Over the last few weeks, I interviewed many people at different stages of life about their snacking behavior and one thing stood out to me - snack guilt. Almost everyone mentioned that they were trying to eat healthier and called out obvious choices like snacking on fruits and vegetables. Then things got interesting. Nuts, cheese, whole grain crackers, granola and even tortilla chips and salsa were considered on the healthier end of the spectrum. In mostly whispered voices, they talked about late-night binges on cookies or letting loose and eating an entire bag of potato chips. I heard phrases like emotional eating and stress eating. I wanted to learn a little more about how a small meal could cause so much angst. According to an article from Self.com, there are several factors that can lead to food guilt:
- Social Media - highly edited portrayal of ideal bodies and healthy lifestyle stereotypes
- Popular diets and nutrition experts labeling foods as good or bad. Extreme diets can be very restrictive and lead to feelings of shame or guilt when not followed to the letter
- Family norms - starting at a young age, body image can be reinforced by parents, relatives and siblings. In addition family culture can impact the way you consume food and your relationship to food. Did you have to finish everything on your plate before you could leave the table?
Some people are more susceptible to feelings of anxiety around food and this can lead to eating disorders. That said, I was still surprised at how many of the folks I talked to had strong feelings about the choices they were making and not eating mindfully. Give yourselves a break and try a little self-forgiveness. And develop a plan for your snacking just like you would for your meals. Keep some snacks around the house that you know won’t cause guilty feelings but still satisfy that crave. Snack happy!!