We’ve all been there. We say we are just going to have a bite of “_______.”
Then we have half of it…
Guilt starts to creep in and then we decide to eat the whole 350 calorie cookie (which won’t kill you) and instead of realizing we can eat the 350 calorie cookie, move on and NOT gain 10 pounds….we feel so guilty we eat four more cookies because we think we “F-ed up [the diet].” Might as well keep going…
Relinquishing guilt is a hard practice but it’s worth it.
Just like lifting weights at 5 a.m. or packing your lunch everyday isn’t always easy or convenient, it’s always WORTH IT when you have a firm goal in mind.
So how do we #droptheguilt ?
Guilt is not something any of us necessarily choose to feel and sadly guilt is something other people or things (like media) can convince us we need to feel.
I used to hear people in my office in Chicago talk about feeling guilty or eating “x” or for not working out enough… it was like feeling guilty was an obligatory feeling.
We feel guilt or convince ourselves to feel guilt based on our own moral compass, our lack of ability to conform to society normals or obey those whom we distinguish to have some type of authority.
For example, here are three sources from which my clients and readers say they feel guilt:
- #Fitspo Instagrams and Facebook posts convince them to feel guilty when they miss their workouts. It’s a sense of not measuring up. (social media sources).
- Friends who are always “on top of it,” make some of my clients feel guilty when they over sleep, go out to an “unhealthy lunch” or aren’t as “put together” as their friends. Or when friends convince them to indulge. (outside/social circle source).
- When they aren’t the best friend or human they can be (moral compass source).
There are ways to work on letting go of guilty feelings in order to focus on objective, actionable ways to make progress in our lives with fitness, fat loss goals and relationship goals. Today I am going to go through seen examples of “how-to.”
But first, I want to start with guilt surrounding exercise, or lack thereof.
One of the questions I ask my clients in their pre-consultation questionnaire is about how they feel on days they cannot exercise.
Many of my new clients write “guilty” or “nervous” in the blank space.
Then I ask Why? Why do you feel guilty?
The guilt seems to stem most often not from missing the actual exercise but from a negative cycle that forms after the missed gym time thanks to guilt, regret and negative self-talk.
During the consultation I usually hear something like, “I can’t get to the gym, so then I feel like I failed, so I don’t eat as well; then I’m stressing more and then I just feel guilty.”
We’ve all been there, right?
The added emotion of guilt doesn’t help us feel better about the lack of exercise.
And it also inhibits us from owning the rest of our day and enjoying what we CAN do.
It’s as if the guilt perpetuates negativity about ourselves, like we are gaslighting ourselves!
Gaslighting [CROF] Definition: a form of mental abuse wherein the real situation is manipulated and the abuser convinces the other person that what they know as fact is wrong. Then the truth/reality is twisted to favor the abuser.
Gaslighting is a fairly new term for me and I have experienced it personally. But what’s interesting is after being gaslighted by another person and understanding how it works, I realized that a lot of people gaslight themselves when it comes to fitness and nutrition.
Gaslighting yourself can seem complicated but it really isn’t… I think we are all guilty of it at times.
It’s important to recognize this phenomenon whether you are being gaslighted (read more about gaslighting here or here) or you are gaslighting yourself so that you can stop the abuse or self-sabotage.
When it comes to fat loss, guilt is our worst enemy.
Here’s an example of gaslighting yourself: You have to cut a workout short and it was on a day you planned to have the most intense workout in the history of ever….when you have leave unexpectedly you become irrationally upset about having a “crappy” workout (when in reality you did three sets of four different exercises in a strenuous fashion and maybe you didn’t have time to do #allthereps and cardio at the end, but it was a solid session).
Or, you had a bite of a cupcake and you feel like you failed to work it all off in the gym (#calorieburn) so you tell yourself you are a “failure,” a “fat-ass,” “incapable” and the list of negative self-talk goes on…
Symptoms of gaslighting yourself:
- Punishing yourself with mean words, not eating or overexercising for not meeting specific [unrealistic] standards.
- Beating yourself up for not doing something better when in reality you completed an endeavor very well.
- Inability to be objective with yourself and see room for slight progress or celebrate slight progress.
- Criticizing about your body or performance to the point of tears, sadness, anger or depression.
