When you “make it” all week and you feel all the benefits, but you still choose sugar (or whatever your vice) on the weekend. Those times when you do a “successful” whole30, but day 31 comes with a boat of non-compliance and the shame looms like your stomach ache, soon to arrive. You know what hurts your body, you now what makes it tick, you know what makes your skin/stomach/whatever flare, and yet you eat it.
It’s hard. So hard. Arguably harder than not consuming these foods is controlling, or allowing, the feelings that come afterwards. Mitigating the self-hate, loathing, or shame that trickles into our brains is an enormous feat. “Food Guilt” is very real, very hard to cope with, very ingrained, and very detrimental to our health.
This past week I eliminated Gluten/Dairy/Sugar. My body felt better. I weathered Halloween and baking endless treats for a bake sale. I felt great. But then Saturday came, we worked at a craft fair for 10 hours and I foolishly didn’t plan much food. I ate bullet proof coffee for breakfast (getting ready for a craft fair is an unreal amount of work!), didn’t plan lunch, and we worked through till 6:30pm. As we piled our exhausted bodies (10 hours in one place with kiddos…zomg) into our loaded car I knew I was destined to eat… everything. The kids wanted fancy hamburgers (my littlest chose a gluten free bun on a “Bham Burger” AKA: burger, fried egg, ham, shoe string potatoes, and special sauce), I wanted pizza, and we bought both. As we finally made it through our front door, fancy junk food piled high, I proceeded to eat about half of my medium pizza.
It wasn’t the best decision. I felt sick most of the night and next morning. I woke up feeling like I had two options laid in front of me. Two paths:
Guilt, shame, self hate, and a spiral that lasts the week.
Affirmation, moving forward, grace, and a reality check.
Disabling Food Guilt
I try hard to consistently choose grace. Embracing shame only ends in disordered eating methods, self hate, and more choices that don’t feed my body. Moving forward can look different for every person but, for me, it’s best when I pour a cup of coffee, double up on water, and just keep moving forward with my day. Avoid sitting and thinking too much. Avoid mindless eating. And do yoga. Grace, grace is meditation. Thoughtful thoughts. Mantra’s. Hokey, ridiculous, remind myself again and again that “I am not what I eat. I am who I am.” again. And again. Not making my mantras stuck in “succeeding” today (FWIW, I ate sugar and gluten today, thoughtfully and throughly enjoyed at a BabyShower I threw), but instead grounding my mantra and words (or prayers) in embracing who I am REGARDLESS of food choices.
Who I am is not rooted in how “clean” I eat (don’t even get me started on that verbiage, and I apologize wholeheartedly for the years I used it). Who I am is not how Whole30 I am. I am my heart, my opinions, my motherhood, my relationships, and more. Much, much, more, than what crosses my lips. I would rather base my worth on what comes out of my mouth, not what goes in it.
This is a technique I learned in counseling years ago. My therapist encouraged me to “reality check” negative thoughts. To say them, out loud, to a someone you trust. And verify. Are these true? Is this reality? This works for me in body image struggles, food guilt issues, self harm problems, motherhood doubts, and relationship problems.
There is great power in saying the thoughts that reside only in the dark part of your brain. The moment they come to light, it’s easier to hear how cruel and wrong they are. If you don’t feel comfortable saying those thoughts to someone (I highly, highly encouraged doing this with a real life person you trust! But I understand that being incredibly vulnerable and hard), writing them down explicitly and then saying them to a phone recording, and playing it back, is beneficial too. Hearing, in your own words, those thoughts outside of your brain, is a great way to jar them out of you. Remind yourself that NO ONE should talk to you that way, least of all you!
Reality checking food guilt can be a great step towards avoiding it wholesale. I can often feel a thought coming on, and I take it and toss it out.
Would I say that to my friend? Mother? Sister? My daughters? If not, DO NOT SAY IT TO YOURSELF.
Today could have been a nightmare. I’m puffy, inflamed, and know exactly why. But instead I had a wonderful day, full of friends, and closeness. I enjoyed amazing treats. And I trust my ability to balance, grow, and choose better choices for my specific body tomorrow.
Remember, you can choose grace and love and moderation at any point. There is no expiration on when you can embrace, love, and give yourself grace. Any moment is the moment you can reframe those thoughts. And every moment is a chance to.