Food is fuel: How to not feel guilty about eating

By: Rafihat Banjo, Columnist

This column is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Views expressed in opinion columns are the author’s own. 

“Food is fuel. Food is fuel. Food is fuel,” I mentally chant to myself as I pull up a food delivery app on my phone. I can’t speak for everyone, but at one point in time most of us have subconsciously thought about the amount of junk food we’ve consumed in one sitting – which is okay because you should be able to treat yourself without feeling guilty. Moderation is key.

Diet culture is real and it’s so easy to fall into the trap that society has shown in the media. You go on social media, or you turn on your TV and you see skinny people. It’s so easy to overthink what you consume and be obsessed with counting calories.

Counting calories is fine to do, but not if you become obsessed with it and make it your whole personality. Cough… cough… people who chug pre-work out and brag about how much they lift at the gym.

Look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Why do I feel guilty when I eat certain foods? Why do I not feel guilty when I eat healthy?”

Make a list of foods you enjoy eating and foods you wish you didn’t eat as much. Ask yourself why you think you should stop eating these “unhealthy” foods.

Technically, all food is unhealthy if you have too much of it. Let’s say you really enjoy spinach. You could eat spinach in many different ways. In your sandwich, in your salad, you could eat it cooked or raw, you could put it in your pasta, make it into a sauce, or add it to your pizza. You may think “Oh! Since I’m eating tons of spinach, I’m super healthy.”

Some of you may already know that spinach is high in iron, calcium, potassium, and has many other great health benefits. It also possesses oxalates, which is an ingredient found in a lot of plant material. 

“The oxalate content in spinach may pose a problem if you are prone to developing kidney stones,” Gord Kerr, a writer for Livestrong, said. “When oxalates bind to calcium, they are normally excreted. But under certain conditions, they may accumulate in the kidney to form calcium-oxalate fragments. These fragments can form larger crystals, or kidney stones, according to the National Kidney Foundation.”

Like I stated earlier, moderation is key. You may think you’re doing great and healthy things for your body but in reality, you’re doing your body a disservice.

Another way to not feel guilty is to experiment with different foods. Try foods you’ve never had before, or you’ve been wanting to try. You could make a bucket list of foods you’ve been wanting to try but were too “afraid” or “scared” to try.

Additionally, you should eat the food for what it is. Think about what you’re consuming by enjoying the texture and savoring the taste.

Lastly, you could try to identify why you feel guilty while eating food or certain foods. Identify those factors and ask yourself how you reduce or eliminate feeling guilty when consuming food. 

With that being said, if you want to eat ice cream after dinner, go for it! If you think you deserve a donut for acing your exam, go for it! If you wake up one day and just want to have a cheat day, go for it!

Listen to your body, listen to your cravings. If your body is telling you that it wants potato chips, eat some potato chips. Don’t ignore your brain telling your body it wants food. Having seconds for dinner once in a while isn’t going to harm you or your body. Eating junk is better than skipping out on meals or not eating at all.

Next time you think about counting calories or skipping meals, remember, food fuels your body, good or bad.

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