Effects of guilt on our health and weight loss goals

I am one of the many females that have had some serious negative self talk about their weight and and correlated it with self worth which has often led to feelings of guilt from eating. I beat myself up because I think I know what I need to do so I set some tight restrictions and then when I fail I am full of guilt, shame and self hate. I have tried many a fad diet and had many an internal chat about tomorrow being a new day, or tomorrow’s the day when I make it happen, but here I am, at the same weight I’ve pretty much always been at for the last 10 years.

I work out often, I eat pretty healthy, I sleep around 7 hours consistently a night, don’t smoke or drink alcohol – why am I am not honed to perfection then?

Let’s be honest, there will be loads of factors affecting an individuals ability to lose or put on weight and I can’t go into them all, but I think guilt and it’s effect is an important one to discuss.

Guilt is fuelled by negative thinking. There have been numerous studies conducted that illustrate the affects of positive and negative thinking on how our bodies operate. An article from the Institute of Psychology for Eating has found that how you respond to food impacts how your body digests it. When you see a food you are about to eat and associate it with guilt, this sends messages to the brain and in turn sends signals to the digestive system that create an inhibitory response. So, whatever it is you are eating doesn’t get fully metabolised. It can then remain in your digestive system longer, and this diminishes the amount of good gut bacteria and increases unhealthy toxins being moved into the blood stream. Not only this, but the guilt can also cause an increase in insulin and cortisol production which in turn causes more of the food to be stored as fat. Plus increases in cortisol and adrenaline can increase heart rate, blood pressure and inflammation through the body.

Adding weight to this are further studies. In the Netherlands a study showed those that felt guilty after eating dessert foods were at more risk of eating more junk good and larger serving sizes as well as snacking more on junk food throughout the day.

Another study that monitored women participating in a weight loss program saw correlation between shame, self-criticism and and social comparison having a negative impact on their self regulation with weight loss. It caused an increase in disinhibition and susceptibility to hunger. It also saw that positive self assurance and social comparisons had a positive impact on their weight loss prior to the survey.

So, on the flip side of all that guilt as you can imagine, treating that same meal with a positive mentality can completely change how the body deals with it as you eat.

I know how negative those diets I put myself through were, when I look back now. All of these rules – do this, don’t do that create lots of restrictions. As a result you are setting yourself up for failure. As soon as you eat a banned food you feel guilty. Whereas positive association and reward are more effective. When you delight in the meal you are consuming your body sends signals to the brain and then the digestive system that stimulate your digestive organs. So, your food gets broken down properly and the calories get burned more effectively.

I want this article to reinforce our need to be kinder to ourselves in the society we live in where constant shallow comparisons based largely on aesthetics have been made too easy.

Try paying attention to that inner voice and begin with a 3 day ban on internal and/or external negative self talk. Then extend it out from there to a week, 2 weeks, etc. and just keep going. When you have a moment of guilt/negativity about yourself just try and silence it and think of a positive statement to counteract it’s power.