Food, Guilt and Health ...
- PaulF Apr 20, 2007 09:30 AM
Do health concerns ever reduce your enjoyment of what you are eating?
They do for me.
I'm not sure how to articulate this.
But there are times when I'm eating a pastrami sandwich or some cookies or even scrambled eggs and I feel bad about it after. And it's not just limited to those foods. I eat them and I start thinking about the calories or the fat or the carbs or the salt or the cholesterol and I start to feel guilty or that I'm doing something wrong and that feeling diminishes the pleasure I get from the food. And if I'm not going to enjoy something that's "bad" for me -- then what's the point. The whole point of eating something that might be unhealthy is that the pleasure of eating it has a value that outweighs the negative benefits.
I think part of the problem is that I'm not in a mode of exercise right now. I haven't gone for a run or worked out in a while -- I never like to work out, sometimes I just get into it for the benefits. And when I'm working out or going for a run five times a week, I do feel less guilty about what I'm eating.
There is another difficult to explain layer to it. When I eat something "unhealthy" sometimes it makes me feel unhealthy. Maybe I'm a wacko, but I sometimes can "feel" my blood pressure going up after eating a salty dish, I can feel sluggish and crappy after eating a piece of chocolate cake.
Partly, I think I'm trying to work out my feelings here -- being less than clear.
Does anyone else every feel these things?
I definitely feel it after a big burger or a piece of cake or something like that. But you hit the nail on the head when you mentioned what kind of exercise regimen you're currently engaged in and how that affects your attitude towards eating. When I'm working out regularly, unless I'm trying to hit a specific weight, I'll watch my diet but will definitely splurge at least once or twice a week. I work out to feel healthier and look better, but also so that I can take "the hit" from having a double cheeseburger with bacon and avocado on sourdough bread with seasoned curly fries and a beer. I'd rather work out and suffer through that than ever give up my favorite foods.
I think it's natural to be at least somewhat concerned with what you eat, especially as we get older. There's so much emphasis on caloric/fat/cholesterol/carb/etc content in food that it's difficult NOT to have that ever enter our minds. But I'd be willing to bet that unless someone has a specific condition, concern, or goal, they wouldn't care about how many carbs that sandwich has if they would just exercise regularly.
It is not uncommon for heavy foods to make you feel heavier. I think most people have had that lethargic feeling after a turkey dinner. It's not just the triptophyn that makes you sleepy, it's the overeating.
In terms of guilt, you aren't alone on that either. If you eat something fatty or salty, make sure it is an actual decision and not just a 'gut' reaction. There's nothing wrong with feeding a craving. And yes, exercise is key to looking and feeling healthy.
Moderation, variability and focus.
Everyone who cares about their health feels guilty when they eat "unhealthy" foods. If that is a 24/7 schedule you deserve to feel guilty. If it's a 1-3 per weeker, I view it as a no biggie.
Five years ago, Jfood diet was two fried on a roll with cheese and bacon, some form of burger with cheese at lunch and some gorgeous gooey dinner followed by ice cream. Jfood had an great metabolism for 46, but still put on some weight and felt lousy. I made a life decision to cut back. Today I feel good, exercise 3-5 days a week and have a bounce in my step but not my gut.
Last night a little Bolognese with pasta, and dessert was a couple of oranges. Tonight the jfoods are going to one of our favorite restos with friends. So today was 40 minutes of cardio, grilled chicken on Portugese roll withe lettuce tomato and honey mustard, so tonight the menu is wide open.
So you need to balance the "unhealthy" with the "healthy". Do I have guilt when I have my Bolognese or hot dogs, yup, but I close my eyes and enjoy. Tomorrow's another day and as long as I feel healthy and the scale is +/- 2 pounds, i just enjoy as much as i can.
Whenever I eat anything -- be it good or bad (whatever that means) -- it's always a conscious decision. Something that I have CHOSEN to do.
