In an interview for this column, Steven Kalas, Ph.D., MFT, explained it this way: “Neurotic guilt makes you feel stuck, when what you need most is life-giving initiative.”
He explained that guilt can bring anxiety, an endless loop tape in your head: “I shouldn’t have eaten that, I shouldn’t have eaten that, I shouldn’t have....” This type of anxiety is paralyzing. It prevents us from trying again.
Giving up is the saddest part of the story. Sometimes the greatest expression of power is not the big guy groaning while lifting heavy weights in the gym, it’s the quiet thought inside of us that says, “I’ll try again.” Our bodies are in a perpetual state of recovery and healing. When we eat well, exercise, and maintain a calm, content disposition, we are thriving. But in the day-to-day of it all, life isn’t perfect. There will be bumps along the way. How we deal with the bumps determines whether or not we can manage our weight.
Guilt comes when we violate our personal eating standards, such as “never eat this” (sugar, chocolate, soda, etc.) and “never do that” (consume too much, eat late at night, miss a workout etc.). This do-or-die mentality is destructive. The pressure is too great, the risk of failure too high. It’s just overwhelming. I suggest to my clients to break the day into thirds — morning, afternoon, evening. Make a list of what a really good morning would look like for that day of the week. The list may include:
Upon rising, count your blessings.
Drink a glass of water before breakfast.
Eat something fresh and in season, or make fresh juice.
Have a cup of herbal tea.
Have a handful of almonds.