When we gaslight ourselves we mentally act as our own worst enemy; we convince ourselves we are “bad” for whatever actions we did or didn’t take.
We warp our own reality.
We tell ourselves that we are going to fail from not going to the gym that ONE day, or we are going to gain five pounds because we ate carbs, etc. and in reality, we are actually fine.
The reality we create in our minds is deviated from what is actually happening and our reliance on these false instances kills our progress because we view our own world in a negative light.
This is like a step beyond negative self talk. It is negative, self-sabotage.
Side note: It is actually OK to not workout everyday. You can stay lean, maintain weight, or even lose fat from training just three to four times a week, so long as you have a strategic nutrition plan.
Is exercise beneficial?
Does it make us feel good? YES (or at least it should only ADD to your life, not subtract from it). If you don’t believe me that less IS more, read thing “Lazy Man’s Fat Loss Plan.”
Remember to stay logical, don’t gaslight yourself.
Don’t be a drama queen to yourself because a good friend isn’t in your head with you to step in and tell you you’re being a drama queen..
Be nice to YOU!
The best thing you can do to avoid guilt is DO YOU.
Stay true and authentic to you and do measurable things so you can write it down on a piece of paper and take an objective look at it all.
How do you stay logical in your own little world and get results?
- Follow a training program
- Hire a coach
- Quantify your training: How far are you running? How often are you training? What are you training for?
- Get a little sweaty each day if it makes you feel good.
You have to eliminate guilt in order to keep moving each day, especially when it doesn’t feel perfect.
Here are 7 things that you need to stop feeling guilty about and how to do it:
Some of these are from me personally and most from readers on the #Daretomove Motivator.
1. “Not following through with the plan.”
One of my readers wrote to me about how she has these ideas in her head about meals she wants to prep, workouts she wants to do and even general household “To-Do” items with which she can’t seem to follow through.
As frustrating as it sounds to have a “To-Do” list you can’t achieve, try adding on a side of terrible guilt… it only makes the whole day/week/month worse when you spend it self-loathing or experiencing feelings bad emotionally.
A big part of how she described feeling was inadequate and confused with this “gap” between what she wants to do and then what she is actually able to do.
The girl who wrote to me is smart, has a great job and boyfriend but she often feels like she can’t get shit done….
Our plan to help her get shit done?
Have her get a PLANNER.
Set weekly EXPECTATIONS.
I’m not talking about expectations that are “pie-in-the-sky” wishes, but realistic things that she has to VISUALIZE.
I told her to start working on picturing what she will do— when you begin to picture the actions you must take, it begins to get more real.
First you see yourself carrying out the action and realize “oh shoot— I am going to need ____to do that” or “Wow if I want to get that done I should probably do ___ first.” Then you will come up with a more firm plan of what steps you will have to take.
The bottom line: don’t just write “to-do” lists, think about what you WILL do and picture yourself doing it ahead of time.
Go to tricks for getting shit done:
-write it on yellow paper
-tape it to your wall
-go through your list before you go to bed (also pack bag, lunch, workout stuff the night before).
-get a planner
-have two calendars and make sure one is hand written
2. “I feel guilty about eating healthy all day and then eating way too much when I get home. It’s stress, not preparing well enough, or lack of willpower… or all the above.”
This was the story of my life and pretty much all of my clients lives. We all thought we had to eat tiny portions throughout the day when “on a diet.”
Then we come home and eat our entire kitchen.
Many people restrict so severely throughout the day and come home to a stocked kitchen, alone and not seated at a dinner table to FEAST on anything and everything because they have only had 700 consumed calories for the day so far.
It’s not that you all of the sudden lack willpower in your own home per se, it’s that based on your caloric needs to maintain your bodyweight or even to create a slight deficit most of us aren’t eating enough throughout the day to keep a good energy balance.
By the time we get home we are so hungry and without patience on our side to cook a well-portioned dinner plate and sit down to eat it.
So how do we combat this?
- Come up with a plan and figure out HOW MUCH you plan to eat each day. (If you need help download my Fat Loss Jumpstarter eBook and read Chapter 8).
- Track what you are eating and make sure you are eating enough at each meal, or having small meals that lend you to have eaten at least 60% of your calories by dinner time. If you aren’t at 60% understand how much you need to eat to hit your totals and on the train home or before you leave work come up with a game plan for what you will make.