So, for example, if I decide to eat a cheeseburger with fries, it's because I've decided to do so, and before deciding to do so, I make myself aware of the fact that (1) it probably isn't the healthiest thing in the world for me; (2) it is high in calories; and (3) it might make me feel sluggish for a couple of hours (or days).
Having accepted those consequences and still deciding to eat the cheeseburger, I don't have any feelings of guilt.
But that's just me.
If I didn't run and lift weights I could never eat and drink what I do. I never ever feel guilty about eating and drinking; but always feel bad--physically and mentally--if I don't work out. The exception is when I travel. I used to beat myself up when I couldn't work out on trips. No more--just one of life's costs.
No health concerns here, and I probably wouldnt alter my diet if I did. I also never feel guilty about foods I eat. I pretty much live for today.
I eat, and drink what I want, alot of red meat, crab legs, lobster, ribs, butter, carbs, caffeine, sugar, beer, and tequila. I dont work out, other than my weekly 3 hour lawn mowing sessions, and feel good at age 37. I have only gained maybe 10 pounds since I graduated high school in 1988...
1. There is certainly a mind-body connection - I am in public health, not medicine, but I do recall reading articles that mention various illustrations of this.
2. I completely agree with everyone else's posts about balance - feeling guilty won't help anything, but balancing with healthier foods will. If you're going to eat that cheeseburger, save up for it and enjoy EVERY MORSEL, then get back on track!
I gave up deep fried foods this year. No "real" reason; I work out quite a bit, absolutely no cholesterol problems. Just cuz I turned 40, I guess, I felt like I had to give up "something"... Yay for 40!
Still eat lots of red meat, drink excessive amounts of beer and bourbon without remorse, don't seek out desserts but won't turn them down. Will I ever fall off the wagon? I don't know... Generally don't feel like I'm missing anything, but once in a while I'll see a nice plate of chili cheese fries and feel sad.
I follow the 90/10 guideline advocated by Dr. John Berardi (not a medical doctor). The idea is that 90% of what you eat has the biggest impact on your health, and the last 10% won't have a large effect (unless you're trying to be a cover model).
So say you eat 5 ~500 calorie meals a day, 7 days a week, that's 35 a week. So if 3 of those are high in saturated fat, refined carbs, etc, your body will be able to process them without a lot of trouble. This doesn't mean you should go eat a 7000 calorie meal 3 times a week as your body would be forced to store the extra calories as fat no matter how little you eat the rest of the time.
Also I try to be "active" every day, real exercise (with intensity, not just pretending) most days or at least a lot of walking. Add that to a healthy, well balanced diet and self control in the face of junk food, vending machines, and fast food, and I don't have to feel any guilt for splurging on an authentic burrito or barbecue or whatever else. The fact that I treat those meals as a "treat" make it easier to enjoy them and I don't just stuff them down my gullet in some attempt to make myself feel better or alleviate boredom. I go out of my way to try excellently prepared food, lard and all, and truly enjoy it.
Since I gave up fast food, cokes, and the like, I feel tremendously better (the weightloss helps there too) so I can see how eating something greasy might make me feel crummy. OTOH last weekend I ate a massive al pastor burrito + lengua taco and didn't feel bad at all. I didn't stuff myself until I thought I would puke either though.
So, maybe it should make you feel a little guilty. Because you know it is not good for your health and you're sacrificing long term for short term. But when you're on point the majority of the time, you know that you're not harming your health by one fried piece of meat, and you can enjoy it pretty easily.
I see you've been following "Precision Nutrition" too. Berardi does offer some pretty sound advice on eating well, though I could heed it a lot better :-)
I still indulge in fast food (pizza and cheeseburgers are my particular vices), but only three times a month. While I used to beat myself up over having greasy stuff, now I look forward to these occasions when I can enjoy something "bad." It's funny how my feelings about food became a lot less complicated once I started eating healthier. A bit of guilt is OK - but don't let it ruin your eating!
