Forget “guilty” pleasures. The next time you “celebrate” by eating your favorite chips, dips, or sweets, give yourself permission to fully enjoy the indulgence. Worrying over calories or feeling guilty can put you at risk for weight gain. A recent study took a group and told them to describe their thoughts about eating chocolate cake and asked whether it was linked to guilt or celebration? (“Celebration” meaning eating cake to mark a special occasion or event rather than associating the eating of cake with being happy.)
Guilt can have adaptive as well as maladaptive consequences. It can motivate us to change, as guilt is an unpleasant feeling; if you feel guilty you are more likely to change your behavior. However, we also know that guilt might also be related to loss of control, the feeling that you really can’t do it and you may as well let it all go.
In this study they found that there was no evidence for adaptive or motivational aspects of guilt. They found that those people who associated chocolate cake with guilt did not report more positive attitude or stronger intentions to eat healthy. Instead, they perceived that they had less control over healthy eating behavior and they found it more difficult to eat healthily compared to participants who associated chocolate cake with celebration. Those who associate eating chocolate cake with guilt were also less likely to be able to maintain their weight over a long period.