Confessions of a Guilty Eater: Why the Holidays Always Make Me Feel Like Sh*t

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a difficult relationship with food. It’s more of a mental battle than a physical one. In my case, I don’t refuse to eat and I don’t force myself to throw it up or anything like that. However, I immediately feel guilty when my plate is cleared and my food is finished. In recent years, sometimes my normal intake of two meals and a snack or two seems too much. 

If I eat as much food as I want one day, I’ll balance it by eating significantly less than usual the next day. It’s a scale in my head: each day should amount to the same, and when it doesn’t, I have to balance it out myself. Taking matters into my own hands seems counterproductive at times because I can’t always “balance” it out. The emotional toll it takes when I feel indebted to my food is enough to make me want to avoid it altogether.  

The guilt I feel stems from a few different avenues of my life: teasing from my classmates throughout grade school, having a larger physique amongst my friend group, living in a family that is constantly on diets and healthily eating—the list could go on. Despite my efforts to change my mindset, the guilt seems to always be there.

Feeling all of this on a day-to-day basis is overwhelming at times, and around the holidays, it’s magnified. With Thanksgiving’s plethora of dishes and Christmas’s multiple meals over a few days, there’s a battle happening on my mental food scale. More often than not, New Year’s Day arrives and I feel like I’ve already failed my goals. 

Turns out, I’m not the only one. According to an article published on self.com, we’ve been taught that bad carbs and salty foods are horrible for us, and so we feel immensely guilty when we eat them quickly and forget to savor it. This can lead to being unsatisfied and reaching for more. However, indulging is a one-time thing, where bad eating habits are repeated over time. Dr. Lori Zanini advises us to “taste and savor the food while also catching up with your family and friends. This method helps us manage our appetites better by listening to our bodies and our hunger cues.” When we are more mindful of what we’re taking in, we’re likely to feel less guilty about it because we’re hyperaware of our body’s needs. 

Family cooking together Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

Eating normal portions slowly around the holidays isn’t going to solve my, or our, guilt when it comes to food. In fact, there’s probably not one single solution that helps with the mental battle associated with eating balanced meals. However, reminding myself that food is a source of energy and nutrition, and that it’s good for us (not an enemy) is a good start. 

This holiday season, and going into the new year, I’m going to try to enjoy the food that I eat and feel happy about it, rather than placing it on a mental scale to feel guilty over.  

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