I have never really understood the craving for "unhealthy" food unless it's an emotional craving. Sometimes mac n'cheese (and maybe some chocolate) is all I want to soothe me after a long day. However, on a day to day basis, I feel like I eat whatever my body needs. If you know how to cook and have access to fresh food, I don't really understand wanting to eat cheeseburgers all the time. If you do want a cheeseburger, by all means have one. You will not want another one for awhile.
I completely understand feeling crappy after eating bad food, I literally feel less clear-headed after eating fast food. trans fats has been known to affect your brain function, and there are pretty high levels in what we think of as "junk food." It could have something to do with the processing of these foods that makes us feel out of it. Think of it this way: there's a reason you feel like crap, your body doesn't like that kind of food. Try satisfying cravings for healthy food without going all out in terms of what is considered "healthy" i.e. a good salad has plenty of olive oil and salt.
Fara, you're definitely on to something. The key is being able to ACCURATELY identify what your body needs/wants and why (think: biological vs emotional). My goal is NOT to sound preachy but...I read a really good book called "Intuitive Eating" that helped me learn to identify the difference between emotional issues and biological hunger. Once you are "at peace" with food you can really have a piece of cake or an apple and feel okay about either with the knowledge that you paid attention to what your body was telling you. Geez, I hope this post was okay - if not, sorry!
fara,I totally agree! After feasting on cake and cookies (and carbs and sugars
in general),for the excuse that" I am studying right now",afterwards I feel really stuffed and I don't feel like my brain can function anymore! The best thing is to have your desserts occasionally and snack on fruits ,nothing beats a cold plate of sliced peaches and oranges and apples straight from the freezer as a snack to keep you studying on the night of an exam.
I've just recently taken a class in nutrition and the instructor, an RD (registered dietician), made the point that there are no "bad foods" there are just choices that may be better. If everything you eat is high in fat, simple sugars and sodium, well, you probably want to try and fill up on more fresh fruits and veggies on a daily basis. The key to a healthy diet is a good balance. A pastrami sandwich once a week is not going to kill you unless you are on a medically prescribed diet that limits your sodium or protein. And carbs are not the bad guy. In a healthy diet, the majority of your calories should come from carbs.
Maybe part of the crappy feeling is that you've overeaten, as others here have pointed out. A big problem lots of folks have is in portion control. If you need two hands to hold up the cake plate you may want to take a smaller slice.
Food should make you feel good. When I feel guilty about food 100% of the time it's because I ate too much, not because of the particular food I ate.
And, by the way, your blood pressure *could* rise after eating something really salty, but it wouldn't happen immediately after eating it.
Right, but walking a flight of stairs, holding your breath and stress increase your blood pressure because your heart is working harder (to bring more blood to your moving muscles, to attempt to compensate for the lack of O2, and to get you the heck out of there-in that order). Salt increases your blood pressure by, in short, increasing the amount of fluid in your body, particularly your blood vessels. The heart is working harder to move all the excess fluid, but not in a good way if you have a high blood pressure, heart or kidney disease. Drinking lots of water will just,uh, add more water to the problem, though I suppose it will, eventually, balance out.
I don't feel guilty about what I eat. Sometimes I feel guilty about being a pastry chef, like it's too frivolous a use of my capabilities, sugar treats for the relatively rich. At the same time, the idea of desserts being 'sinful' bothers me. There's nothing sinful about a few bites of something handcrafted and delicious.
Nope. Not while I'm eating it. Don't eat food I consider unhealthy - highly processed or fast food/chain restaurant. Chocolate cake is not unhealthy to me if the ingredients have integrity - real butter, chocolate etc.
When I over eat to the point of being uncomfortable, then I feel guilty for the over indulgence - the point being - the food isn't bad - I ate too much of it.
I know exactly how you feel PaulF. I'm also tired of the preachy people on here who claim to never eat anything bad for them and to never ever eat anything processed or fast food or unhealthy and for the life of them they just don't see how anyone could ever do such a thing. I call BS!
