The answer is a toss-up. Is it guilt or shame? What is the difference and why would they cause us to gain weight?
Guilt: a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.
Shame: the painful feeling arising from the consciousness of something dishonorable, improper, ridiculous, etc., done by oneself or another.
Basically, guilt is toward others and shame is toward ourselves.
I use to beat myself up for pressuring myself by not doing enough. Not enough exercise, not enough veggies, not enough clean protein, or swing over too much sugar, too many refined carbs or you name the most recent obsession. And then I would hit a wall and just say “F-orget it.’ Only to wake up the next day feeling even more critical and guilty. This loss of control consumed my thoughts, choices, habits, and resulted in me not having any joy with food or exercise that I loved and adored.
Then a friend shared a research study that explained this perfectly. The research study discovered an amazing truth around this “What the Heck” effect. The researchers asked a group of women to eat a doughnut within four minutes, then drink a glass of water so they would feel full. After eating the doughnut, some of the women received a message of self-compassion encouraging them to not be so hard on themselves for indulging.
The other group did NOT receive the self-compassion message. In the second part of the study, the women were presented with bowls of candy and were invited to eat as little or as much of the candy as they wanted. The women who had received the self-forgiveness message ate only 28 grams of candy compared to the 70 grams consumed by the group that didn’t get the message. That’s a 42-gram difference, and all these self-forgiveness grams add up.
The added message of self-forgiveness didn’t give these women the impulse to eat more; rather, it turned off the pipeline of guilt and prevented them from overeating during the candy challenge. It’s the feelings of shame, guilt, loss of control, and loss of hope that follow the first relapse. (Resource)
Guilt serves no constructive purpose, at least as far as healthy eating is concerned. This feeling can lead to overeating and more destructive habits. Also, physically it puts your nervous system in a consistent fight or flight pattern which makes it difficult for your body to heal and utilize fat for fuel.
Instead, we acknowledge the action and FEEL the emotion associated with why this behavior happened.
Did you have a challenging conversation? Did something trigger a past memory or trauma?
We can help our nervous system feel safer in the present moment and release the guilt/shame loop by breathing.
Try taking 5-deep breaths (truly give this a try) with longer exhales when you feel your body constricting into shame or guilt.
- Help your nervous system not feel under threat.
- Lower your cortisol and cause your body to be in fight and flight.
- The #1 way we release fat and toxins is from carbon dioxide by exhaling out our lungs.
Let’s keep observing the guilty feelings with heaps of self-compassion, deep breaths, and shake up the guilt and shame patterns. Plus, we are meant to enjoy food, movement, and exercise. What helped me shake the guilt and find my joy? I picked up a hula-hoop, ate a meal by candlelight, and often cry from laughter with my friends.
JOIN me to EASE-in to 2022 with a new perspective that supports YOU!
For 5-days, we gently add in the above tips and learn from your body’s signals versus what your mind is trying to control.
Instead of beginning the new year with ‘shoulding’ on yourself, we are nourishing ourselves.
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with abundant nourishment,
Heather Fleming, C.C.N. Conscious. Compassion. Nutrition.
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