Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Guilt Eating

Why is it we can excuse eating badly if it saves someone else's feelings?

We've all been there right? Someone offers you some food and to save their feelings we can come up with a plethora of excuses as to why its ok to eat it.

Since I started my diet and being strict with myself this is something I've seen crop up time and time again. I started to see a bit of a pattern forming and it really got me thinking about how this can affect or even de-rail your diet.

The first example I remember of this in recent weeks was when the family birthdays started. We were due to go for a family meal at my in laws for my nieces birthday. Like all good grandmothers, she'd prepared a lovely buffet for us and gone to a lot of effort. Of course I never would have wanted to offend her but I was probably only just over a month into my diet and it was the day before I was due to be weighed. As it was a buffet I managed to get away with sticking to the things I knew wouldn't be too bad for my diet and when the cake came out I specifically asked for a very small slice so I could still partake but not do too much damage. And of course I did my exercise before we went round. Disaster averted!

There were other incidents similar to this, one such was when my grandmother did a spread for a family gathering and I took my own packed lunch to it! Yes, I felt incredibly guilty tucking into my own food sat right next to the food my gran had lovingly prepared, but she took it with good grace, thankfully!

The next example that stood out was when we went out for a family meal. I was fortunate enough to be being treated to the meal and I felt so guilty looking at the menu and realising there wasn't much I could actually eat. At this point I was 2 weeks from my first goal target and was doing so well I just couldn't contemplate damaging my diet. When someone is treating me, I always feel like I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth and would appear ungrateful if I eat next to nothing (I wouldn't go to the extreme of ordering the most expensive thing on the menu but I hope you get my point). No one else was ordering starters so I just ordered a main (a salad) and assumed that everyone else would just have a main as well. Of course at the end of the meal everyone else chose a dessert but I opted out. It was a little frustrating for me as had I known they were having desserts I would have felt less guilty about having a soup starter and probably would have felt more like I had had a treat.

However, that did teach me a lesson about eating out and to always go with what I know I can have and enjoy without worrying about other people. That I shouldn't feel guilty about having a salad if that's what I want and always go for a starter instead of dessert! The other people at the meal certainly didn't feel guilty about enjoying their desserts while I sat there with nothing - and nor should they, the diet is my choice, not theirs.

Another occasion that came to my attention were the birthday cakes in work. I don't know how the tradition started but in every office I've worked in its obligatory that you bring in cakes when its your birthday for everyone else to eat. Since I started my diet there have been 2 birthdays plus my own. The first lady to have a birthday brought a large homemade cake to be sliced which was an excellent choice in my opinion as I was able to ask for a very small slice so I wouldn't offend or damage my diet. The next lady I think I unfortunately did offend by refusing the lovely Danish pastries she had brought in but she was also on a diet so I hope she understood. For my own birthday I took in little bite size cakes that people could have as much or as little of as they chose - I did enjoy a couple myself.

There are so many other examples of incidences like this where guilt is an excuse to eat - I was given some chocolates as a gift from a patient at work, I didn't eat them but felt incredibly guilty about not doing so. Before I started my diet, I was stuck in a cycle of my husband kindly buying me the naughty treats I enjoy to cheer me up and me eating them so I didn't feel guilty about rejecting his little gifts. Someone else cooks you a meal that you know is bad for your diet and you feel you have to eat loads of it instead of a small portion just to show its appreciated. I could go on and on.

It seems to me there really is only one way around it. To either find a compromise or just say no. You shouldn't feel guilty about refusing when the person offering obviously won't feel guilty about the potential damage to your diet. Your diet will not even enter their head 9 times out of 10, and as I said before, nor should it - its not their diet. Once you explain, most people who genuinely care about you will appreciate your reasons and understand. And to be perfectly honest, if they don't understand then they don't care enough about you or your feelings - so don't feel guilty about theirs.

To finish, here is an example of why you should say no to guilt food. By doing so myself (amongst other things) I have now lost another 2lbs this week despite it being my birthday week, which brings me to a total of 25lbs lost since New Year. Had I given in to the guilt, I probably wouldn't be able to say that. I like to think that those people I might have offended a little bit (but probably didn't) appreciate the hard work I'm putting in and support me wholeheartedly. If not, then its a shame but I've still lost 25lbs, and that good feeling really does override the guilt.

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