I was out with some dear friends at the weekend. We went to one of these quintessentially Irish pubs with lots of old men propped up at the bar drinking creamy pints of Guinness.
(In my opinion there are only two spots in the world that serve the best Guinness, The Cobblestone in Smithfield- a very old and authentic traditional music haunt in the heart of Dublin, and Murray’s on Inisbofin, a tiny Island off the west coast of Ireland. I don't know if it's the setting, and I’m not typically a fan of the black stuff, but from these taps it tastes like cream and I LOVE cream! This reminds me... I also once had a pint of Guinness in an Irish bar on Gili Trawangan, which is another tiny Island, though off the coast of Lombok so much less windswept. Interestingly, both Inisbofin and Gigli Tarwangan have a lot in common; you can leisurely stroll around both Islands and they both have an Irish bar! Well on Boffin that's not so surprising...)
I’m open to challenge on the best pint of Guinness, so do send in your suggestions! But today I want to talk about something I observed during that lovely dinner and something I hear my clients talk about all the time, and that's GUILT. Now, I want you to eat guilt-free!
One of our dinner companions was really struggling to enjoy the meal out, as they were on a diet and desperately trying to lose weight. They found ordering really difficult, opting for the salad and skipping the starter, while the rest of us enjoyed the fabulous choice of fresh homegrown offers on the menu. By the time it came to dessert, our uncomfortable dinner companion seemed eager to leave, as they clearly couldn’t enjoy the meal and did not want to sit around and watch as we indulged in some seriously tasty Irish cheeses and homemade brown bread ice cream.
If you have never tried brown bread Ice cream then this is something I insist you remedy immediately! I still remember the first time my mother made it for us, I must have been about seven and I genuinely thought I was tasting a little bit of heaven. I always order it if it’s on the menu, but my mom's version is still my all time favourite (see my recipe in the recipe bank).
Our dinner companion did not enjoy the meal. In fact, speaking with them after, they told me how difficult it was to be ‘good’ and that it only seemed to work for them when they didn’t go out to socialise and when they avoided alcohol and banished all things ‘bad’ from the house. This included things like butter, cheese and bread by the way.
My dear friend was caught up in something I think we all can identify with. This oscillation between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ when it comes to food. What is more concerning is that their mood and sense of well being was tied to what they ate. So if they had a good day, they would feel happy with themselves and if they had a bad day they would feel absolutely rotten about themselves, which would generally lead to more bingeing on the ‘bad’ stuff.
I can actually identify with this myself, as in my first trimester, my cravings were so bizarre! For the first time in years I was desperately craving Monster Munch. If you’re not from Ireland or the UK then let me explain, these are a type of puffed up corn chip which are highly processed and full of all sorts of unnatural ingredients. Not what you want to be munching on when you’re growing a little one and yet they seemed to be the only thing that helped with my nausea! I would feel so guilty after eating them, indeed I could hardly enjoy them at all, even though they once were a childhood favourite. I would feel pretty guilty, especially since I am an advocate for good eating (which in my book is avoiding overly processed foods). So that guilty feeling is fresh in my mind. I hate it, and I hate that so many people deal with it on a daily basis and allow it to affect their mood. It doesn’t help, it doesn’t prevent you from flip flopping between being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ so what’s the point?
Stop feeling guilty! My top tips to help you eat guilt-free...
Here are the strategies which I share with my Artful Eaters to combat the unnecessary guilt that comes from trying to be ‘good’ but inevitably ending up being ‘bad’...
1. I have NO TIME for this good/bad business. Enjoying a love of food and your body is all about balance.
Not controlling and trying to constantly stave off foods you love. What I mean by this is listening to your body and eating what you want when you want. Allowing yourself freedom with food actually has the opposite result than what you would imagine. It is entirely possible to eat guilt-free! Once you know that you can have something if you want it, it removes the ‘badness’ and the reliance on willpower from the equation. This means you can enjoy the food without attaching all these negative thoughts and feelings to it. When you do this, you are MUCH LESS LIKELY to overindulge and binge; feeling freedom around food means you’re more likely to eat one cookie instead of the whole tin- try it and see!
2. When you do overeat, or indulge then make sure to compensate the next day.
This is a continuation from my first point on balance, is that when you do eat out, and enjoy a scrumptious three course meal like I did last weekend, then you should compensate the next day by having a lighter dinner and avoid the sweet treats for a day or so. To find out how to do this effortlessly check out last week's blog here.
3. Use the rule of halves: Halve anything you want to eat, especially sweet treats.
This will immediately help prevent any guilt from rearing its ugly head. If you want to eat a sweet treat or dessert, go ahead, but halve it before you even start to eat it. I have a very sweet tooth, I’ve always had and I love cakes and treats. Baking is as relaxing to me as a bubble bath and a glass of champagne, seriously! So in order to feel freedom with the good stuff (cakes, pastries, chocolates etc,) I halve everything and give away or put away, or if it's not salvageable, throw away, the other half. (Well if I’m honest if it doesn't have chocolate in it my dogs get it!). The rule of half is so simple and so powerful. All the flavour is in the first few bites anyway so eating slowly and consciously will allow you to eat less, enjoy more and stave off any guilt.
4. Whenever you begin to feel guilty about something you have eaten do this powerful Cognitive Behavioural Therapy exercise: an ABC work sheet.
My fourth and final tip is the most powerful one I can share, and I encourage you to use this if you find that you are feeling guilty about food, or if you are feeling overwhelming anxiety or dissatisfaction with your body. This is a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tool which my clients absolutely love. The key with this is that you must physically go through the exercise in written form. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help melt away any guilt you feel. So take a few minutes, sit down at your desk (that's mine below!) and do the worksheet.
Below there is an example of an ‘ABC sheet’ to help you learn to eat guilt-free. The first row provides the headings and the second row tells you what to do. Finally the third row provides an example of how to use the sheet. Try it out whenever you feel yourself experiencing negative thoughts around your body, or what you have eaten. Going through the process of actually writing the thoughts out is really cathartic and will help reduce and often eliminate the bad feelings.
Or click here to download the Guilt ABC sheet
Isn't it time you stopped beating yourself up about food and your body?
Ask yourself, how is this serving me? Is it helping me to achieve my dream size? Try these tools and strategies to help avoid feeling guilty and, if you do go all out and end up feeling guilty for it, do the work sheet. I know you'll love it!
Now I'd like to hear from you! If you tried the worksheet, how did you get on? If you really struggle with this issue, tell me about it. I'd like to hear your story. I read and respond to every email I receive and I LOVE hearing from you!
Let's eat guilt-free and enjoy freedom around food,