I am so sick and tired of feeling guilty when I get a little peckish between meals and even more tired of hearing that old refrain “if you want to lose weight you must eat your last meal before 6 pm”. I mean what the hell I am supposed to do if I get hungry? Of course I know in my heart that this is correct but in my line of work and the sort of hours I keep it is almost impossible to stick to a “do not eat after 6pm” regimen and there are definitely those special things that I love to eat but then beat myself up with guilt for eating them. Why do I do this?
On the other hand you are most likely to feel less guilty about certain foods when you eat out side of your social setting—home alone, over worked, depressed etc. This is because we are better able to justify to our selves the little lapses in will power and over indulgence when we are alone more than when we are in a social setting.
Everyone knows what it’s like to feel guilty about some delectable morsel you just couldn’t resist. But as I was doing a Google on food guilt, I was mildly surprised to find out that the experts have created an actual guilt index based on how likely a food is to set off a feeling of foodie guilt.
It goes something like this:
Our feelings of guilt at eating so called forbidden fruits increases proportionally in relation to the pleasure we derive from said food item.
In other words we feel guilt when we indulge in a delectable dessert, so when we imagine feeling bad, we assume the food is more delicious. “If it is so bad why does it feel so good?” And we wonder why it is so hard to stick to a diet!
Of course this is just another symptom of our myopic western society. I have spent many years in the Far East and Asia and believe me. Over there they eat what they want, when they want and how they want and have no food guilt…
Apropos with my own Jewish upbringing we were made to feel guilty about everything but food!
We are also totally confusing ourselves over how we should relate to certain foods with double meanings like “sinfully delicious” or “decadently delightful”. We label a very rich chocolate dessert as decadent (the act or process of falling into moral decay): but as also heavenly (of or pertaining to a divine being).
So does being guilty about eating a food help? Does guilt burn off calories? And as for the whole sinful/decadent/divine thing, I have no idea if giving in to one of my guilty pleasures will lead to my moral decline or transport me to paradise. All I know is that my whole working life, and even before that has been about food and drink and being an unapologetic foodie I struggle a lot with my relationship with food, my weight etc and I’ve found that my mental and physical health gets better considerably when I detach myself from, our culture’s mixed messages and overstatement regarding food.
And all that crap about it being a substitute for a missing emotions or not getting laid enough. Bullshit…when do we most get the munchies? After doing something that’s a little bit edgy right?
Surprisingly enough though cooking and not necessarily eating is my transcendental mantra.
It’s all about enjoyment and satisfaction and whatever brings you pleasure. One of my all time guilty pleasures especially when I am alone (so I don’t have to share!) Are potato chips …I love Kettle Potato Chips (especially Dijon mustard and Honey flavor) and just cannot stop at a few pieces I MUST finish the whole bag. And why do I feel guilty about that? It makes me happy and sad at the same time…does that mean I need a therapist? Maybe! But if we make a list of at least ten things that brings us real pleasure you can be sure that food is somewhere on the list. That’s OK, it tastes good, and it’s comforting and reliable and compared to other pleasure vices, and it is fairly cheap, fast, easy and legal. But when taken to extremes and becomes compulsive it can grow to be like some other vices, addictive, shame provoking and harmful.
We are fascinated by all things foodie, it dominates our very being. From the day we first opened our eyes we cried to be fed, our first pleasure, it comforts, it warms our hearts and feeds our souls.
Bottom line: I don’t want to feel guilty, so I decided that the only thing I need to listen to is my body. If it’s craving something, then I can eat it. I don’t have to weigh up, calculate calories and fixate. My body tells me what it needs, I just need to listen. And then the Food Guilt evaporates.
So if food is one of our great pleasures, then let’s have a good time with it, in its entire sumptuous splendor.
A few tips to help you enjoy your food to the fullest
- When you cook or prepare a meal no matter how simple make it look appetizing and aesthetic. Take that little extra time to elevate it to a gastronomic marvel by simply taking the time to add a little color, add a garnish of freshly chopped parsley to mashed potatoes or add a few slices of grilled red and yellow peppers and red onion to a steak. A sprinkle of paprika and grinding of black pepper on to fried eggs etc. Serve the meal on attractive dishes. Square plates add a modern feel, while oval dishes look trendy. You don’t need to be a 5 star chef to do this.
- Savor it. What was the last really pleasurable thing you experienced? Did you want it to end or just get it over with? Probably not. The same goes for any pleasurable experience, be it watching your favorite sitcom on TV, maybe a shopping expedition or a unforgettable encounter — you don’t want the feeling to end, and the last thing on your mind is rushing. But that’s often what happens when we dine: we rush and gulp down our food, as if our life depended on it. So at your next meal, whether it is just you in front of the TV or dining with friends savor the moment: Take a laidback approach, chew slowly, taste each flavor, feel the textures. Be exquisitely conscious of the entire experience.
- Spice it up. Add extra spice or flavor to the meal. Don’t be afraid to add flavor with garlic, chili, lemon juice, limejuice, chopped chives, curry powder, cumin, cilantro or oregano. And always use fresh herbs.
- Really get into it. It’s almost as if we are scared that if we really get into our food, the gratification will be so overwhelming that we’ll never stop eating. But it’s difficult to relish your food if we just eat for eating’s sake. In fact, go ahead and eat some of those Forbidden Fruits, enjoy a little culinary sin at a leisurely pace. Think about it, why do we like to eat sinful foods (ice cream, chocolate, pizza, etc.)?…. Because they taste good. But if we consume them too quickly then what’s the point? But if we take our time to savor and enjoy each bite then we can get the same great taste, but with less going into our stomach.
- Release the shame and rebel against fast food and fast life. Make your meal a “Slow Food” pleasure, not a thing we do while rushing through our hectic, fast-paced, stressful, chaotic lives. This is a lifestyle that is making us unhealthy, frazzled, and unhappy. We rush through our day, without taking the time to live and enjoy life, we do not look after our relations or ourselves. We can instead, rebel against that entire régime and attitude …just with the simple act of eating slower. Ban Fast Food from your diet as much as possible, find a good reasonably priced local restaurant with great simple home cooked food and become a regular there, or even better yet, cook your own. Learn the recipes of some of your all time favorite comfort foods and cook and prepare them at least 3 times a week and savor your own creativity. Taste life on your terms.
- Love what you eat. If you choose to eat a food you love — food that brings you pleasure — eat it alone, unhurriedly and thoughtfully. Tell the guilt ridden voices of concience in your head that they’re not invited to dinner.
In the end it’s not a sin to love food — to find joy in eating – as long as we keep it in perspective. As for all its sensory pleasures, food is ultimately fuel for the body and the soul. While it can and will gratify our appetite, stimulate our feelings and arouse the senses, it is not a replacement for human contact, achieving our ambitions, exciting exploits or even falling in love but it does add to and even help us guide our way the ups and downs of life’s adventures.