For many of us, eating is a whole-body experience. We don’t just bring our physical hunger to the table, we also bring our food-related judgments, along with our emotions. We might eat because we’re celebrating being with family or as a reward for a job well done. Occasionally we may eat because we’re bored or feeling blue. Just as we may start out with certain emotions when eating, we also may feel many different emotions afterward: pleasure, contentment, comfort, happiness, satisfaction, or nostalgia.
Unfortunately, many individuals experience self-criticism, anxiety, or stress after eating. These judgmental, negative thoughts about eating may lead to feelings of guilt.
Characteristics of Food Guilt

Food guilt is feeling as though you have done something wrong after eating. Typically, this occurs after eating food that you or others perceive as “unhealthy” or “bad.” Food guilt may also occur after eating a certain amount of food, after eating between meals, after snacking, after unplanned eating, or with eating after dinner.
It is common for many people to experience guilt after eating at one time or another. After all, no one has a perfect relationship with food. However, if food guilt occurs often and you are preoccupied with food or you alter your normal eating patterns (such as limiting food intake, skipping meals, banning certain foods, or starting a diet), this is when it may become an issue. If left untreated, food guilt may lead to disordered eating or an eating disorder.
Without uncovering the deeper, more sensitive emotions that start a guilt spiral, you may be confused about what led you to eat mindlessly or to continue beyond the point of fullness. Additionally, without knowing the cause, how can you address what is really bothering you? Food guilt can bring about real, negative consequences that may impact your health, coping mechanisms, happiness, self-esteem, and relationships.
Primary and Secondary Emotions

Research on what’s called “loss of control eating” shows that binge eating and emotional eating—as well as the guilt, disgust, or shame that may follow—are often preceded by intense, negative emotions. Learning to tolerate negative emotions can reduce food guilt, emotional eating, and binge eating.

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