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Food and Guilt by Rachel Resnick

Food and Guilt by Rachel Resnick

Author: Rachel Resnick

Food and guilt, two concepts we often conflate when we shouldn’t.  Many people experience feeling shameful for the simple and necessary act of eating. Why does this happen? How can we change our perception of food so that guilt never enters the equation at all?

In diet culture we often see this scenario: We tell ourselves we can’t have a certain food because “it’s bad” so in response our mammalian brain starts to feel like it NEEDS that food like a toddler who was told they can’t have their favorite toy.  When you deprive yourself of a desirable food your body begins to crave it more, which means that you eventually will eat it. However, because of the self-imposed restriction you react with feelings of guilt due to your “lack of self-control” around this “bad” food.

How did we decide that food was bad though? In reality, there is nothing innately good or innately bad about any food item. It’s our thin-centric, body obsessive, over advertised, and hyper aware culture that forced this false labeling onto us.  This categorization is based off of someone else’s interpretation of nutritional science and it is how the diet industry continues to thrive.  Some nutritionists and dietitians claim that eating high fat diets are best, some say the key is to cut out all carbs, some say cooked foods are wrong, some say juicing is the only right thing.  There are so many diets and opinions out there… they can’t all be right.  

The more corporate entities dictate what foods are bad or good, the more all of us are left scrambling to figure out how to navigate our own eating amongst the mixed messages. The truth is, “health” means something different for everyone and ultimately food is just the vehicle we use to deliver nutrition and energy to our bodies. Some food may have more magnesium, or less fiber, or more fat, or less sugar – but none of these qualities dictates if it’s good or bad. These labels were put in place by companies who want to shame you into buying their alternative or “solution”. Their sugar fee, fat free, gluten free, guilt free cookies and shakes. This guilt is not inherent, it is manufactured.

So, that’s how food guilt is created.  Now, how do you stop it?

Let’s start with acknowledging that guilty feelings surrounding food have nothing to do with the food itself and everything to do with a contrived perception of the food. 

The first step like with any problem within diet culture is to acknowledge and recognize it as silly and unimportant.  There are better things that should be taking up the space in your brain that you’re currently dedicating to letting yourself feel guilty. Just recognizing that the guilty feeling is not rooted in anything real can be enough to take away its power.

The second step is to honor your hunger. Eat when your body tells you to and more importantly, eat what you are craving with honesty.

Finally, remove your judgement from your cravings. If your body wants a cookie then give it a cookie! There is nothing wrong with it and eating it will not hurt you. Remember that some bodies may need more vegetables one day because they’re craving certain nutrients, some bodies may need a slice of cake because they’ve survived another trip around the sun, some bodies may need a smoothie because it energizes them in the morning, some bodies may need 6 milkshakes because they are recovering from an eating disorder and need the yummy delicious calories (or because they’re my body every month on my period). In all of those instances none of the food eaten should induce any guilt whatsoever. Food exists only to provide nourishment, comfort, joy, and connection. 

Additionally, once you finally begin to eat what you want without feelings of guilt or shame you will find that you won’t crave them overwhelmingly. When you do release yourself from the burdens of diet culture, you will feel free to eat all foods without those feelings interfering! I used to restrict myself from a lot and when I finally decided to stop restricting, I craved only cake, candy, ice cream, and butter. I let myself have it all and guess what? Eventually I didn’t crave them day in and day out. My body understood that these foods were no longer off limits and would not induce guilty feelings. So now, my cravings are a little more balanced and guilt has no place at the table. 

It takes practice but it can be done, just pick up your spoon!

Big thanks to Rachel for being the first guest author to contribute to my blog! For more insights from Rachel, you can follow her on Instagram by clicking HERE.

Nicole Vranjican

Hey! I’m Nicole and I make practical vegan recipes for REAL life. I cook with simple, easy to find ingredients and I’m passionate about creating delicious plant-based meals that everyone will love!

I hope you enjoy my recipes and videos :) Happy Cooking!

Find me on: Instagram


  1. Kiley Eisenmann
    November 18, 2019 / 3:53 am

    I am so glad that this article was published. I have been battling my food issues and my binge eating disorder. I have been to counseling and went though Bariatric surgery last October. This was so freeing to me and did more for me than an 8 week counseling session. Since becoming vegan 2 weeks ago I have found you and your channel and blog my vegan foundation. I am a foodie and just love your recipes. I want you to know that YOU are making a difference. You will never know how much you mean to my journey.

    • Nicole
      November 19, 2019 / 6:20 am

      Hey Kiley! I’m so glad that you’re in a good place now! I think it’s great that you went to counseling and I would recommend that you continue to do that while transitioning into veganism. Veganism is not only about food, but it does involve a change to your diet, so please keep in mind that a change like this can be triggering and make sure you have a professional looking after you 🙂 That being said, I love being vegan and I feel it’s helped me heal in many ways, so I really hope that you have the same experience. Thank you so much for the encouragement and support! It means the world 💚 Hope you’re having a great day!

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