Why I Hate The Term 'Guilt Free'

Thursday, February 22, 2018


Throughout my teenage years I had, what would probably be described as, a very unhealthy relationship with food, calories were always on my mind and I was always on the hunt for 'guilt free' foods that would allow me to 'satisfy' my appetite without feeling bad for, yanno, meeting my basic nutritional needs as a human. 'Guilt free' foods seemed like my saving grace but, after spending the past couple of years rebuilding my relationship with food and recognising the value in pursuing health rather than a magical weight on the scale, I've come to realise just how damaging the term 'guilt free' really is.

Having repaired my relationship with food, I'd now consider myself to be a part of a health and wellness focused community on social media and, from both my blog and my Instagram feed, it's pretty clear that health is one of my passions. But, while immersing myself in a health focused community has ultimately improved my relationship with food, I've noticed a pattern of people who begin to value healthy foods so highly that less nutritious foods start to become associated with guilt but, put simply, guilt is a feeling that should have no relation to food.

Although a lot of the recipes featured on my blog are healthier versions of some of my favourite treats, I actively try to avoid the term 'guilt free' because, usually, when someone calls a food 'guilt free', what they really mean is that it's a healthier food. I love making healthier versions of treats because I find the experience of experimenting with what you can make with whole foods really fun and when I base my diet around whole foods, I feel more energetic and generally better. But, the use of the term 'guilt free' wrongly suggests that the calorie content and nutritional value of a food is somehow tied to a sense of morality, as though there's a scale from kale to pizza by which the moral value of food can be decided. Writing that down makes it sound kind of ridiculous but the concept of 'guilt full' and 'guilt free' foods really does confuse people by suggesting that the nutritional value of your food is intrinsically linked with how it makes you feel mentally. So, it's important to remember that while nutritious foods are important for physical health, you shouldn't feel any guiltier for eating a massive slice of sugary vegan chocolate cake than you do about eating a whole foods banana bread.

Overall, I'd consider my diet to be pretty healthy but the prevalence of diet culture means that I still sometimes have to remind myself that it's okay to eat unhealthier foods. The way that I do that is by remembering the simple fact that food is food and nothing more. Food can be nutritious and not so nutritious but, at the end of the day, it's just fuel for the body and it definitely doesn't need to be associated with guilt of any kind.

I think healthy foods are hugely important but a healthy relationship with food is even more important than the nutritional content of food. Managing the terminology used in the health community is essential to promoting a maintainable healthy lifestyle in a positive way, so while I'm all for striving to eat whole, healthy foods, it's so important to avoid demonising other foods in the process. Food and guilt are two concepts that should not be linked!

What are your feelings on 'guilt free' foods?

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