Houston Forward Times

20 August 2014 Written by  Valecia Weeks

Healthy Guilt vs Toxic Guilt

You have been pretty consistent with sticking within your calorie range until that enticing box of chocolate candy shows up in your work space, or all heck breaks loose on the job and the only possible way you can grab something to eat is to run quickly to the local fast food joint. You submit to the candy and that delicious double cheeseburger with fries and a calorie packed soft drink and after that, things take a downward spiral. You start off feeling a little guilty, so, you justify your actions of falling off the wagon and begin to eat everything in sight and convince yourself that you will definitely start over tomorrow or next week, or…well you get the picture! Does this paint a picture of something that you’ve done before?

So, where did you go wrong? Did you happen to be standing in the "got no will power" line when they were handing out will power? Are you purposely trying to sabotage yourself? That’s possible, but highly unlikely. Most likely, the problem is that you went on a toxic guilt trip.

Now, don’t get me wrong, guilt will happen at times and I’m all for a healthy level of guilt. It keeps you grounded and prompts you to get back on the right track. On the flip side, you will feel healthy guilt before you do something and go the other direction. Healthy guilt’s first cousin, toxic guilt, is the opposite. She steps up and reminds you what an idiot you were to have done the horrible thing that you’ve already committed.

The guilt that we feel, whether healthy or toxic, is referred to as "having a conscience". This 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.

Here are ways to end the Toxic Guilt Trip: Exercise Your Healthy Lifestyle Conscience

Fortunately, the solution to the problem of toxic guilt is really quite simple, at least in theory. All you have to do are three simple things:

  1. When that quiet, nagging voice in your head starts saying that you are about to do something it doesn’t approve of, listen to it. Stop what you’re doing for a few moments to ask yourself, "Is this what I really want to do?"
  2. If you agree with the voice, decide not do the thing in question. If you disagree, decide to do it. And if you’re not sure (or if you halfway want to and halfway don’t), try to postpone your decision (and action) until you’ve had a chance to sort things out a little more.
  3. After you’ve made your decision, act! Then take a few more seconds to notice how you feel about what you just did. Nothing fancy here, no psychoanalyzing yourself, no reading yourself the riot act if you didn’t do what you wanted. Just note what you decided, what you actually did, and how you felt afterwards. File this in the memory banks for future reference.

Now, you could be sitting there right now saying to yourself, "what is she saying? The whole problem is that I never hear that little voice until after the fact. The minute I see that chocolate or smell that cheeseburger cooking, it automatically just jumps into my mouth." This is NOT true. The little voice is there, you just aren’t hearing it because you’re more accustomed to your louder toxic guilt.

To train yourself to hear the little voice before it’s too late, just keep practicing the three steps above until it becomes second nature to STOP and ASK yourself what you really want to do before you act. Once your conscience knows you are making the effort to listen again, it will move back up to its proper place in the chain of events.