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Shame Is Fattening: Shifting Restriction to Moderation

shame is fattening

This week, a lot of my clients are worried about all the “naughty” foods around every turn.

How will I say no?

How do I deal with the FOMO (fear of missing out)?

What do I do when Grandma makes me my favorite cookies?

Maybe you’re trying tactics to grit your teeth and willpower your way into a “no,” standing up for your “healthiest body” [healthy bodies require healthy minds around food].

Maybe you’ve heard that people who look the way you want to look don’t eat foods like the ones you want [bullsh**; they just don’t have all of it all the time].

Maybe you’ve read that saying “no” is empowering; giving in is weakness [that mentality alone is set up for failure].

When you say “no” to the foods you love from a place of shame, you’re probably shoving down the loneliness and longing that inevitably comes with restriction. You feel anxious about it. You feel jealous or judgy toward people who do allow themselves to enjoy those things. Basically, you have a not-so-merry time because all your focus goes into not eating what you want instead of being present with everyone you love.

In my experience, denying cravings or once-a-year delights from a place of shame never ends well.

Shame is fattening.

Know why? Shame-based “no’s” (restriction) make you hungrier. When you shame yourself into not having your favorite cookies because you “shouldn’t” or because you’ve decided that “giving in” is a sign of weakness, you give all your power to those cookies.

Your mind stays on them, battling back and forth, creating anxiety and guilt. You start to rationalize why you “deserve” them, or that your diet will start after the holidays because it’s just too hard to say “no” to everything right now. And then you justify that you might as well have everything because you’re starting for real on the first.

So you go back to the cookies and eat all of them. Ooh is that pie? You have a couple slices of that. And most of the candy jar because, well, it’s there. And the brownies in the freezer…

See what I mean? Shame-based food choices never end well.

Lifelong moderation doesn’t come from forced restriction; it comes from a place of allowance and love for yourself.

[tweet it]

Saying “yes” to a couple cookies can be a loving act for your mind and your body.

Here’s a simple way to break down the difference between shame-based choices (restriction) and loving allowance (moderation):

Restriction feels like imprisonment. Moderation feels like freedom.

[tweet it]

To start living in moderation, all you have to do is take a Mindful Moment before you reach for food. The Mindful Moment will help you determine:

      • if you’re reaching for food from an emotional place.
      • what to do with emotions that will actually relieve them (instead of stuffing them down with food).
      • if eating this food is a true act of love for yourself.
      • how to eat mindfully.

Sound like a life saver? It is! Taking these Mindful Moments allows you to shift into a different frame of mind than the must-eat-it-all-before-I-have-a-chance-to-feel-guilty place. It’s time to get real about the role food plays in your life.

Here’s how you do it…

How to Do A Mindful Moment

    1. Find a quiet spot like a bathroom or outside to sit with your eyes closed.
    2. Assess your emotional state. How are you feeling? Name the top 1-3 emotions.
    3. If any of those emotions are angry, anxious, worried, scared, sad, frustrated, or any other negative emotion, take 3-10 long deep breaths keeping your eyes closed until your emotions calm down. If you’re feeling positive or peaceful emotions, move forward after 1 deep breath.
    4. Consider what you’re about to eat, then tell yourself: “I’m allowed to have this if it’s what I honestly believe is the most loving thing I can do for myself.”
    5. If you decide that it is loving to eat it, determine how much is a loving portion and move to step 6. If you decide that it isn’t loving to eat it, then take a deep breath into that place of love and ask yourself what you really need that you were trying to fill with food. I suggest journaling about it; writing it out always helps me get to the bottom of what I really need. When you’ve realized what you’re truly experiencing, address it. Do something real to alleviate it. Or just allow yourself to feel it so that you can move forward free of it.
    6. If you choose to eat it, eat mindfully, savoring each bite without distractions (tv, phone, books, magazines, anxiety-producing conversation, etc.). Pay attention to each bite (taste, feel in your mouth, smell, etc.), checking in with yourself about whether or not you truly want the next bite and why. You might find that you don’t even like the way it tastes, or that 10 bites tastes the same as 3. You might realize that you don’t need as much as you thought you did when you really allow yourself to enjoy it.

For this to be truly mindset-shifting, commit to being rigorously honest with yourself in every step. If you decide to eat the food, take your time. Truly savor it like I talk about in this post.

Allowing yourself to make love-based food choices will open up the way you approach food.

Knowing that you can have anything you want as long as it’s loving toward yourself shifts the focus away from what you “can’t” have to what you want to nourish your body and soul with.

Disclaimer: this won’t start perfectly. You might find that you eat more than your body likes or that your inner restrictor talks you out of most food choices. Take note of your tendencies after you eat with Mindful Moments a couple times, then try these tips when you notice a pattern…

Tendency: Restrictor

If you find that you’re still experiencing a lot of anxiety, longing or mistrust after eating certain foods, it’s likely that your tendency is to restrict.

Try this to bring it back to love: journal about what loving your body and soul really means to you. Consider how certain foods make you feel and what over-restricting foods does to you emotionally. If you’re comfortable, journal around what a comfortable allotment of “off-limits” treats would be for you.

Tendency: Overeater

If you find that you’re still overeating or choosing foods that make you feel like crap all the time, it’s likely that your tendency is to binge.

Try this to bring it back to love: write a list of foods that make you feel really good. Then, write out a list of foods that make you feel bad physically or emotionally. Be detailed about how you feel after you eat those foods. Looking at your lists on paper complete with your physical reactions to the foods can be a reality check. There’s no arguing with the fact that certain foods affect you badly when you can look at them on paper.

If you still struggle after doing this exercise, try setting up a meal plan. By that, I don’t mean to plan out everything you eat down to the most minute detail (please DON’T do that); I mean having set meals to eat (like 3 meals and 2 snacks) and determining what loving portion sizes look like for you. How many of those meals can you realistically make from your first list of foods without feeling restricted?

Please note that we go back and forth between the two tendencies if we tend toward one at all. Check back in with yourself every so often to see which way you’re leaning at the given moment.


When no foods are “off-limits,” you never have to worry about giving in. When you allow yourself to have the “bad stuff” sometimes – and the rest of the time focus on what makes your body feel good – you’ll feel a deeper sense of empowerment than any you’ll get from forcing yourself not to have what you want.

Food doesn’t have to be a source of anguish. Take back your power, one Mindful Moment at a time. [tweet it]

Stay strong,


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3 responses to “Shame Is Fattening: Shifting Restriction to Moderation”

  1. Ambrose WB says:

    As always – honest and thorough. Glad someone’s calling “bullshit” Amy!

  2. Love this! The mindful moment is my FAVORITE! I see so many of my clients who waste precious energy FIGHTING their cravings, then give into them, then proceed to feel guilty about what they just ate. They didn’t even enjoy their treat and so they still feel unsatisfied and on top of that, guilty. I’m sharing this post with all of them because it is in complete alignment with what I teach them -self-love. Thanks for another awesome post!

  3. Sabs says:

    This is one of the best articles I have read on this subject. For the last 15 years I’ve flitted between restriction (for ‘health reasons’) and bingeing (for emotional escape). I’m slowly learning that depriving myself of something will only lead to a binge, when I’d rather be open to all foods and learn what makes me feel good and what doesn’t, and also when I’m trying to squash emotions down with food. It’s a journey for sure, that I hope will lead to a place of self love and understanding.x

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