However, new evidence shows that feeling guilty instead of positive about what you eat can actually sabotage your weight-loss efforts.
The role of guilt in weight-loss
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Canterbury found that people who associate guilt with eating sweets are more likely to have less control over portion sizes and the types of food they eat. They are also less likely to lose weight or maintain their weight over a 1.5-year time frame.
The study, which was published in the journal Appetite, involved roughly 300 adults between the ages of 18 and 86. Each participant was asked if they associated eating chocolate cake with celebration or guilt, and it was found that 27% of the group associated the cake with feelings of guilt.
Furthermore, compared to the group who associated cake with celebration, those who associated the cake with guilt were not found to have plans that involved eating healthier, and did not display positive attitudes about diet in general. Those who felt guilty about cake and had plans to lose weight were much less successful at meeting their weight-loss goals than those who viewed eating cake as a form of celebration.
A separate study conducted in 2009 in the Netherlands found that those who associated guilt with eating certain types of foods were more likely to eat snacks and junk food right before dinner and between meals throughout the rest of the day. Another study showed that women who were given positive messages in regards to eating donuts were more likely to eat fewer donuts and make healthier choices.
Stress, which is a feeling many would associate with guilt, has also been scientifically proven to trigger adverse health problems, including weight gain.
How to avoid guilt
Instead of feeling guilty about eating desserts, snacks, or junk food, take celebration in the fact that you are rewarding yourself for getting closer to your weight-loss goals, and be sure to limit your portion sizes. Some people, including athletes, even allow themselves one cheat day per week on which they reward themselves with their favorite dessert, such as a cupcake or a donut.
As long as you stay educated about healthy eating and commit to making healthy choices the rest of the time, one dessert item or just one piece of chocolate cake won't sabotage your weight-loss efforts, so don't feel guilty!