Tips for Natural Eating V: Resolving the Guilt Factor

Hello out there! I hope you’re having a lovely week so far! In beautiful Victoria, BC the sun is shining, it’s warm and the blossoms are out on the trees. I love it! This week I want share with you a little tool I discovered to deal with the guilt I felt about eating….well….pretty much anything. But first, I must digress. Have you ever had the experience of having a friend or significant other who says one thing and does another? You know, they tell you they’re going to call you at 8 but you don’t hear from them until 9 or maybe even until the next day? Or they say they’re going to do the dishes for you but then they don’t? Or even, unrelated to you, they say they’re going to call someone else, or start an exercise plan or have that confrontation with that person at work and they don’t? Have you ever had someone in your life like that? Well if you have then you know that each time that person commits to doing something and then doesn’t follow through, your relationship with that person weakens because, regardless of whether it’s dishes or a phone call or an exercise plan that person is showing you, with each breach of commitment, that they can not be trusted.We are inclined to ask ourselves to overlook such “small” things and not to be “too sensitive” or “needy” or “demanding” etc. We work hard to talk ourselves out of the feeling of disease in our tummys when a commitment gets broken by someone close to us. And in so doing we force ourselves to detach from our own authentic self and his or her appropriate feelings. We align more with the untrustworthy person than we do with ourselves.  

What message do you think this sends us about our perception of our worth and about our perception of the validity or “okay-ness” of our feelings? Well, it simply reinforces that old old story about you not being good enough or deserving enough of honesty and integrity in your relationships on all levels. It sets you up to expect relationships to lack follow through and to force yourself to accept less than you deserve and need in the way of trustworthiness.

As I’m writing I realize that I could spend weeks on this issue of integrity and the impact of broken commitments and why we settle for them. And I will – but not today. Today, I only mentioned it because I wanted to bring you to conscious awareness of the feeling you get when someone breaks a commitment, regardless of how small, and how those large and small breaches of trust undermine the whole relationship unless they are acknowledged by that person and rectified responsibly and respectfully. Why did I want you to be aware of this, you ask? Well, because, each time you tell yourself that you are going to eat a certain thing or not eat a certain thing, or that you are going to eat only a certain amount or only at a certain time etc. etc. etc. and you don’t follow through on that commitment, you are breaching your own trust in yourself, undermining your own self-esteem and sense of safety within you and setting yourself up for a real tongue lashing from the Drill Sgt. His modus operandi? Wait until you’ve done the deed and then belittle and berate you for hours maybe even days until he believes you’ve worked those extra calories off. Kind of like you might do to someone who breaks a commitment to you or what someone might do to you if they feel you have broken their trust in you. I’m not saying that it’s okay to berate someone for not following through – nor is it okay for anyone to berate you for the same – there are many effective and relationship enhancing ways to speak to voilations of trust and to set about the process of restoring the faith. But, since many of us haven’t been shown these life enhancing ways of communicating, we are left with the old standards of anger, guilt and withdrawal. Either we rage at the other openly or passively; or we guilt trip; or we withdraw ourselves emotionally to make the point that we are wounded and feel unsafe. Again, neither is truly effective in resolving the underlying issue of trust with someone else or with ourselves.To bring the focus back to food – if you’re going to commit to something around what you’re eating, when, how much and where, make sure it’s a commitment that you can keep. Make sure that it’s not coming from the diet mentality and that it’s not all or nothing nor should it be about losing weight. If your intention around changing your food habits is primarily geared towards losing weight you’ve missed the point. The focus needs to be not on what you weigh but how you came to weigh what you do and what life enhancing, balanced and self-respecting measures you are going to incorporate into your day to day existence to attend to the underlying cause of your current weight and body image concerns. With that foucs the weight takes care of itself. With the diet mentality focus your body can’t find it’s own natural rhythm because you’re not trusting it to know what it needs and you’re not listening to cues about hunger and fullness. If you were you wouldn’t need a “diet” you would only need to listen and respond to sensations of hunger and fullness. A.K.A. Natural Eating.

Tips for Natural Eating – Guilt Factor

So, back to the guilt factor. If you’re feeling guilty about what you’ve eaten or what you’re going to eat it’s only because you perceive yourself as breaking a commitment to yourself and you’ve just diminished your trust in your self. The solution is simple, and it’s exactly the same solution you would ideally bring to bear if someone in your life were demonstrating a lack of respect and trustworthiness:


First and foremost, you only make commitments that you’re certain you can keep. In other words if you’ve been promising yourself every Monday for a year that “this week will be different” and it hasn’t been so, you may want to make a commitment this Monday to find out what’s preventing you from following through, rather than committing yet again to a pattern of behaviour that you’ve proven is too challenging right now.


