I’ve been seeing lots of posts about eating on Twitter recently. They mainly fall into two types: those who are celebrating their double cheeseburger followed by a tub of ice cream; and those who feel guilty about eating it.
Recently, I was in a pizza place eating my singular slice & 3 sides to myself. There were two women on the table opposite discussing their order. They must’ve agonised over it for 15 minutes. Which pizza topping was the healthiest? Maybe they should ask for it without sauce. Which drink had the least calories?
I think we feel guilty after eating sometimes, because we’ve grown up believing that all food is either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
If you eat ‘bad’ food, you feel like it says something about your willpower, or even your integrity. You’re somehow a ‘bad’ person because you ate ‘bad’ food.
We often run this narrative that we should enjoy ourselves, eat the food, drink the wine, and who cares what the scales say? We talk about confidence in imperfections, and we big up the body positive crew.
And rightly bloody so.
But, then, we also react badly when we ourselves gain weight, or we don’t look the way we want to. Maybe we feel like we haven’t been eating and exercising as we ‘should’. Sometimes it feels like the balance is off, and it makes us really unhappy.
Can we do both?
Can we be healthy and promote looking after ourselves and encourage others to do the same? And, in the next breath, can we polish off a bottle of gin and a 16” pizza on date night?
Will people think we’re so hypocritical if our Insta story on Monday is all green juice and smoothie bowls but, by Friday it’s guess how many brownies I ate today?
I’ve been wondering myself what causes this guilt. Does it come from me and the way I want to feel or look? In which case, are my expectations too high?
I think, if you want to check in on your weight, then great, you have to find a healthy way to do so. Happiness is a complicated and far-reaching thing. It’s a bit of an oversight to base so much of it on one facet of you.
Does your weight, or the way you look as a result of your diet and exercise, influence your personality? Does it make you less intelligent, less funny, or less caring?
That word ‘balance’
I guess a warning sign, for me, is feeling like “I’ve had this wine, I HAVE to go to the gym tomorrow.” Sure, if you can balance things out like that and enjoy doing so, then it’s great.
Remember when I wrote about not wanting to drink as much and people not understanding that it’s a choice I’m happy to make rather than depriving myself of fun? I think that’s what we’re going for here. Eating nutritious foods because you want to. Drinking because you want to. Having a PJ day instead of a gym sesh because you want to.
This is all getting a bit Billie Piper, but you get my point. Is it going to massively take away from the enjoyment of your night out if you can’t drink or if you’re ordering salad and everyone else is on the cheesecake? Maybe try making decisions based on that.
Be kind to yourself
I think one of the best mindset shifts I’ve had is this:
I’ll be eating chips and snacks for a while, then I’ll notice how that makes me feel. Unsatisfied and unhealthy and that’s the point I realise the balance needs redressed. Whereas previously, I would reprimand myself and vow to cut out all fat and sugar for the next week; now, I don’t berate myself for it. I enjoyed those chips and the moment in which I was scoffing them.
If you’ve felt this way, too, I encourage you to get curious. Look at where those guilty feelings come from and try to understand your own expectations.
I’ve found a nice little exercise to get out of that slump, which might work for you. Pen and paper. Write down as many indicators of health and happiness (other than weight) that you can think of. I hope many are applicable to you. If not, which one do you deem most worthy of your time to work on? Which one would give you the biggest ‘return’ on your health and happiness? If that’s weight, then cool, it’s totally personal to you. Regardless of your size and shape, you don’t need to feel bad about wanting to work on your appearance. As long as you’re doing it in a healthy non-obsessive or dangerous way, it’s all good in my books.
To answer my own earlier question about whether people would consider us hypocrites for eating both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods – I certainly wouldn’t. I wouldn’t look at that and think “how can she claim to be healthy when she’s eating pizza?”
But, I think this particular issue is way less how we judge others and more how we judge ourselves.