I Overate Because I Felt Guilty Eating

overeating-obesityWhat if I just have a small slice of raspberry cheesecake? I was good today, I deserve it. Maybe a bigger slice would be okay if I eat celery later? They would cancel each other out, right? Or I could eat the cake while jogging in place?

These are the musings of a young woman’s mind in a Yoplait yogurt ad. (See ad here.) Sound familiar?

Does to me. Evokes the mantra that once ruled my twenty-something brain. Back then, food was both magic and evil. That’s a noxious combination, known to create obsessions and addictions.

A person who feels guilty about eating often overeats. They obsess about food. Food calls to them. Think you’ve had a little too much? Feel guilty! Now that you’ve sinned you might as well go all the way. Besides, a pint of Häagen-Dazs feels sooo good. At least while there is still some left in the container.

Works the same with alcohol. To the Irish, spirits magically change your mood. But overindulging brings shame and disgrace. Imbibed a bit too much? Might as well drink more and feel better. The Irish have fairly high levels of alcoholism. It’s different in places where alcohol is simply a part of dinner. A good wine is a dining must in France. And alcoholism is low.

But back to eating disorders. Some are more serious than mine. Jenni Schaefer survived both anorexia and bulimia. She told the Huffington Post that you start to divide foods into “good” and “bad” categories until they all seem bad. “I was shocked by how (the ad) really nailed it on the head,” she said. “That’s exactly what I thought every time I opened a refrigerator door.”

Experts worry that the ad’s message makes this sort of obsessive thinking seem completely normal, with some responding by eating too little, while others eat too much. To their credit, Yoplait pulled the piece once concerns surfaced.

I was lucky to eventually hear a different message. I was shocked to find a diet that denied the notion that food is bad. Maybe because the book, Eat to Win, was written for athletes with tennis champ, Martina Navratilova, a fan.

The notion that food is good and shouldn’t be an obsession had a profound effect on me. I highly recommend a healthy perspective on food that recognizes the need for nourishment and enjoyment.

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
I Can’t Believe I Ate A Whole Head Of Lettuce!
500 Calories + Pregnancy Hormones = Perfect Body
Beautiful Women’s Hips Are Thinner Than Their Heads?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 22, 2011, in body image, feminism, gender, psychology, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Advertisements are drilled into our brains trying to make us think this way. And congrats to them, they are successful. Too many women and people in general, let this advertisements and commercials get to them and thats how and why women start to feel self-concious of eating. Overeating or not eating enough. It took a long time for me to not let advertising get the best of me and make me feel less of myself. Why should we let other’s control us? This commercial is bad advertising and sends a horrible message to all women. There needs to be a healthy balance in diets. Not eating is obviously terrible for your body. Eating too much will cause other issues.

  2. Victor Aguirre

    This is a for sure an issue for a lot of developing young adults. I think women seem to indulge more in this vicious cycle of overeating due to the guilt society provokes them to have for everything that goes wrong in a women’s life. Even rape and battering is a source of guilt for a women causing them further physical and emotional damage, such as overeating. I believe it’s an issue that needs to be talked about more to make women conscious of the serious set backs and introduce new alternatives such as calling a friend :)

  3. Having experienced bulimia myself, I totally recognized myself into those kind of thoughts. If I were to eat too much (even healthy food), I would eat even more to punish myself, which is very weird. Like a lot of women it all started with a low-calories diet. You can do it for a month maybe, but then you feel so frustrated that you start eating again, even double, and gain your weight back. And there you go, all unhappy, and depressed again. I think that all diets are trash. The best thing to do, at least in this situation, is to ask for help, to learn how to listen to your body needs, and not overfeed it. Finally, if someone wants to lose weight and is focused on this problem all the time, it won’t work! In conclusion, I think we focus too much on body image. I do believe that a woman with shapes, who feels good in her body, looks prettier than a model who is starving, and unhappy!!!

  4. Demi Battaglia

    I believe overeating and starving yourself is a major issue in today’s society. Not only do people overeat because they do not feel comfortable, but people also refuse to eat due to body image issues. I feel like I sometimes switch back and forth between the two not even realizing it and depending on my mood. Its bad but if I know I’m going to go hot tubing or be in a bathing suit in front of my friends or a guy then I wont eat before I go. If I’m staying in for the night and I know I’m not going to see anyone that I want to impress then Ill eat a bunch of junk food and anything I feel like at the time. Girls and boys these days are trying to live up to the idealized body image and will sometimes due what ever it takes to look a certain way. The media has to do a lot better of a job to improve these stereotypes because it is taking over peoples lives.

  5. I totally understand this way of thinking about food, I have had days where I ate something considered “bad food” so i just kept eating more and more thinking it didn’t matter anymore, I’ll just eat healthier tomorrow. The way we separate foods into categories of good and bad causes us women guilt when we eat “bad” food, which results in the feeling of failure so we give up and keep eating. This notion makes us banish foods so when we do indulge in them we feel guilty. The problem is, we associate food with emotions. whether we eat because we are bored, sad, or happy, this causes us to over eat.

  6. This is an issue that I find myself dealing with constantly! I would say that I have a love/hate relationship with food. On one hand I love to eat, and I love trying and experiencing different foods. The problem is that I often times find myself thinking and saying some of those very same things as described in the in the Yoplait ad. I’ll eat stuff that I know I shouldn’t and then think things like “it’s okay, I’m going to the gym later anyways.” I agree that there should be more emphasis put on food being good, you do need it for nourishment and enjoyment. However, a lot of ads, such as the Yoplait one, make u believe otherwise, and play a part in creating this obsession that many people have with food.

  7. I also find myself dealing with this problem sometimes. Sometimes I eat when I’m bored or when it’s really not necessary. I admit, I love food. Im all for trying new things. I think teens especially deal with overeating. The more you deprive yourself from eating something you want, you will overeat. Something that I learned about myself is that whenever I deprive myself from carbs, there will be a day where I just get my hands on any type of carbs I can. Always eat the things you want whether it’s bad or not, just keep it in a reasonable proportion! Advertisements make us think about things we shouldn’t worry about.

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  9. Food drives me and my friends crazy, and it is weird. Sherry Ta, in the above comment, mentions how teens deal with overeating as a result of deprivation. This is something that I have really been pushing myself to recognize as of late. My friends are all gay men and fashionable women, and the emphasis on being skinny in our groups is intense. We all spend a great deal of time at social gatherings talking about how hungry we are, or we throw away and deny food as a way to show how much power and superiority we have over people who are eating. Often times, my gay friends will do this thing where we go out to dinner, but not eat, so that we simply watch people eating, thus excercising power and control and showing off our flatter stomaches. However, at the end of the night, after a few drinks and carb deprivation, we EAT. We will order pizzas and get burritos and we do not stop. I never purge, but my friends “joke” about doing it all the time. It seems that starvation is a source of power, but alas, when you are starving all day, you will find that your only source of strength is some bread. An interesting and destructive paradox, indeed.

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