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How guilty-eating effects your health, hunger, and eating patterns.

Updated: Jun 21, 2023

By: Alison Ross, LMFT, CEDS

The food and diet industries have created a modern-day morality test, what you eat is a sign of your goodness or badness. Just walk around a grocery store to see judgment printed all over the food - smart sweets, scandal-less desserts, rebel ice cream, the list goes on.

But, internalizing this system of morality is bad for your health because it leads to feeling guilty or anxious about food choices, increasing mealtime stress. Studies have found that feeling stressed while eating can lead to increased hunger and cravings for highly rewarding foods, and a tendency to eat larger quantities. Mealtime stress also increases the inflammation, arterial plaques, and insulin levels associated with the meal.

None of this serves your health. And one solution is to get the stress off the menu!

Although breaking the habit of guilty-eating might be difficult, a good way to start is to cultivate calm while eating. Slow down, take a few deep breaths, and express gratitude (instead of judgment) for the food. These simple actions can decrease stress, which helps regulate your eating and promotes healthy digestion. If you'd like to learn more about how mealtime stress can effect your heath, hunger, and eating patterns, check out the resources below:

Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Habash D, Fagundes CP, Andridge R, Peng J, Malarkey WB, Belury MA (2015). Daily stressors, past depression, and metabolic responses to high-fat meals: A novel path to obesity. Biological Psychiatry, 77: 653–660.PMCID: PMC4289126.

Choi J. Impact of Stress Levels on Eating Behaviors among College Students. Nutrients. 2020 Apr 27;12(5):1241. doi: 10.3390/nu12051241. PMID: 32349338; PMCID: PMC7284653.

Inchauspe, J. (2019). Glucose revolution: The life-changing power of balancing your blood sugar. Sasquatch Books.


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