What Drives Food Choices: Guilt

It’s 3:30pm and you are feeling like an afternoon snack. You have a meal ready to go in the fridge – a small salad with some nuts on the side. You also have the vending machine that is just down the hall, calling your name.

What do you pick?


In this scenario, convenience isn’t an issue – both easily accessible. The salad has better nutrient quality, but the vending machine can provide more pleasure (short term). So overall, there are pros and cons to each.

If you pick the vending machine – you will probably feel guilty after. You had a healthy meal that you had taken the time to prepare but you avoided it anyway.

This feeling of guilt usually has an inverse relationship with nutrition quality. The lesser the nutrition quality, the higher the great likelihood of feeling guilt…

But hang on, that’s after eating, so how does guilt drive food choices?

People learn what foods make them feel guilty, and then avoid them in the future. This can be from personal experience or from what they are told or hear from other people.

Sometimes it can be a good thing. If avoiding guilt by eating your salad over the vending machine works, you can claim that to be a good outcome.

However, excessive guilt and nervosa around food can lead to disordered eating – and not just the types you know of already.

Orthorexia is an unhealthy obsession with food. Basically, people get so hung up on what foods to eat, what is good/bad, or suitable to them, that they begin to eliminate food groups and become stressed around unfamiliar foods.


Now this isn’t exactly commonplace, but the instances are rising in recent years as this obsession with healthy eating has become popular, particularly on social media.

The fact that there is no definition of ‘healthy eating’ doesn’t help, so in the end the obsession often comes back to body image.

Solving the solution of guilt isn’t just about removing it completely.

It’s a bit like fear – even though we don’t like being scared, fear stops us from doing stupid things like jumping between buildings. Likewise with food, you can remove the guilt of eating these foods, but if you consume them in excess, you will still gain weight.

The key to managing guilt and food is to use moderation. The majority of the time, consume foods that are on your plan.

Every now and then, include foods that aren’t perfect, but if that fill those cravings, they have done their job.

If you have an unhealthy obsession with food, it’s important to break down what are the potential cause.

I believe that quite often due to not having a range of food options. People continue to eat the same foods and get results, so they get scared to make any changes or add variety.

You can hit the same macros with literally millions of food combinations, so there is no need to eat the exact some meals each day!

By adding this variety, you won’t freak out next time you can’t eat chicken and brown rice for some reason!

Thanks for reading the four part series What Drive Nutritional Choices.

There is some exciting content planned for the Integrated Fitness & Nutrition Blog, website and social media pages. So keep an eye out over the next few months!