I have spoken to over fifty women in the last six months about their health, their self-esteem, their body-image, their cravings and addictions, and their goals. In so many of these conversations I heard self-loathing, guilt, and shame for years of perceived failures and self-abuse. I also heard pain from the loathing, guilt, and shame.

Women described themselves as disgusting, having no willpower, lazy, fat, incapable, and embarrassing in some of these talks. It hurt for me to hear that from some of the most beautiful women I know. Many of them told stories of failed diets, gaining back more weight than they had lost, and feeling so terrible about themselves that they did not even want to bother trying.

As a health coach, I wanted to offer nutritional suggestions and support for their future goals. I recommended whole foods, different approaches to accountability systems, a trip to my gym with me, and some encouragement. But no matter what positive approach I took, there remained this huge dungeon door I could not get past. Some of the women seemed to have locked themselves behind it for some kind of daily self-torture ritual.

As I got into studying emotional eating with I.I.N., I learned and adopted the emotional eating cycle model as one of my biggest tools of understanding. In this cycle, not dealing with an emotion is a trigger for problematic eating behavior, which then leads to perceived guilt and shame over the behavior, which is the next emotion that triggers the negative eating behavior again.





After speaking with all of these women, I believe many of them are stuck in this cycle. I was for many years and believed that I, too, was lazy, fat, and incapable. I set diet goals for myself that I could not possibly meet, only to feel guilt and shame when I did not meet them. At times I decided that anything less than 100% was a failure, and when I could not meet 100%, I viewed anything more than 0% as a waste of time and energy.

I shamed myself for liking food, for looking forward to it, for wanting it at holidays, for loving my birthday cake too much, for not being able to be 100% for more than a couple days at a time, and for not having willpower. All of that shame led to some serious self-loathing and more binge-eating behaviors to cope with the shame!

In the last three months I have been logging my macros and seeing a coach for accountability. I have had a few weekends of no logging, celebration for birthdays and holidays, and some fun indulgent time with loved ones. I have lost about one pound per week, nice and slow.

In the beginning of this, I found myself emotionally drained from my feelings around not hitting my numbers perfectly and still wanting more food. The draining part, I found, was not as much in the numbers themselves, but in the emotions I carried every time I had a day when I did not hit them. It was in the loathing that followed those days. That loathing made getting back in the game after a mess-up even more difficult.

As I have taken myself through the throws of understanding what it means to sit with and deal with emotions, I find that part of my cycle weakening. I no longer have to rush to food to distract me from an unpleasant emotion, and this has come from years of work with emotions.

The part of my cycle that still existed up until I decided to write this blog, is the guilt and shame part for straying from my macros plan. The feelings that I have allowed to accompany me after being human and celebrating with food have brought up some old self-loathing of my own.

I realize that this is why many people do not stick to diets; they do not like the guilt and shame that comes with not being 100% on them. They do not want to add to the self-loathing they already feel for being overweight. So they just do not bother starting them at all.

What if we took out the guilt and shame from our human experiences? What if we took that part of the emotional eating cycle out of the equation?

It is my belief that the cycle would break.

I ate cake for my birthday last weekend. I had wine and bread and another piece of cake. I paid for it in physical pain, digestion issues, and numb hands. I chose not to pay for it in guilt. I have no feelings about it this week except that I hope my hands feel better soon, and I am excited to get back on the train after Thanksgiving.

If I am going to do this weight loss/weight maintenance/weight life thing forever, then I better learn how to be human now without self-hate, or there may be a lot more years of cycling to come.

I am going to finish losing my weight over Christmas, New Years, and all my family’s birthdays. I am not in denial that it won’t take longer if I celebrate too much with food either. But that is the only consequence I will allow. There will be no hate, no loathing, no guilt, no shame, and no all-or-none attitude about it. That attitude is what got me in this place of needing healing to begin with.

There is no place for guilt and shame in progress! Take these out of the cycle!

Guilt and shame will have you sitting on the sidelines faster than you can find a custard place in Concord, NC. That’s fast! When you have a true lifestyle change, you will recognize the need to correct behaviors with ease, grace, and self-love and can steer behaviors accordingly.