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Guilt about eating chocolate associated with body dissatisfaction

By Michelle May, M.D.

I’m not particularly surprised by the following findings from a study reported at the American Psychiatric Association meeting.

chocolate - gourmet 2Young women who crave chocolate — and feel particularly guilty about it — were significantly more likely to have other features of eating disorders…and body image dissatisfaction.

The study didn’t draw conclusions about the cause, in other words, which comes first:

  1. Is it that eating chocolate or other favorite “off-limits” foods leads to guilt > penance > more cravings > overeating > weight gain > body dissatisfaction?
  2. Or is it body dissatisfaction leads to dieting > restriction > deprivation > cravings > overeating > guilt?

Either way, this is what I refer to as the Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle. The real questions we need to answer if we are ever going to break free from this vicious cycle are:

  • Why is chocolate a “bad” food? (Please don’t say “Well, dark chocolate isn’t bad” – I mean why is any food “bad” when it provides pleasure in moderation?)
  • Isn’t it obvious that making a delicious food “bad” only increases feelings of deprivation and cravings?
  • When you feel guilty about eating something “off-limits,” does that cause you to stop eating it–or do you end up eating more–but just enjoy it less?
  • Why do so many women feel bad about their bodies – and is this body dissatisfaction leading to improved health or obsession?
  • Why is it so hard for so many “experts” to recognize that a negative, restrictive approach to eating just doesn’t work?

What other burning questions and comments do you  have?


About the author

Michelle May, M.D. is a recovered yo-yo dieter and the founder of the Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs and Training. She is the award-winning author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat: A Mindful Eating Program to Break Your Eat-Repent-Repeat Cycle , winner of seven publishing awards. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes, Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat for Binge Eating, and Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Bariatric Surgery. Michelle shares her compelling message and constructive keynotes with audiences around the country, offers workplace wellness programs, and has trained and licensed hundreds of health professionals to facilitate Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Programs worldwide. She has been featured on Dr. Oz, the Discovery Health Channel, and Oprah Radio, and quoted in Diabetic Living, Fitness, Health, Huffington Post, Parents, Self, USA Weekend, US News & World Report, WebMD and many others. Her personal success story was published in Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul. Michelle cherishes her relationships with her husband, Owen and grown children, Tyler and Elyse. She regularly enjoys practicing yoga and hiking near her home in Phoenix, Arizona. She and Owen, a professional chef, share a passion for gourmet and healthful cooking, wine tasting, photography, and traveling.

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