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Guilty Pleasures

Last week I wrote about how “guilt-free” food advertising encourages feelings of shame about eating, so perhaps that made me all the more sensitive when watching last week’s episode of The Next Food Network Star. The three finalists presented their pitches, and one, by Russell Jackson, was titled Guilty Pleasures.

Watching it made me think about why we feel guilty when eating something we enjoy, and I quickly realized that there are many reasons, including ones I probably haven’t thought about. But here are a few that come to mind.

For some people, anything pleasurable induces feelings of guilt. For others, it could be related to what Wikipedia has to say on the matter: “The ‘guilt’ involved is sometimes simply fear of others discovering one's lowbrow or otherwise embarrassing tastes.” This reminded me of the song “Junk Food Junkie” by Larry Groce, in which the protagonist eats healthy foods in front of his friends and family, but in secret eats junk food.

And then there’s the flip side, where people want to do something illicit that makes them feel a bit rebellious. In that case, eating food that directly goes against health recommendations is enjoyable not necessarily because of how the food tastes, but simply for consuming it.

All of this makes me think again about the judgment we so often put on food, as well as ourselves and others for consuming it. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to eat what you want and need, at the time and in the amounts that you want and need it, without worrying about what anyone else thinks. In those situations, any guilt disappears, whether you’re eating an apple or an apple pie or anything else.

And yet, personally I’ve found this sense of judgment to be one of the most difficult things to move past. Having lost so much weight, and helping others reconnect with food, I still struggle with not eating as much as I need around other people, because sometimes I need to eat a lot but I fear that if I do, they’ll see me as hypocritical.

As I think about it, though, I realize that others may well be very happy to see me eating a lot, or having a cookie, because it can remind them that, at least from my perspective, having a good relationship with food isn’t about deprivation.

That is what I will try to remember the next time I feel tempted to stop eating before I’m ready, so I can continue to move past any concerns about judgment or accompanying guilt, and hope that it will help others do the same

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