Melissa Meier is an online and Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.
It’s Monday morning. You had a great weekend with your friends and family. But now you’re beating yourself up about what you ate over the last few days.
You know, that takeaway pizza you on Friday night or the pancakes you devoured at Sunday brunch. Oh, and don’t even mention the Saturday night cocktails.
Sound familiar? Unfortunately, food guilt is a pretty common trap. And it’s something I find quite concerning because it has no place in a balanced approach to eating. But it’s not as simple as clicking your fingers and letting go – it takes a long time to mend a broken relationship with food. So, to give you a helping hand, here are a few things to work on over time to help you say buh-bye to food guilt, for good.
Change the way you talk about food
You’re sure to have heard people referring to food as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Maybe your colleague says they’re being ‘good’ one day by having a salad for lunch, and ‘naughty’ the next because they stopped by the biscuit jar with their morning cup of tea.
This kind of language fuels a negative approach to food – so, here’s your permission to ignore bogus food rules. Take it from a dietitian that food is just food. And all foods fit.
Forget about quick-fix dieting
It’s pretty simple: diets don’t work.
Sure, the latest and greatest fad diet might help you see a few short-term results (I’m looking at you, keto), but more often than not, they’re restrictive and unsustainable.
One of the main reasons that diets eventually fail is that they come with a long list of foods to avoid. While you might be able to muster up enough willpower to stick to it for a period of time, sooner or later you’ll give in to something that’s on the ‘forbidden foods’ list. Then you feel bad about yourself because you blew it (maybe you enjoyed a slice of cake at your friend’s birthday party on the weekend), so you start again on Monday and the cycle repeats again and again – and you never really get anywhere.
My stance is that it’s far more important to focus on building up a repertoire of healthy habits over time, rather than diving in to a major diet overhaul.
Understand that phrase ‘balance’
With all this talk about balance, you might be wondering what the term truly means. And you’ll be pleased to know that my version of balance includes chips, chocolate, ice cream… whatever takes your fancy.
To start with, setting a good foundation is crucial. That means that a combination of wholegrains, lean protein, dairy, fruit and vegetables should be the focus of your diet most of the time.
Then, it’s a-okay to add in ‘sometimes’ foods occasionally and when you truly feel like it (like a weekend pizza night with your girls or a scoop ice cream at the beach). This way, there’s no need to feel guilty about anything you choose because you’ve got the healthy eating basics down-pat.