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. 16 Comments.

  1. Although eating disorders seem to be a common thread among many young adults it is not nearly spoken enough about. I find it quite interesting that most people aren’t even aware that they have an ed. Additionally, it is especially hard to observe your own relationship with food when the answers you find are not things you want to hear. If a girl wants to be skinny she usually stops eating or eats as little as possible to get through the day, the last thing she wants to hear from a guardian or doctor is that she needs to eat more. On the contrary, a girl who struggles with being “big boned” does not want to hear she needs to eat less, even though body structure is something you can’t alter naturally (although, not eating food is not natural either). The psychosocial effects society has on food itself needs to be better observed and I firmly believe nutrition should be studied at a younger age to help kids develop the tools and connections necessary to maintain a healthy relationship with food.

  2. There needs to be a disconnect between healthy eating and body image. Of course the two are intertwined on many levels, but genetics plays a HUGE factor in body image for many. You can be healthy but still not fit the super slim stereotypical body category. Feeling guilty about food seems to primarily stems from body insecurity. And having negative thoughts about one’s own body can lead to under-eating and overeating. The two are very interlocked.

    Food is a biological comfort. In a world were good food is virtually endless, it is biologically natural to want to eat as much of it as you can. When ancient humans lived daily with with food sacristy and then found a tree ripe with fruit, they ate as much as they could because they knew it would not last. Overeating is not healthy, but it is a valid part of the human existence and should be acknowledged.

  3. The relationship we build with our dietary choice is one that is affected highly by our environment and mental state. I agree that our feelings such as guilt or pain can lead us to overeat but for some people, it is the other way around. Labeling food and judging yourself from the perspective of eating really can have a negative affect. The balance point of learning when to control your cravings and why is a difficult one. It has to come from a place of wanting to change and feel healthier. I personally think the discussion around eating disorders should be changed. It should be allowed among people, especially young adults, to ask and share experiences relative to the topic of eating disorders. Seeing someone thin and telling them to eat a burger or suggesting someone lay off the sweets is a toxic societal flaw. Making judgmental comments pass through during daily conversations create the idea that it’s okay to say things like that when it really isn’t.

  4. Body image, dieting, and eating healthy is something super integrated and ingrained into a young girl’s mind from a young age. Personally, I was made aware of what a “diet” is around the age of eight when my aunt made a comment about going on a new diet. I had known what a diet is and why people go on it since before that age because I always saw it on tabloids. These titles often had catchy titles like “Lose 10 Pounds in One Week” or “5 Exercises to Do To Make You Instantly Slimmer”. So, eight years old, I happily responded to my aunt, “I want to go on a diet too!” This began a very unhealthy relationship with restricting and overeating. In this Yoplait advertisement, it highlights a very concerning dialogue. Often, persons who suffer from eating disorders have a very similar exchange that happens in their heads. Having this advertisement show on television is concerning because it could be very triggering for a person trying to recover. For advertisers, they must highlight healthy eating behaviors, and this commercial is not. A person trying to justify a slice of cake in their head is just merely unhealthy.

  5. Guilty eating is something that a lot of people go through. Although no one should feel guilty about eating it often happens because on feels guilty. Not being able to get the correct nutrients your body needs because you feel guilty can be really harmful and it is important for people to have a strong mind about not feeling guilty about eating. Obviously it is really hard to do this but having support from family and friends can make this process a little bit easier if you are struggling with this. It is okay to reach out to peers and help. One thing i really agreed with this article that they said was that food should not be an obsession and I think if a lot of people tried to let loose of that obsession they could realize that obsessing over food can become harmful. It is really hard to not obsess over this and thats why having support if through this is so important.

  6. Overeating is a big issue in my life! During high school I was a huge gym freak. I would still eat junk food, but I would later burn it off. Now into college, I am way over the freshman 15. I don’t even work out, I try too, but food is so good. I have notice that I tend to eat because I am bored, or I tend to crave too much. Like the commercials, when I go to the movies, I still eat popcorn and have an ICEE, even having a good dinner before. Just because it’s what you when your at the movies. Now a days, to even catch up with friends or family, what do you do? Go to dinner, lunch, and have drinks. Everything, in my case revolves around food! It is ridiculous. I wish till this day, that I can control my eating habits, and find better things that can be comforting and not fatting.

  7. 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.

  8. Hello there, You’ve done an incredible job. I’ll definitely digg it and personally suggest to my friends.

    I am confident they will be benefited from this web

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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!!!

  14. 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 🙂

  15. 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.

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