Ditching the Guilt for Better Weight Loss
How often do you feel guilty? Think about it. Is it every day? Once a week? Pay attention to your thoughts. You may be shocked how often it occurs. And you may even be shocked about what it’s about. Sometimes we even feel guilty about being happy! Like we don’t ‘deserve’ it in some way (watch Marie Forleo on guilt about being happy here).
I recently had a bad case of guilt for sending my youngest to summer camps. I listed all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘shouldn’ts’ involved. ‘I should be just hanging out with her’, ‘I shouldn’t be taking so much time for myself’ or ‘I should be a better mum and able to entertain her all day’. It didn’t help that a friend shamed/judges me by saying that camps were too expensive, too tiring and that the suggestion that I really ‘shouldn’t’ be so selfish! But that’s an entirely different blog!
The reality is that I need some time to myself, that she’s a very active and exuberant child, therefore some activity is good for her and, last but not least, she’s actually having a ball! But I still seem programmed to parental guilt. I’m working on it because I know that my misery/guilt isn’t serving me, or my loved ones. I need to break the association because the guilt is wasteful and does not make me a better person. In fact, it stifles my growth and my chances of happiness and success.
How Does Guilt Serve us?
Okay, so it’s not all bad. Some believe that, without guilt, we would hurt others a lot more, as we’d be without a conscience. Case in point: sociopaths, psychopaths and criminals rarely feel guilty. Guilt causes us to reflect on poor decisions and then to realign our behaviour so that it prevents further bad choices in the future. But that’s all fine and well for the big things in our lives, such as how we treat people and how we choose right from wrong. But it has very little relevance for the smaller things. At Motivation we hear clients who say they feel so guilty for eating the ‘wrong’ food, or for ‘cheating’ on their plan. They then entirely scrap all effort and say ‘what’s the point’? That’s when guilt about a minor transgression trips into total self-sabotage; and this is the type of guilt we do not want. Instead, we try to convince our clients to adopt a new attitude that allows for the fact that you’re human. You can and will slip, but it’s getting back on the horse that matters.
Watch out Perfectionists!
It’s similar when it comes to things like parenting or exercising. If we’re doing pretty damn good overall, then why beat ourselves up? It only brings with it a bagfull of anxiety and low mood, which certainly does not help us in our parenting or our endeavours to lead a healthier life.
Don’t dwell on it.
Move on and learn from mistake and remember to say to yourself (especially all you perfectionists out there) ‘It’s okay to make mistakes’ and to know that, in fact, that’s how we learn and grow.
6 Tips for a Guilt-free Life
1. Accept failure without guilt: The key to self-growth is to understand and accept that failure is part of life, and actually presents us with the ability to learn and grow. Accept the mistake, and then move on.
2. Guilt is often attached to perfectionism: Having the belief that we can never make a mistake can, in fact, be the very thing that causes us to slip up – for instance, eating a ‘bad’ food often leads to an entire day of bingeing as the guilt takes control. Instead of being perfectionist about things, say ‘I’m allowed to make mistakes – I’m human’. Read our blog on how to be an ‘optimalist’, rather than a perfectionist here.
3. Challenge your thoughts: Ask yourself, ‘Are they rational?’ Have you really done something so terribly wrong? Are you really such a bad mother/father/daughter/son? How realistic and rational are your guilty thoughts (practice ABCDs)? What’s a more rational way of looking at it? Read some great CBT tips here.
4. Discuss your guilt: Talk to your weight loss consultant. They will reassure you that guilt is a negative emotion and that you should forgive yourself and move forwards towards your weight loss and health goals.
5. Prioritise yourself without guilt: Many people are used to putting their own needs after everyone else’s. But this isn’t healthy and putting yourself first sometimes doesn’t mean ‘being selfish’. In fact, remind yourself that you can only really help others when you are well yourself. Book a massage, take time out for yourself, give yourself the present of a course in something you love – do it and don’t feel one bit guilty!
6. Replace the negatives with positives: Look at what you are doing right, even small achievements in your day like drinking that fourth pint of water or eating more greens, to counteract the negativity – write these thoughts in your daily diary to remind yourself how well you’re doing.
Keep aiming for your dreams people!
And please ditch that guilt along the way because it’s not getting you anywhere!
For more on guilt, check out this article on Forbes, ‘6 Signs you are suffering from guilt and probably don’t know it, which brilliantly describes guilt as ‘radioactive waste of the psyche’ that can prevent us from succeeding with our dreams and goals.