I've been going to the gym on a regular basis for the last four months. But the last two weeks have been really busy and I haven't gone to the gym. This past week I have felt guilty about eating bad foods. We had gyros yesterday and I didn't fully enjoy due to the guilt factor.
When I was going to the gym on a regular basis I never once felt bad about what I was eating. I'll be back at the gym this week!
Yikes!! I didn't want to sound preachy, I swear! I guess with the overall mind set that no single food is "bad," and that moderation is key, one need not feel guilty about eating something, or a particular meal. Weeks of poor choices or exercise neglect however yeild appropriate feelings in my opinion. Call it guilt, call it the need to hit the gym, or the need to drive past the drive-thru, call it what you want, but I'd be hard-pressed to say we don't all experience it in one form or another
What gets me is the idea that avoiding "chain restaurants" somehow means you're avoiding unhealthy foods. Many many one off restaurants use the same products as many chain restaurants. Restaurant food tends to be high in fat, it tastes better. The foods tend to be high in salt, it tastes better. A few restaurants are dedicated to "healthy" food and specifically try to serve food that is lower in fat and calories and sodium but that's still comparatively to other restaurants.
Guilt really shouldn't come with food or eating if you accept responsibiity ahead of time for what you're eating. Ultimately, except for perhaps Oreos which are basically transfats held together my saturated fats, there isn't much in the way of food that has absolutely zero redeeming value. Even McDonald's burgers have protein. I really do think its a matter of thinking about what we do before we do it and accepting the consequences of our decisions. That's true of many things having nothing to do with food, too.
I feel guilt . . but it's usually related to portion size, not the food item itself.
My husband & I have a bite management approach and I get hard on myself when I waste bites by eating something that didn't taste good or that I just plain didn't need to eat. The only thing I really care about is the number of calories a day . . . never think about fat or sodium or sugar. Fortunately, I don't care for sweets much and get crabby if I don't eat brocolli a couple times a week.
I don't feel guilty if it's a scheduled meal because usually I will have eating to balance it out before and after. For example, I had Buffalo Wings for breakfast yesterday, didn't feel bad at all. Though, I did feel bad about munching down more of the side of fries than I intended to because it was mindless eating.
Had a lot more guilt when I wasn't exercising. Now, I separate food into "food" and "fuel". Fuel meals are meals that are designed first for nutrition and secondly for taste i.e. two boiled eggs for brekkie taste ok, but I'm primarily eating them to power my cardio. "Food" is for food that is 100% for taste - like the ethiopian we had for lunch on Saturday, it's pretty healthy, but I was eating it for flavour.
Yes, but I try to put it in perspective. If I DENY myself too much, that makes me feel bad also.
I guess I'm lucky...I work with a wellness person and after the first couple of weeks when I took my meal logs in, she said "Jim, you're denying yourself... you can eat quite a bit more than what you currently are".
The thing is, you don't want to set yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations. You're only human. When you fall off the wagon, you pick yourself back up and get back on...
Like every time I used to set an exercise goal in the past, I would inevitably blow it, guilt would set in, and it would work against me. Now my attitude is "This is what would be good for me to do, therefore, I will do the best I can..."
Plus, I see it as a balancing act... I would rather live to be 70 enjoying the occasional beer and chili than 80 drinking spring water and eating tofu.
I might feel differnetly when I'm 69 years old, though : )
re: Jimmy Buffet
lucky me, i like spring water and tofu and i don't like beer or chili.
the ideal diet doesn't put anything out of bounds, it just restricts how much you have. personally I think that the ideal diet is the most painful one: counting calories. If you count calories, you can eat anything as long as you track how many calories it has and stay under your daily limit more or less. it's a pain in the ass, but after a while you start to get a feel for what foods have the most calories and then you mentally avoid eating as much of them and then you become one of those annoying people that brags about how you eat whatever you want and still dont gain weight.
