Page 1 of 3Does this story sound familiar to you? You’re doing pretty well sticking within your calorie range until that box of candy shows up in the office, or all heck breaks loose and the only way to squeeze in lunch is at the local fast food joint. You give in to the candy or the double cheeseburger with fries and after that, things really go downhill. You start off feeling a little guilty, and the next thing you know, you’re eating everything in sight and telling yourself you’ll start over tomorrow, or next week, or…
So, what’s really going on here? Were you just standing in the wrong line when they were handing out will power? Not too likely. Do you have some deep, subconscious desire to not lose weight that compels you to sabotage yourself? Possibly, but probably not. Most likely, the problem is that you went on a toxic guilt trip.
The Difference Between Healthy Guilt & Toxic Guilt
Don't get me wrong here. I'm all for an appropriate level of guilt. It lets you know when you're letting yourself (or someone else) down, and reminds you that your impulses are not the most important things in the universe. But there’s guilt, and then there’s GUILT.
The main difference between healthy guilt and its toxic cousin is a matter of when you feel it. Appropriate guilt is the kind you feel before you do something you don't want to do, while things are still in the thinking-about-it stage and there is still a chance you can choose not to do the thing that makes you feel guilty.
We psychologists refer to this as having a conscience, and it is a very helpful thing. It’s so helpful that it always amazes me that you hear so little about it in discussions about weight loss.
Most of us have a good conscience when it comes to treating other people decently—we routinely expect it of ourselves and others. But when it comes to treating ourselves decently by eating well and exercising and refusing to verbally abuse ourselves when we aren’t perfect…POOF! The most powerful weapon you have in your arsenal for getting yourself to act the way you want to suddenly becomes off-limits.
This might not be such a bad thing, if it meant you could get rid of the disabling, toxic guilt that comes with having an overactive, perfectionistic conscience. But that’s not what happens. In fact, just the opposite happens.