Comfort Cravings

How to soothe yourself without food—and how to eat healthfully and mindfully

Eat Chocolate Cake, Lose the Guilt

5 steps to guilt-free eating: A new study on guilt & weight loss

Guilt and shame just doesn’t work when it comes to eating. A new study reconfirms what healthy eaters already know.  Guilt does NOT motivate you to eat healthier or more mindfully.  A study published in the November 2013 journal of *Appetite found that subjects who associated chocolate cake with guilt rather than celebration were more likely to report feeling that their eating was out of control. The subjects who associated chocolate cake with guilt (27%) rather than celebration (73%) also were less likely to lose weight over a 3 month period and had difficulty maintaining their weight over 18 months.

Advice for the Day:  Savor the cake, lose the guilt!

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5 Steps to Guilt-Free Eating:  Letting go of guilt is not easy.  Here are some steps to get you started.

1) Be Mindful of Guilt:  Guilt and shame can whisper in your ear like a broken record. Just being mindful of shaming words is the first step to turning around guilt.  If you don't notice it is happening, it's tough to change. When you hear judgmental words, give yourself a gentle mental tap on the shoulder.

2) Replace Judgment with Neutral Words:  Stick with statements like, “It is what it is.” Or, “In this moment, everything is okay.”

3) Get out of the “Good/Bad” Food Mindset:  If guilt plays a big part in your life, it is likely that you are still labeling foods as “good” and “bad.”  Remember, food is just food. The risk of labels is that you judge yourself as good and bad if you eat these foods.  Stick with “healthy” and “unhealthy."

4) Stay in the Moment:  Don’t dwell on the past or worry about the future, cope with this moment.  Move.  Get busy.  Distract yourself.  Breathe deep.

5) Eat Mindfully:  Eating mindfully can help to ensure that you don't overeat and maximize the enjoyment of the food.  Eat slowly, savor each bite, uses all your senses (smell, taste, touch...). 


It's not easy to eat without guilt.  Read my previous post on self-compassion to understand why we are so hard on ourselves.  Best wishes in your guilt-free eating! 

Dr. Susan Albers is a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the new book, EatQ (HaperOne, 2013), Eating Mindfully, 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food.  www.eatq.com

Sign up for her free newsletter on www.eatq.com and get a downloadable guide on how to eat more mindfully during the holidays.

 *Chocolate Cake:  Guilt or Celebration?  Associations with healthy eating attiutdes, percieved behavioural control, intentions and weight-loss, Appetite, November 2013.

Susan Albers, Psy.D., is a psychologist who specializes in eating issues, weight loss, body image concerns and mindfulness. 

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