Will You Join Us in Banning the G-Word?

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know how strongly I feel that guilt has no place in our relationship with food.

For this reason, I am absolutely thrilled that the San Francisco Chronicle’s new restaurant reviewer, Soleil Ho, has promised to never use the G-Word in her reviews.

Here’s what she had to say in a recent article

“Guilt: I don’t use this word because of the harm it does to our relationship to food, especially because ‘guilt’ in this context never actually refers to things that do carry ethical weight, like cannibalism or stealing food from the hungry.

Why should anyone besides the Hamburglar, who seems to enjoy the act of larceny for the sheer thrill of it, feel guilty about their food choices?

The overwhelmingly majority of the time I’ve encountered this word in food writing or a marketing context has been about diet food, mainly directed toward girls and women: ‘guilt-free snacks,’ ‘ice cream without the guilt,’ and so on.

Criminalizing the everyday act of eating reinforces the idea that we need to punish ourselves for wanting food when we’re hungry, which encourages us to develop really screwed-up and disordered attitudes toward our own bodies.

Relatedly, I hate every time Great British Bake-off judge Prue Leith says that a pastry is good if it’s ‘worth the calories.’”

I did an extra cheer when I read Ho’s last sentence because I also cringe mightily whenever I hear Leith (or anyone else) make a comment like this.

Let’s Do This Together
My hope is that more people—from restaurant reviewers and food writers to chefs and copywriters—follow Ho’s lead and ban the word guilt when it comes to food.

You, too, can help drive this change. Notice when you find yourself saying things like:

  • I feel so guilty for eating all those cookies.

  • My guilty pleasure is a bacon double cheeseburger.

  • I seriously overdid it at dinner; I need to burn off all those calories tomorrow!

  • This chocolate fudge cake is sinfully good.

  • I was so bad today; I ate way too many chips.

When you do catch yourself referring to guilt or morality when talking about your food choices (or someone else’s), turn it into an opportunity to practice a new way of speaking to yourself and others about food—one that is unconditional, empowering and liberating rather than criminalizing, punitive and oppressive. 

Once I Open the Bag, I Can't Stop!

Ever since she was a kid, Kendra loved barbecue potato chips. They reminded her of summer pool parties, lakeside picnics and backyard cookouts.

When she began dieting in her 20s, she rarely let herself eat them. Her beloved salty snacks had been put on her “bad” foods list.

However, making the chips a forbidden food backfired. Depriving herself of them only intensified her cravings.

Soon they became one of Kendra's trigger foods. Once she started crunching away on them, she couldn’t stop.

When she would break down and finally eat the chips, her eating felt out of control. She ate with a sense of urgency, barely even tasting them.

Halfway through the bag, she’d tell herself, “I’ve come this far, I might as well keep going since I’m never letting myself have these again!”

As she licked the barbecue seasoning off her fingers, Kendra would be overcome with tremendous guilt and shame.

These feelings, coupled with the overeating, provided her with false evidence that she simply couldn’t be trusted with the chips. She vowed to never let them cross her lips again.

But she couldn’t stop thinking about them!

The Habituation Effect

Feeling obsessed with your forbidden foods is a natural outcome of dieting and deprivation. Telling yourself you can’t have something often makes you want it even more.

When you make foods off limits, whether it’s chocolate, ice cream, bread, chips or fries, it elevates their desirability, reward value and power.

In order to make peace with the chips and stop her restrict-binge-repent-repeat cycle, Kendra needed to experience the habituation effect.

Habituation means the more you eat a particular food, the less enticing it becomes.


As its novelty and allure wears off, the food becomes neutral. It’s no longer a big deal. You desire it less. (You’ve probably experienced this with leftovers.)

Forbidden-food rules, food restriction and dieting prevent habituation. Lack of habituation, combined with the fear you'll never be able to eat a certain food again, commonly results in intense cravings, overeating and binge eating.

Unconditional Permission to Eat

In the past, Kendra would only allow herself to eat barbecue chips about once a month since she always ended up losing control and overdoing it.

In order to habituate to the chips, she started to eat them every day, sometimes a few times a day.

At first, Kendra was scared to have the chips around all the time. As she feared, she did continue to overeat them for a while. However, although she didn’t trust herself yet, she did trust the process and stuck with it.

By giving herself unconditional permission to enjoy the chips whenever she wanted and however much she wanted, Kendra was able to neutralize her relationship with them.

Eventually, her desire for the chips diminished. Sometimes she completely forgot they were in her cupboard! When she did want them, she was able to eat an amount that felt just right, completely guilt-free.

Encouraged by the outcome, Kendra slowly started eating her other forbidden foods, gradually rebuilding her self-trust while enjoying a more peaceful, flexible and relaxed relationship with food.

Try this at the Grocery Store...

Do you embrace and celebrate diversity?

Many of us like to think we do.

Yet, when it comes to body sizes and shapes, it’s not uncommon to have a very limited view regarding what’s acceptable.

Our intolerance is fueled by the relentless “thin ideal” messaging we’re hammered with every day.

We’ve internalized these messages and convinced ourselves that a thin body is a good body, a healthy body, the right body.

If we’re unable to conform to the thin ideal, we believe both our body and our character are flawed.

We go searching for a plan, pill or potion that will shape-shift our body, ultimately erasing its uniqueness. Mistakenly, understandably and sadly, we believe doing so will increase our value and worth.

Wake Up to Reality

What if, instead of trying to change our bodies, we opened our eyes and minds?

What if we stepped outside the oppressive, toxic bubble that’s given us a very narrow view of what our body is supposed to look like and instead woke up to reality?

When you wake up to reality, you will see so very clearly that bodies come in an incredible range of shapes and sizes.


You will also quickly realize that about 99.9 percent of the bodies around you don’t look anything like the “perfect body” we’re conditioned to aspire to have.

We all have our own genetic blueprint. And fighting it is a waste of our time, money and life force.

Spend Time in a Crowded Place

To help you recognize and embrace body diversity, spend time people-watching in a crowded place, like a grocery store, shopping mall, park or airport.

Observe the myriad of bodies around you—without making any comparisons, judgments or assumptions. Simply witness how distinctively different each body is.

If you’re like me, you’ll soon be in awe of all the various forms your fellow human beings come in.

As you continue this practice, you’ll start to expand your definition of beauty to one that’s more authentic and inclusive, to one that’s based on your own direct experience and terms—and not the terms of an industry that profits greatly from you feeling bad about your body.

Eventually, you’ll change your expectations of your body, cultivate a more accepting attitude toward all bodies, and celebrate our divine diversity in all its many forms.