during your meal, and check in with your body. Do you still feel hungry or full? Do you need to go back for seconds or stop here?
  4. When eating at a party or buffet, survey all the food choices before you make a plate so you take what you really want and avoid picking up everything.

Why Did I Start Mindful Eating? The Biblical Basis

A few months ago, I abstained from refined sugar for over 40 days as a part of Lent. This sugar detox helped me understand my cravings. A lot of times I craved sugar because I was feeling restless at work and needed to do something. Other times, I was still hungry from not eating enough in my last meal. I also realized how foods refined sugar are so addicting, and nutritious foods give me greater satisfaction with my meals. Learning these lessons, I incorporated more raw fruit into my diet.

The experience also changed my perception of sweets & food in general. During this detox, I read through the book of Mark, including the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand in Mark 6.

“And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.
So He began to teach them many things ...
And when He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. So they all ate and were filled.”
— Mark 6:33-34,41-42 NKJV

Before he divided the food among the people, Jesus look up and recognized God as the Provider; he thanked him and blessed the food. Even though they only had two fish and five loaves of bread, Jesus fed and fulfilled each of those five thousand people not only with the food, but his words of hope and life. Here, we see how Jesus saw the multitude as sheep looking for a shepherd. He could tell the people were hungry for more, and he showed how God would provide everything they needed.

In this passage, Jesus demonstrates food is nourishment, a blessing, a gift from God. Food is not your enemy. It does not have to be a source of guilt or an obligation. Each meal we have God is providing substance to keep us going so we can do His will. Every single day you can buy and eat food is a blessing! Recognizing this, I eat each meal with greater gratitude, saying “Lord, thank you for giving me this food to nourish my body.”

As my food philosophy evolves, I continue to pursue a healthier relationship with food by making small changes, such as swapping white rice with brown rice or lettuce with spinach, buying more in-season fruit, and getting second helpings when I still feel hungry.

One of my most recent changes is eating meditation by the Simple Habit app. I tried it on a whim, not even with a real meal. I was eating crackers late at night. Through this meditation, I realized I wasn’t really hungry, and put the food away. Mindful eating meditation has helped me practice self control and resist emotional/boredom eating.

How Can You Try Mindful Eating Meditation?

Try mindful eating during your next sedentary meal, meaning don’t try this when you’re eating on the go. Choose a meal you really enjoy. Find the quietest place possible. Put your phone away and any other distractions. Once you sit down with your food, follow these seven steps from Simple Habit.

  1. Look at your food. What are the colors and shapes?
  2. Touch your food with your hands and/or utensils.
  3. Smell your food and name each one.
  4. How do you feel about your food? (mentally and physically) Are you excited, ravenous, happy? Or do you feel indifferent, sick, faint? Do you want to eat this meal? Why or why not?
  5. Pick up your food with your hands and/or utensils. Let the food hover outside your mouth. Anticipate your first bite. Touch the food to your tongue. How do you feel now? Do you sense feelings of wanting or impatience?
  6. Chew your first bite slowly. Notice the textures. Try to name each flavor. Is your food, salty, bitter, sour, etc.
  7. Acknowledge and release your feelings. Find gratitude for this food as nourishment. Now, take your next bite.

For the full guided meditation in the Simple Habit app, go to http://simplehabit.com/eating-meditation.

Learn More About Mindful Eating

Want to learn more about intuitive eating? Here’s some additional resources and articles:

Photo by Ali Inay on Unsplash