How the “naughty food” myth keeps you stuck in shame and guilt.

ImageI was waiting for a friend in the reception area of a gym a while ago and as I waited, a woman in her mid 60’s came in, freshly tanned and looking very relaxed.

She was obviously a regular member, back from a holiday and as she chatted  with the 20 something receptionist I was so stunned by their conversation that I wanted to slap them both.


It went something like this:

Gym girl: (smiling) “Oh Mavis, how was your holiday, did you have a fabulous time?”

Mavis:  (looking a bit uncomfortable) “Oh yes, it was wonderful but I got a bit carried away with the food I think”. 

Gym girl: (now with a ‘tone’ in her voice) “Really?  Why? Were you NAUGHTY?”

Mavis: (looking a bit guilty and ashamed). “Yes, I’m afraid I was. I couldn’t resist the dessert buffet. I at SO MUCH bad food.” (Nervous laughter).

Gym girl:  (looking disapproving): “Oh well, better go and work off those desserts then.”

Mavis: “Yes, I’ll have to work extra hard to make up for it.” (nervous laugh).

What made me want to slap them both?

Firstly, the obvious disapproval of a 20 something girl to a woman old enough to be her Mother over a simple act of eating, which is a very pleasurable part for most of us of the whole “holiday experience”.

Secondly, the obvious shame that “Mavis” seemed to feel  and how willing she was to accept being labeled as “naughty”. (Did I mention she was 60 something?)

And thirdly the fact that what Mavis ate on HER holiday was freely up for judgment and discussion!

Then I started noticing this behaviour EVERYWHERE and ONLY from women.

  • Friends on Facebook who were posting about  going out for dinner and being “naughty” for having desserts or cakes or chocolate and “joking” about the extra exercise they would have to put in tomorrow.
  • Clients who express guilt and shame about eating “bad” or “fattening” food.
  • Women in conversations casually labeling themselves as “naughty” or “bad” because of something they ate and the conversation almost takes on the tones and hush of a church confession.

“Forgive me sister for I have sinned. I ate a wicked chocolate cake. I indulged in a sinful ice-cream. I pigged out on a block of family sized chocolate and I feel SO ASHAMED!


  1. Eating is NOT naughty. It just isn’t. Unless you are 5 years old and you took ALL the chocolate for yourself after you were told to share some with your siblings. Even then, the behavior was naughty, NOT the eating.
  2. Eating is NOT a shameful activity. We all need to eat or we would die. If you feel ashamed about eating we really need to talk about the judgments and labels you are living with or the story you are telling yourself about your body and weight.
  3. When you feel guilty about ANYTHING, guilt ALWAYS REQUIRES PUNISHMENT. Always. When you feel guilty you will believe that you are either a) deserving of punishment or b) find a way to punish yourself. You will find a way to punish yourself and when the guilt is about eating, you will generally decide to go on a diet and exercise plan, the stricter, the better!
  4. Shame and guilt are dis-empowering. You can’t make positive choices from a place of guilt and shame. You will just keep equating feeling “good” with eating “good” food and feeling guilty and naughty for eating “bad” food.
  5. There are NO bad foods! Are some better nutritionally? Hell yes! But when you label something as “bad”, how can you possibly feel good about eating it?

Giving yourself labels like “bad” or “naughty” or “weak” or “undisciplined” or “disgusting” and accepting those labels from others WILL NOT HELP YOU CHANGE! It just keeps you stuck in the cycle of shame and guilt.

When you can see food as just food, with no labels, no moral weighting, no other emotionally loaded JUDGEMENT, it will free you from a MASSIVE load of unnecessary guilt and shame.

Contrary to popular belief, shame and guilt won’t get you thin or keep you there.

True change, lasting change, REAL change only comes from self-acceptance, self-love and self-support.

When you love who you are, you feel that you deserve to be nourished.

When you love and accept your body, you start listening to it and knowing when it wants to be fed.

When you support yourself, you give yourself the tools to stop punishing yourself with food by either eating more than your body wants or depriving your body of nourishment and calories.

Stop the food and eating shame.

Stop accepting the labels.

Stop calling your eating either “naughty” or “good”.

And most of all, tell the girl behind the counter at your gym to mind her own bloody business and stay out of yours!

Still feeling the eating shame and guilt and need some help?

Come on over to and ask me about the Diet Free Body Program and how it can help you change your relationship with food AND your body.

best wishes







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