Food guilt is a real thing.
It often comes after smashing that box of biscuits or that block of chocolate in record time.
But what about negative thoughts about the food you haven't even eaten yet? I'm talking about the thoughts that present themselves when you sit down to a big bowl of pasta, that piece of cake or that amazingly delicious dish your better half has lovingly prepared for you that contains all of the things you wouldn't dream of eating for dinner.
The feeling of dread, the feeling of 'I'm going to have to do X amount of exercise to work this off, or just the general feeling of 'I shouldn't be eating this'.
Now I understand I am not talking to everyone, but I can guarantee there is a number of you reading this that has done one or all of the above in relation to your food.
And don't get me wrong, we do need this dialog in our head, it helps us to make healthy choices and prevents us from consuming all the food in the kitchen we we get home and are starving.
But there is a difference between knowing what you need to eat to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle and the intense feelings of guilt associated with the foods you're eating.
So what does this negative self talk do?
It reduces the bodies digestive capacity.
The mind-gut connection is a strong one, so when we associate food with 'bad' we aren't fully enabling the natural digestive processes to occur. Stomach acid that is generally produced in high amounts when we smell and chew our food won't be produced in as high amounts, resulting in the slowing of the emptying of the stomach. From here we find there is increased risk of bloating and changed bowel motions. The more that we can stimulate proper stomach acid and kickstart the whole digestive process, the less digestive symptoms will be experienced.
What can we do to prevent this negative self talk?
1. We can start by being mindful when we eat. Being present with the food, smelling your food, chewing it. Really ENJOYING your food. This will help to counteract the effects of the negative self talk by helping optimal stomach acid being produced.
2. Watch your thoughts around food. Often these thoughts are so ingrained in us that we don't even realise they are happening. Be conscious of your thoughts and try to recognise when they creep in. The more aware of them you are, the easier it is to stop them when they do arise.
3. Positive affirmations before you eat is something that you can start doing today and help you to un-wire those ingrained thoughts. Saying to yourself (out loud or in your head) positive affirmations such as:
"I bless this food and my body with love."
"I listen for when I am satisfied and full."
"This food is healing me."
Even if the food isn’t the most nourishing food, it will be nourishing your soul. Be kind to your self and remember that one meal isn't the end of the world. If you practice these things, then overtime you will find the negative self talk around food will reduce, but it takes time.
Karah is a degree qualified Naturopath with over 8 years experience in the health profession. She is the owner and director at The Sana Co and has a special clinical interest in digestive health, seeing many pateints with IBS, reflux/GORD, bloating and many otehr digetsive conditions.