I got on this diet just so I could keep track of how many veggies I was eating and also as a show of support for my SO who is on a calorie restriction diet. I eat everything as long as I write it down and keep track of the calories. For instance, I ate a whole medium veggie supreme pizza by myself and still lost weight because the whole pizza was 1600 calories and that is still lower than the calories i'm supposed to eat for the day. Of course the only other thing I ate that whole day was a thing of mountain dew because I felt a little sick from all that pizza but i digress.
prevention magazine had a great little insert in their latest mag that showed how people could eat at those chain restaurants and still keep their calories in check. Mostly the tips were stuff like split portions and don't get cheese and stuff like that.
re: Jimmy Buffet
My dad is now 93 but had start watching what he ate when he was 89 (yeah, it's sort of funny and weird). My mom was very good about cooking all the right foods, but she passed away when he was 79. For the next 10 years, he'd have me buy him Dreyer's ice cream, potato chips, pound cake, all sorts of stuff that my mom wouldn't ever have around the house - his doctor was of the mindset that my dad is old and should enjoy his food, so I didn't really want to go against it; plus explaining nutrition to an 80+ year old is futile. When he turned 89, he had all sorts of health issues, so now he's on a no-salt, no-oil diet, low cholesterol diet. It sort of sad because at that age, no one should care; however, he tends to blame people, so when he has breathing problems, such as due to eating a salty meal, he'll say, "I didn't ask that the caregiver to make me that salty dish. They did it because they're trying to kill me off!" So it's back to "diet" food again!
My dad was exactly like yours, except that he had very little health issues but was paranoid about what he ate and restricted himself to the extent that he was practically malnourished. Sadly, when he died at 88, it was due to an infection he caught while hospitalized for a fall. Go figure....
Some people live to 90+ and did so by living on bacon and aggs. Some pepple live on tofu and green tea, and die at 45. It seems to me that this paradox (and multiple sets of paradoxes) isn't the issue. The OP is talking about guilt. And guilt can be a powerful motivator if channelled correctly.
If you really feel guilt about your diet, perhaps try someting new. Just one thing, maybe. Maybe one veg. meal a week. See how you feel. If the pastrami is making you feel that guilt, then try a chopped salad. Or a turkey breast sandwich. See what happens. Small steps, and then paying attention to what and how you feel, might make a difference. We all know if/when we are doing something that is, for us, wrong. Try changing that wrong for a week or two and see what happens.
Who knows, it may become a habit to eat in a way that makes your body feel healthy. And that's different for all of us.
Like others have said, I think it's about guilt, balance in your life, and paying attention to what and why you're eating. Guilt is a major problem and can snowball into an eating disorder: If you don't exercise at all or eat something bad, you might feel guilty about it, and to feel better you might turn to an unhealthy but comforting food, which will make you feel more guilty, and so the cycle continues.
Take a step back and look at your life and relationship with food from a broader perspective. If you aren't even enjoying the so-called "guilty pleasures" due to too much guilt, it's time for change. When you reach for something unhealthy, ask yourself how you think you'll feel after the few minutes of eating is over. Similarly, when you go to the gym don't focus on the 30 minutes of effort, think about the longer term benefits.
Also, learn to enjoy the pleasures of good healthy food. Some people think healthy means boring, unsatisfying food, but that it just not true. I'll take a perfect peach over a piece of chocolate cake any day.
Remember, if you're gonna get suspended for fighting, you might as well knock out a tooth.
Bottom line, saying you feel guilty does nothing...either you wanna or you don't.
Make no excuses.
Eat well everyday and exercise...I don't mean to run a 10k everyday, just don't be lazy.
Cuz when your daily habits are healthy, you don't have to worry when you splurge on a 16 course tasing with wine pairing.
I happen to be a personal trainer who does not diet, does not exercise excessively, and I have no history of any eating disorders (unless you consider my obsession with bacon a disorder)...my clients always ask me why I'm not huge when they hear about all the fine dining I do...well here it is: think about it, when you see unhealthy/overweight people eating, do you ever really see any pleasure on their faces, do they ever SLOWLY saver each bite, do they really fully chew each bite before the next one...I know it sounds harsh, but really.