- Promise yourself to get out all of the ingredients to make your dinner first. If you aren’t cooking put all of the contents of your meal on ONE dinner plate before you SIT DOWN to eat it.
- Don’t snack while you cook. If you have the calories to incorporate a cooking snack, plate your snack. Don’t reach into the chip bag, count them and track them all.
- Make sure you measure what you are cooking and don’t just wing it. When extra hungry it is easy to get carried away with portions.
3. “I feel guilty when I don’t spend enough time outside.” -Me
For a lot of my #Daretomove Motivators who work at 8 to 5 desk jobs, being outside is an absolute luxury. We sit at our desks and daydream about the times in our lives when we used to have recess.
There are even those of you who daydream about the times you used to be able to take the full hour to go on a walk at lunchtime.
We read about the benefits of being outside, of play, of laughter etc. and without those things we feel trapped at our desks or in our buildings etc.
If it isn’t already frustrating enough to have to be inside on a pretty day, do not make yourself feel bad about it.
When I have to be inside for too long I am like a crying, whining labrador retriever standing at the door waiting to go outside and greet strangers in the yard.
I hate not being able to enjoy great weather. However, dwelling on my lack of fresh air on days I must be working all inside only makes my day go by slower and feel less happy.
Think about ways you can get active on the weekend, drive with your windows down on the way home, walk outside to run a quick, fifteen minute errand on a work break, or take a personal call outside!
If it is a matter of being sad or depressed or unhappy, then do things like going outside that make you HAPPY when you can find the time.
But, if you wanna be a housecat, be a house cat.
If you really truly want to be outside more, don’t feel guilty just pencil it in in a realistic way this goes back to No. 1 on the list.
4. “I feel guilty when I do too much cardio but I feel like I have to when I eat too much.”
What is too much cardio? Does anyone know?
If you are training for a half-marathon or marathon you may be running four to five times a week, and in that case doing a lot of cardio. However, generally speaking, doing high intensity intervals, steady state cardio or metabolic conditioning circuits two to four times a week is a great idea.
But before you decide on an arbitrary number of cardio ask or lifting days ask yourself, why cardio? Why lift?
Think about what your goal is first and then set up a plan that is realistic.
If your goal is fat loss and you put nutrition first, any type of exercise you do while on your unique diet plan will help, really!
Here’s how I talk to my nutrition clients about how much cardio they should or shouldn’t do:
- What do you enjoy doing for exercise?
- Do you have any specific training goals?
- How many days does your schedule realistically allow you to workout?
- What equipment do you have access to?
When you enjoy running and you are injury-free, there is nothing wrong with going for a light jog.
But when the jog becomes punishment, or an hour spent telling yourself you have to run because you were “bad” then that’s when things go awry. Many of us run through pain, injuries and illness just because we feel like we have to and then the exhaustion perpetuates the over-eating overtraining cycle.
It is important to be objective with yourself and quantify what you are doing.
How much are you eating? What is too much?
For instance, if you eat 700 calories at dinner, but have bee tracking your food throughout the day and realize you had barely eaten that day, then you can rest assured that those 700 calories at dinner are NOT going to make you fat or go off-plan.
When you are aware of how much you are eating daily you can decide if you want to exercise because you are excited to train, you want to swing some kettlebells or enjoy the breeze on your face as you run outside.
When you are aware of how much you are eating you can trust that your nutrition will get you results no matter what and forced exercise sessions are not necessary.
When we track our food, or log our training (runs, lifts, etc.) we are better able to see it all objectively and know what we should or shouldn’t do to stay on track.
Most of us fear gaining weight so much we do unrealistic things, like eating only 600 calories throughout the day, then wondering why we are struggling to NOT eat the entire pizza at a party later on. It’s not that we don’t have willpower it’s that sometimes we are too hard on ourselves.
If you have severe fears of gaining weight, talk to someone. See a professional.
If you are interested in getting on a strategic plan in order to make fat loss progress objectively without this vicious cycle of over-exercise, over eat, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I can help.
Side note: Growing up I was consumed with reading exercise and fitness magazines and following several female leaders in the industry who had negative pasts with over-exercising and under-eating and over-eating.
All of them discussed and preached balance and moderation and how exercising too much is bad/stressing on the body.
