I’m Being So Bad! I’m Not Supposed to be Eating This!

A few years ago, while dishing up a bowl of oatmeal in the buffet line at a retreat center, a guest next to me was adding fresh berries to her granola.

As she drizzled honey on top of the fruit, she turned to me and said, “I’m being so bad! I’m not supposed to be eating this!”

Her comment caught me off guard.

Uncertain how to respond, I just smiled at her and went about my breakfast-gathering business.

Hoping to Hear
I’m not exactly sure what response the woman was looking for, but I have a few ideas.

It’s possible she was hoping for some reassurance that she and her actions were okay, that she wouldn’t get caught cheating on her diet or completely go to pot after eating an apparently forbidden food.

Maybe she felt that by confessing her food sin she’d be absolved of the guilt she was feeling.

Perhaps she wanted me to give her some sort of permission, like, “Hey, you only live once—go for it!” or “Heck, you work hard, you deserve it!”

Or she might have been hoping for a bonding moment, a shared experience of being bad. Something along the lines of: “I hear ya. I’m going to pay for eating all these carbs!”

A Lasting Impression
Although it lasted only a few seconds, the encounter left a lasting impression on me.

I was struck by her need to call attention to her food choice, especially to me, a complete stranger. It was as if she was trying to say: “I know better! I rarely eat like this so please don’t judge me based on this one food crime.”

The entire episode left me feeling a little sad.

I could actually really relate to what the woman was experiencing because I saw myself in her when I was imprisoned in the diet mentality.

Our Oppressive Diet Culture
This is what our toxic diet culture has done to us.

It has convinced us that there are good and bad foods and that we’re either good or bad depending upon which list we choose from.

It’s made us believe our choices are a reflection of our character, morality, willpower and intelligence.

It has conditioned us to feel guilty and ashamed of our innate human desire to eat and enjoy pleasurable food.

It’s trained us to think we need to apologize and atone for our so-called eating transgressions.

And, it’s caused us to spend an insane amount of time, energy and headspace thinking about what we should or shouldn’t eat.

Designed to Keep Us in Line
Food moralism is designed by an oppressive system to keep us in line. In our attempt to be obedient and follow the rules, many of us have developed a really disordered relationship with food and our body.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

At any moment, you can decide to defy diet culture and reclaim your power.

Perhaps your first step is simply becoming more aware of when you judge your eating—and yourself—as good or bad. Start to question whether this is really true and if such labeling is helpful or harmful.

Stealing is Bad; Eating Food Isn’t
If I could go back in time to that buffet line, I would look at that woman with compassion and empathy and say something that may have helped her view the situation and her beliefs differently, something like:

Are you stealing the food? No? Well, then there’s absolutely no reason to feel bad or guilty. Truly. Enjoy your breakfast. Lick the bowl clean. Don't look back.