It’s that time of the year again – Girl Scout Cookie Time! If you have health and fitness goals, you don’t have to say no to your favorite treats. You really can have your cookies and eat them too! Here are 9 ways to stop food guilt so you can enjoy life and eat the cookies.
This post is sponsored by Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. All opinions are my own.
I feel so guilty when I eat sweets
Have you ever caught yourself saying this? Or maybe you’ve heard a friend say it? Unfortunately food guilt and food shaming has become far too common.
Many people set New Year’s Resolutions or begin diets to try to lose weight or get in shape. Some feel that restricting what they eat will help them reach their goal weight or pant size.
But completely avoiding certain types of foods – such as sweets – can backfire.
The more you restrict yourself, the more your brain reacts. By telling yourself that certain foods are “bad” or off-limits, you actually create a psychological reaction that causes your brain to want those foods even more!
I don’t know about you, but that has happened to me far too many times. That’s why I’ve learned to stop labeling any foods as off limits, and I’ve changed my relationship with food instead.
Change your mindset to stop food guilt
Changing the way you look, think, and talk about food can drastically reduce food guilt. When we label foods as “good” or “bad” we are setting ourselves up for failure.
There’s no good or bad food. There’s just food.
Some foods have more nutrition than others. Foods have different amounts of calories, carbs, proteins, and fats. Some foods we should consume a lot of, and some we should only consume in moderation.
Focusing more on how much and how often we eat treats is much more healthy for us – both physically and psychologically.
It’s about balance.
“But Amanda! You share so many paleo and Whole30 recipes! And you talk about clean eating!”
Yes. But I don’t eat that way 100% of the time. I DON’T WANT TO. However, I do include a variety of nutritious foods in my day so that I make sure I am fueling my body.
I also plan for my treats. If I know we will be eating birthday cake and burgers at dinner, I make sure to eat plenty of healthier foods earlier in the day. But I don’t restrict myself and I don’t starve!
I want to enjoy life, and it’s ok if you want to enjoy life too! You just have to change your mindset.
Remove negative phrases from your vocabulary
If you want to stop feeling guilty about enjoying treats (like my beloved Girl Scout Cookies), remove these food labels from your vocabulary:
- “good” foods and “bad” foods
- naughty foods
- cheat meals
- cheat days
In general, I don’t believe in cheat meals or cheat days. I believe in treats. As in “treat yo’self!”
Cheating is bad, mmm’kay? And I’m not a cheater. I’m a planner and I’m a life-liver. I plan to enjoy my delicious Thin Mints and there’s nothing bad or cheating about that!
Remove negative self-talk
Raise your hand if you’ve ever uttered some version of the following:
“I really should stop eating this, but it’s so good.”
“I need to stop.”
“Ugh, I don’t need this.”
“I really shouldn’t. I skipped my workout.”
“Gross, I can’t believe I’m eating this much.”
“I’ve already messed up; might as well eat the rest.”
“I totally blew it.”
“I’m such a failure.”
“Oh well, there goes another diet I ruined.”
Just like labeling foods as “good” or “bad,” when we give ourselves those labels, we have a negative psychological reaction. Feeling guilt over eating a treat just adds stress to our lives.
Allowing yourself to enjoy treats WITHOUT the guilt reduces the chance of bingeing later.
Similarly, food should not be seen as a reward. Telling yourself you deserve to eat this or that because you were “good” with your diet or exercise is not a healthy mindset. Eat mindfully and feed your body what it wants and needs.
Pleasure is healthy
When you eat foods you love, there are chemicals that are released in your brain. These “feel good” chemicals are important for your health.
Allowing yourself to feel pleasure when you bite into that cookie and not guilt is how you increase your psychological health and reduce stress.
Yes – I’m saying eating that cookie really CAN make you feel happy. And that’s absolutely ok! That’s what’s supposed to happen! It isn’t a reason to feel shame or guilt.
9 ways to stop food guilt
By making some changes in the way we think about foods, we can begin developing a healthier relationship with eating. Here are 9 things to remember:
- Fill Your Day With Healthy Choices – eat lots of veggies, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats for nutrition.
- Get Your Daily Exercise – whether you enjoy cardio, yoga, or lifting weights, add loving movement to your body daily.
- Remove Negative Talk – don’t label foods as “bad” or “off limits” and don’t shame yourself for eating or desiring a treat.
- Watch How Much and How Often – rather than avoiding treats entirely, plan for an occasional treat.
- Savor Your Food – take the time to taste and enjoy your meals and your treats. Fully experience the flavors as you chew without distractions.
- No Guilt – make a conscious choice to enjoy the foods you love!
- Let Go of Rules – listen to your body and your brain rather than restricting or rewarding yourself.
- Plan Treats with Your Meals – enjoy your treats as a planned dessert, or incorporate treats with your food (Tagalongs would be delicious crumbled into a yogurt parfait)
- Stop Punishments – if you happen to eat more than planned, think about how you felt before and after eating, rather than punishing yourself with further restrictions.
Associate Positive Thoughts with Treats
To stop food guilt, it isn’t enough to stop thinking negatively. You also have to create positive associations with food.
Our thoughts are like a muscle, and the thoughts we think the most get stronger. Here are ways to buff up those positive thought muscles:
Choose treats that make you happy
When you make a conscious choice to enjoy a treat, it’s best to choose something you really love! We want to really let those pleasure signals work in our brains.
That doesn’t mean eating a “cookie” that tastes like cardboard and has been dipped in faux chocolate. Yuck.
That means if you love Girl Scout Cookies (like me), then EAT THAT COOKIE.
I remember eating Thin Mints and Samoas as a child, and I am excited to enjoy them every year when cookies are available! While I once argued that a serving of Thin Mints was one whole sleeve (I can admit that now), I am now able to enjoy a serving of those delicious cookies without feeling bad about it. Not one bit.
Choose treats with a mission or purpose
As a former Girl Scout, I know how important it is to support Girl Scout Troops. Girl Scouts are involved with the community and develop leadership skills from an early age.
By purchasing Girl Scout Cookies, I know I help provide amazing experiences for them and their troop – and the funds stay local!
I can absolutely enjoy my cookies guilt-free when I know I’m supporting and empowering girls in my community.
Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta
If you’re in the Atlanta area, you can help support Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta too! You can buy cookies online or in person to help these girls do amazing things.
Head over to ShowMeTheCookies.com and try them out. You already know my two favorites – Thin Mints and Samoas – although Tagalongs are close behind with their peanut buttery deliciousness.
Lemon-Ups are making their way into my heart though. They have inspiring messages baked on top, like “I AM STRONG.” That’s pretty motivating – especially when I digest that message AND my cookie with my morning cup of coffee. Just what I need before going to lift some heavy weights.
Stop food guilt. Enjoy life and eat those Girl Scout Cookies!