Second, you prioritize your life in such a way that you are creating the greatest likelihood and ease of following through. ie. If you want to take a healthy lunch to work you need to decide whether you’re going to lounge in bed those extra 10 minutes or get up and prepare something for you to take for lunch.


Third, if you see yourself not following through one day, stop and ask yourself what experience or thought has led you to set aside your commitment.


Fourth, remind yourself of the cost of these broken commitments to yourself: they keep you stuck in low self-esteem and mistrusting yourself in all areas, not just in the one area that you’ve compromised yourself.


Fifth, once you know what undermined your commitment ask yourself: “Is it appropriate for me to expect this of myself at this time given that I am having a hard time following through? Might I need to relax my expectations a bit so that I can begin to see some consistent follow through and build trust in myself?”


Sixth, make a new commitment that is truly realistic. ie. rather than “every day for the next month I will…” how about “two times this week I will…” Then at the end of that week when you see that you followed through you will also be able to determine how much time that commitment took and if you really do have time to do it a third day the next week or perhaps need to just keep it at twice for now.

You’ll feel much better making commitments you can keep rather than commitments you’d like to keep but can’t right now.Take the time over the next while to discover what is truly reasonable and realistic to expect of yourself rather than what is ideal but not likely to succeed right now.Allow yourself to take a long term approach to resolving this issue, whatever it may be, and reassure yourself that as long as you see consistent movement forward you are far far better off than the all or nothing approach and the Drill Sgt. guilt and criticism that the diet mentality brings.Tune in next time for a little chat on integrity in relationships and how to respectfully and successfully address your own lapses as well as those of the key people in your life.Have a lovely week! M      

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  1. Nadine May 7, 2008

    I know this is slightly different than the topic above, but I am curious about breaking commitments and the impact it has on relationships. Over the past year while I have been going through this healing process I have not been as social as I have been in the past, and I have found myself making plans and then being too exhausted to keep them. How do I stay true to my own needs while not damaging the relationship I have with someone because I am breaking my commitment?

  2. admin May 7, 2008

    Hi Nadine,

    Great question. There are two pieces that must be addressed: 1. Your personal stuff and 2. The interpersonal stuff.

    1. Your stuff consists of how compassionately you speak to yourself when you feel too tired to follow through and how readily you allow yourself to meet your needs with dignity and respect. It also consists of you checking in with yourself about what is realistic to expect of yourself at this time in your life. It is quite common to discover, as you go through a healing process, that what you used to be able to do is just not possible now. That’s not because you’re losing energy, it’s because you’re aware of your body and your needs now in a way that you weren’t before. Before you could just ignore the signals from your body and force yourself to do things you really didn’t want to do or didn’t have the energy for. The consequence of this was that you needed to use food to cope in order to numb out to the feelings of anxiety and/or fatigue in your body.

    So in reality – while it seems you’re not able to do as much as before, the truth is, you never were really able to do what you were doing before in any healthy and balanced way. The healing journey is about finding and maintaining a healthy balance between self-care; relationships with others; your career; and any other key roles you have in your life. That balance allows you to make sure that you have enough energy to follow through on the commitments you make to others and those you make to yourself (ie. around food, exercise, meditation, rest etc.). That’s the way to build a solid sense of trust and security in yourself.

    2. The interpersonal stuff is addressed most simply by being as transparent as possible when you’re changing your plans at the last minute. By that I mean: You let people know what’s really going on with you. ie. You thought you would have the energy and you were really looking forward to “X” but you’re just not able to follow through on your commitment at that time. You acknowledge their feelings and ask if there’s something you can do to make it up to them in the near future.

    If the relationship is truly important to you, you follow up with a call or email the next day just reiterating your ownership of missing the date and asking for a new one (at a day and time that you really think you’ll have the energy for).

    This means you have to review your life and what it is you’re asking of yourself (back to the piece on your stuff at the top of this message) so that you’ll truly have the energy for the date when it comes around.

    If you’re procrastinating on getting together with someone because you don’t like the person that much or because you’re not that interested in the event or because there is some unfinished business between you (ie. a conversation about something a bit challenging) then take some time on your own to identify what, if anything, you could say or do in that relationship to create a sense of excitement and peace when thinking about seeing that person. If you can come up with something it is your responsibility to let them know what you need from them in order to feel that sense of happiness and expectancy. If you can’t think of anything it’s time to let the friendship go.

    I hope that helps! 🙂 Thanks again, for the great question Nadine.



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