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Apr 20, 2007 09:30 AM

Food, Guilt and Health ...

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?

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  1. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. 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.

        1. 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.


          3 Replies
          1. re: ipsedixit

            Exactly. It would completely ruin a good experience by feeling guilty about it. I think it's a good philosophy for life in general.

            1. re: ipsedixit

              <applause for ipsedixit>

              The only dish that even gives me pause is alfredo because there's no way to make "just a little" alfredo sauce. Otherwise, no, never think about it.

              1. re: Panini Guy

                The key around that is just not to make it every day. I rarely make it but when I do, I completely enjoy it and refuse to feel guilty about it--use homemade noodles, great cream and cheese. Plus, when it's that rich, for me, I don't eat that much of it.

            2. 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.