Guilt is useful for taming a lot of bad behavior: It’s a good thing to feel guilty about hurting an innocent person, say, or not picking up after your dog.
But it’s not a productive emotion when it comes to dieting, some experts argue in an article on the Web site of Women’s Health magazine. “Here’s the problem,” says Michelle May, a doctor who wrote “Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat.” “When we judge food as being ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ we also judge ourselves and other people as ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ depending on what we ate.” This can lead to oversimplifying nutritional information, suffering low self-esteem, and what May calls the “eat-repent-repeat cycle”: A dieter who overindulges will punish herself by extremely depriving herself, “which is one of the most powerful triggers for overeating.”
The article, by Robin Hilmantel, also says that spending emotional energy on what you “should” eat — what she calls “food shaming” — weakens your ability to trust your own body to make food choices. And when people disconnect from their natural signals of hunger and fullness, she writes, they can wind up with eating disorders.
It’s an interesting argument, put in the context of the larger culture that glorifies both decadent desserts and size-zero figures. And for a little food-shaming entertainment, it links to the “I’m So Bad” clip on misplaced guilt from the TV series “Inside Amy Schumer.”