Join Club Aries

Be the first to know about new products, special offers, store events, and more!

How Food Guilt Affects Our Fitness

Breaking the Food and Exercise Guilt Cycle

By Darla Leal | Reviewed by a board-certified physician

The food guilt cycle continues to grow in widespread proportions. It negatively affects those wanting to lose weight right up the chain to fitness competitors. Food guilt is a vicious cycle of making diet mistakes and punishing ourselves for the indiscretions. In order to regain feeling good about ourselves, we may spend hours exercising or restricting food the following day.

The food guilt cycle is considered disordered eating and not necessarily an eating disorder. It does include “feelings of guilt and shame when unable to maintain food and exercise habits” and “pre-occupation with food, body and exercise that causes distress and has a negative impact on quality of life.”

A distorted view of fitness is seen daily through unrealistic images of both men and women. We are falling prey emotionally to this type of marketing. It's important to understand how food guilt may be affecting your mental game when it comes to fitness. This will enable you to start working on self-improvement methods to move beyond this unhealthy way of thinking.

Eat the Cookie and Move On Already

Food Guilt Keeps Us From Being Healthy.

Those who seem to be affected most by food guilt are following a strict diet plan but struggle with the slightest hiccup. A night out with friends indulging on wine and pizza or a few cookies with the kids sends emotions of guilt spiraling out of control.

Women seem to be affected more than men. There is a belief all efforts toward fitness goals have been ruined by one diet mistake. This begins the cycle of fixing the problem through unhealthy methods.

Let’s stop right here and re-think the scenario. You're eating healthy and exercising regularly to maintain a fit body. Awesome job and keep it up. Now, enjoying a night out eating pizza or having a few cookies is not going to derail all your efforts.

You didn’t fail nor should you start binge eating because you're pissed off for doing something normal and healthy. Think about it. It's healthy to indulge once in a while and have balance in your life.

Holding onto self-induced food guilt does nothing for your health and fitness except add stress and anxiety to your life. So, you ate the pizza and cookies and guess what, everything will be OK. Don’t get hung up on what is done and move on. Accept you are still rocking a healthy lifestyle!

Perfection Does Not Exist                

Perfection is False Advertisement.

Perfection is another misconception among too many people trying to achieve the unattainable. No person, diet or even exercise program is perfect. Beautiful images and videos of people flash before us daily all for the sake of marketing something. This has nothing to do with fitness and everything to do with money.

Perfection does not exist however progress does. Everybody makes diet mistakes from the mainstream exerciser to super models. This is called being human. Focus on progress creating progress, not perfection, and this will remove the need to feel guilty.

 Stop Being Negative

 Negative Self-Talk Does Nothing but Promote Food Guilt.

Self-bashing is typical food guilt behavior and can go on for days until the person feels the punishment is over. There is nothing worse than being around Debbie or Dean Downer. Their conversation is fixated on negative talk about how eating a cheeseburger has ruined their fitness efforts.

Do you see yourself in this scenario? If so, it's time to make a mental shift. Change your outlook of self to a healthier and more realistic way of thinking. Focus on positive fitness efforts and don’t allow a diet mistake to define you. Health begins in your mind and your body hears what you're saying. Keep it positive!

Exercise Punishment

 Exercise is Meant for Health not for Punishment.

What comes to mind is the famous quote “you can’t out-exercise a bad diet” and it’s not even about having a bad diet. Labeling foods as good or bad has contributed to some degree to the food guilt cycle.

If I eat bad food, I'm forever doomed and require at least 3-hours of exercise punishment to redeem myself. These thoughts are not healthy and no-one deserves to feel or treat themselves this way.

This also causes resentful feelings toward working out and removes the purpose behind exercise to promote health.

“Make it your goal to become healthy through regular activity and proper nutrition. Don't focus on weight, body size, and shape. Think about health, fitness, and enjoying yourself.”


National Center for Eating Disorders, Why People Get Eating Disorders, Deanne Jade, 2010

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, What is Disordered Eating?, Marci Anderson, MS, RD, LDN, 2/25/15

University of Florida, Publication #FCS2253, Improving Your Body Image: Tips for Individuals, Families, and Professionals, Eboni J. Baugh et al., 2015