It's an important emotion for kids. When this happens so many times, a child will realize that guilt sucks, and that the best way to avoid guilt is to always try your best to do the right thing. Guilt can help make people do the right thing; it can be a powerful motivator towards goodness.
Mom was the queen of guilt. (She was great at reminding me about how guilty I would feel if I didn't go visit my grandparents, for example.) I used to resent Mom's guilt tactics. Now I'm thankful for them, because I often choose to be selfless because of her instilling that behavior in me when I was young.
Two things that Mom never guilted me or my brother about: Food or exercise.
She never once told us that we would really regret eating that cookie, or really regret not getting on the bike for an hour.
Nope. Not once.
You know what gave me the stupid idea that I should feel guilty about how much I eat and exercise? The dieting industry. And whose advice would I rather take, Mom's or the dieting industry? I'm going to go with Mom.
So for my first step in getting over my diet addiction, I am going to work to end the guilt. No more guilt about eating or exercising.
I have no food rules right now. I am not focusing on anything other than "no guilt". I am trying to not overeat, and also trying to eat healthy foods every day, but those are not my primary focus right now. On the occasions that I overeat, or eat junk food, or on the days that I skip the gym and heath food completely, I am trying to not feel any guilt.
It may seem stupid to give up the guilt, because I'm quite overweight right now. If I don't have guilt urging me to put down the donut, won't I eat all 12? If I don't have guilt urging me to go to the gym, won't I stop exercising for weeks at a time? If I don't have guilt telling me to track every single calorie I eat and exercise, won't I gain even more weight, and won't I definitely never lose weight again?
Honest, I don't know. It scares me to give up the guilt, because I can't remember how it felt to live in a world without food and exercise guilt. I know that I didn't have this guilt until age 11. I'm trying to listen to my inner child. And also, asking myself this question:
Where has guilt over food and exercise gotten me?
It has brought me to where I am today in regards to food, exercise, and my body. It has made me unrecognizable in pictures every 6-12 months, constantly ballooning up and shrinking down. It gave me an eating disorder (or three...). It made me hate my body. It made me think that there is nothing more important in this world than getting smaller. It made me crazy... and that ain't right.
I'm ready to move beyond the guilt and to learn to truly trust myself to make my own decisions about food and exercise, based on anything other than guilt. Maybe deciding to eat oatmeal for breakfast because I like it, and because it makes me feel good. Maybe deciding to go to the gym because I like the way running makes me feel. Maybe deciding to eat a bag of chips because they taste good. Or an ice cream cone because it is so freaking hot outside. Or broccoli because I am hungry and it's about to go bad.
How does guilt affect your eating and exercise?