So far I’ve given you some strategies on how to deal with our shame around productivity and parenting. This time, we’re going to see what to do when you feel shame about food.
It’s very important to know and to remind yourself that there’s no such thing as good foods and bad foods. As most dieticians and psychologists who work with disordered eating will attest to, labeling food as good and bad puts a moralistic value on it that shouldn’t be there. I have a philosophy in my house—one I picked up over years of listening to body trust and intuitive eating experts—that all food is good food. That means ice-cream is good, pancakes are good, avocados are good, chocolate is good. It’s all good.
Maybe you’ve seen this image before, but I find it so useful to help remind you the real differences between good and bad food:
Let’s take one example of food-related shame I sometimes hear. People who are struggling with shame can feel bad about the type of food they ate (let’s say it was extra dessert) or the amount they ate (especially if it was more than they planned). I’ve found that the most common responses when people experience food shame is either to attack themselves or to numb their feelings with more food.
I’ve found a couple ways to interrupt this. If you’re criticizing your food choices, keep in mind that feeling shame is only going to make you feel more stuck. Here’s something very interesting I’ve learned: every time you tell yourself that you shouldn’t eat something, this creates restriction. And the more we restrict? The more we binge. So it’s never really “eating too much” that’s the problem. The issue is in creating restrictive diets and shaming your body when it gets hungry. Caroline Dooner explains all about this and more in her book The F*ck It Diet, if you want to read more on this topic.
If you’re the type to numb out with food instead, you might try practicing mindfulness. Creating a pause between the impulse and the action may give you a moment to notice the emotions that are driving the behavior. If you notice you’re feeling ashamed, you can take care of the shame (through self-compassion, connection, or a number of other shame resilience skills you may already be practicing). If you’re feeling angry, or sad, you can take the time to take care of that too. You might also still choose to eat--the point is slowing down the whole process so that more and more options become available for taking care of painful feelings.
Nicole Perry is a Registered Psychologist and writer with a private practice in Edmonton. Her approach is collaborative and feminist at its heart. She specializes in healing trauma, building shame resilience, and setting boundaries.
About the Blog
This space will provide information, stories, and answers to big questions about some of my favorite topics - boundaries, burnout, trauma, self compassion, and shame resilience - all from a feminist counselling perspective. It's also a space I'm exploring and refining new ideas.