And I agree, doing cardio for two hours is definitely NOT the way to go. I speak from experience. I could relate to these women very well.
And, I am very thankful that so many women in the industry have shared their stories and preached moderation.
However, as a young, impressionable high school/college girl I was so consumed with reading these things I started to feel GUILTY whenever I did go for an extra run per week for fun. I worried maybe I too, was doing too much cardio and felt guilty.
The more guilty I felt the more I worried I would end up adrenally fatigued like them. I was taking it all too seriously and warping my reality. I would feel sleepy and think I was adrenally fatigued. I was in my own head way too much.
It wasn’t until I found a healthy balance of lifting and conditioning through trial and error that I was able to look back and see where I was overtraining and where I wasn’t.
The best advice I can give is: stay objective and come up with a plan that is realistic.
What’s realistic for fat loss and training? Check out this article first, “How much should you exercise for fat loss?”
Moving for 30 minutes a day is FINE.
You like to run?
Go run! You like to walk the dog? GREAT!
If you do small metabolic conditioning circuits you can easily do six short 15-30 minute circuits in one week.
However if you like to train heavy lifts, three to four days a week is enough.
Add in a cardio session or two? OK. great. Make sure to fuel accordingly. If you do not know how to make sure you are eating enough feel free to reach out!
5. “I feel guilty when I can’t workout.”
When you start to feel this way, put it in perspective.
How are you doing according to the plan you created? If you planned to train four days a week but only made it twice, don’t beat yourself up, YOU TRAINED TWO TIMES THIS WEEK! Woo!
You can make progress with two days of training a week. It’s all about trusting that you CAN.
I have clients that say they feel guilty about missing sessions, but in reality they play on a rec soccer league, or take bike rides on Saturdays or walk their dog daily.
They don’t really need to be hitting up the gym for the elliptical.
Also, if you do not train at all one week, so long as your nutrition stays reasonable and within guidelines you are following, you will not gain weight from not going to the gym.
All you have to do is quantify how much you are eating. If you go over your planned calories one day, it’s OK, 300 calories extra will not make you gain one pound, just like eating 300 less one day will not make you lose one pound.
The goal is to be able to consistently exercise and eat in a sustainable manner over TIME. No day is perfect.
6. “I feel guilty when I drink and then eat foods I wouldn’t normally eat.”
Going out to eat on a “diet” is a slippery slope sometimes when we go in without a plan. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.
Take a look at some strategies I created in order to help people live a lifestyle of leanness:
- Fat Loss Tips for Summer Part I (sit-down restaurant experience)
- Fat Loss Tips for Summer Part II (sushi rules)
- Fat Loss Tips for Summer Part III (backyard barbecues)
- Fat Loss Tips for Summer Part IV (for travel)
And, not only do we struggle to stay on track when we leave the comfort of our own kitchen to dine-out but when traveling it’s tough to stay regimented because our whole routine is thrown.
Instead of playing tug-of-war with yourself, try and be adaptable. If you usually have toast in the morning, but instead you have an apple from a gas station, it’s still a carb for a carb!
Try to remember your normal routine and if your normal routine doesn’t include Swedish Fish “just because” and you know that you will be bummed about eating them, then say no confidently.
However, if you are on a tour of the Swedish Fish factory, it might be a special time to eat some!
You have to choose when to indulge and when you do, OWN it.
7. “I feel guilty when I have to cancel plans.”
You might not think this has anything to do with fat loss and for the most part you are right.
I personally feel guilty when I have to cancel plans.
Like, really guilty.
The bubbly side of me wants to be a social butterfly, but my eyes are bigger than my schedule has room for in most cases.
In theory I want to grab late dinners Tuesday nights, have a cocktail on a Thursday night with friends etc. however when running my own business, teaching 5 a.m. classes and currently prepping for a bikini contest, my lifestyle simply doesn’t have room to be a social butterfly right now.
I compromise with myself and try and do something social and non-fitness related twice a week. Sometimes I book more than that, but have to cancel and GUILT creeps in.
I am less productive when I feel guilty.
That being said, I always come back to this article I wrote over a year ago about cognitive dissonance and it really helps me.
Check out this article and remember, you can’t do it all or be everything. Be YOU, do YOU and be realistic with what you plan with regards to nutrition and training.
YOU GOT THIS.