I know, there are a ton of thin people with the same habits but god only knows what is going on on the inside.
The trick is, enjoy every bite. Feel no guilt. Eat slowly and weigh the pros and cons of the guilty pleasure.
There are nights when I really want Tommy's Chili Cheese fries...no guilt, but I know I wont feel very good the next day but sometimes it really is worth it and I'll just workout a little bit the next day or choose to not eat quite as much cheese ( I do love my cheese but I don't want it on my ass).
I had to make a choice today...work-out between clients or enjoy a quicky with my boyfriend...I chose the man even though I know I have an amzing dinner to go to with my wine/foodie friends tonight that will include tooo much food and too much wine...I intend to eat the F--- outta everything and Drink the F--- outta the wine with no regrets...why? Cuz I chose to eat very clean and light today knowing I can't resisit the butter and bread and that I'll take an extra spin class tomorrw.
Work-out to pig-out and enjoy every bite!!!
We only live once, be healthy everyday so we can enjoy a little bit of decadence every night and we'll live longer to enjoy more amazing meals if we're lucky.
I eat low carb 90% of the time, and when I eat something off my normal plan, I make the choice ahead of time, and try to eat the BEST of the high carb offerings...For example, if I decided I wanted chocolate, I would never buy a candy bar at the movies...Instead, I would opt for a couple of Godiva chocolates etc...Therefore, when I do eat something obviously not good for me, I do not feel the guilt, because it is an every once in awhile thing...
You bring up a good point here, in speaking about the QUALITY of indulgence food.
When I indulge, I take it to the max. If I'm craving chocolate chip cookies, the bag of crappy, processed Chips O'Hoy is pale in comparison to a homemade batch with real butter, eggs, and good chocolate. Frozen TGI Friday's mozzarella sticks & marinara from a box? Blech! Hand-breaded, soft chunks of fresh mozz fried crispy with a homemade spicy tomato & herb dipping partner? Bring it on!
I tend to eat less of homemade, quality indulgences - they're richer and made with whole, real ingredients, which lets me savor my effort, bite by bite. This way, I can really satisfy my craving.
The store-bought, processed crap just seems like it's made to mindlessly go down the hatch - no real eye-appeal, aroma or flavor.
What you said is so true. I've pretty much eliminated standard chocolate bars from my diet simply because I realized that I would eat so much more to reach my satiation point, where I can make a box of truffles last forever. Makes me wonder if it's not just flavor, though certainly that's a large part (Don't faint chowhounds!) or if another factor lies in product value in money or effort. A chocolate mousse you make over 6 hours will be eaten more slowly than one that you purchase in 3 minutes and a $4 chocolate bar will be savored more than a $0.45 bar.
I hear you on the sort of intuitive feeling that your blood pressure is going up after you eat a less-than-healthy meal. I used to feel like this occasionally, but it helped to get some real data, if you will, on my actual health status from a doctor. I went in for a regular check up and she asked me if I'd like to have my cholesterol checked. I thought, "sure!" and had it checked. Turns out that my levels were great -- awesome, in fact, according to my mom who is a nurse. This has helped me not worry that a brie-binge is going to stick with me for life. You might think about getting more info next time you go to the doctor or asking if you can have cholesterol checked or your b.p. numbers explained to you if you don't know what they are or what they really mean (if you don't already know -- don't mean to insinuate that you are less than informed). You can also ask for a general heart health status check of some kind. Come to think of it, I still need more information. We're told all the time how to avoid heart disease, but I would like to know what kind of behavior -- exactly -- produces it, like how many "bad" meals per week produces it versus how many can be written off as harmless because you eat well most of the time. I have no idea.
It also helps that I exercise regularly and that, more than avoiding cheese and the like, has given me the primo cholesterol numbers.... But knowledge is power, I think, especially when it is knowledge about your own body.