How many times do we beat ourselves up after we had some chocolate, a croissant, a muffin, an afternoon tea, or even some popcorn while watching a movie? If you experience guilt after having a sweet treat, I know exactly how you feel. 

In the past, eating a sweet treat would totally change my mood. 


While I was eating it, I used to think I was enjoying it. In truth, my mind was already playing with the “guilty feeling” and I started to hear the voice inside my brain saying horrible things to me. 


It took a bit of time and inner reflection, but when I started to take control of this voice, I realised I was not living the present moment. I was not enjoying my treat and, at the same time, I was consciously sabotaging myself


Why was I sabotaging myself? 


Because I knew I was weaker than my inner voice. I knew that I was not strong enough to own it and to keep living my life like nothing was happening. I knew that the next day I had to detox myself from something horrible I ate, like a pack of biscuits during the evening after a tiring day at the office. 

What happens in these moments? Why do you experience this guilty feeling after eating something “naughty?” Why are you not like many of your friends, who can just relax and indulge whenever they want? 


After studying and coaching clients who wanted to have help and support in fighting this guilty trap, I realised that the issue stems from giving ourselves a fake reward when we don’t feel at peace with ourselves. We think we deserve something nice that can make us feel good. 


But we are wrong. 


For many of us, these naughty treats are not a reward; but us satisfying our cravings. We crave for something other than whatever food we indulge in. It isn’t just about wanting food: it is a rebellion, it is a sad moment, it is a release from a stressful situation, it is something we miss and that we want in our life, like a loving stable relationship, a friendship, a different body, a new job, more self-confidence and so on.


If we experience guilt straight after eating something, it’s not really a treat: it doesn’t make us feel good, and instead just adds unnecessary stress to our minds and bodies. 


When we experience this guilt, it is because we use food as a quick solution to hide or to release an issue. 


You and I are different; my naughty treats are not yours. I love Ben’s Cookies for example and I can finish the whole pack of six biscuits if I am not in the right state of mind. But if I share them with a friend or if someone offers me one, I can easily have only one biscuit and forget about it. This is because I decide to put the company and what I did that day at the center of the experience, not the biscuit itself. I choose to live my life instead of crying about something so small. 


When you realise that life and being healthy goes beyond what you eat that particular day, you are already on a good path to your freedom. 


Here are some steps you can use to fight the guilty feeling when you eat something you consider “unhealthy”:


Step number 1: Realise what having a treat really does


Realise that you cannot put on weight just by eating an ice cream or a piece of cake. It’ll only make a difference if you did this every day for a week. We are talking about treats that you eat once or twice a week. 


Realise that life without these treats and moments would be boring and too monotonous. 


Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you not to come home late? How many times have you come back home a bit later than usual just because you wanted to be a bit wilder and break the rules? You didn’t do anything wrong. You became the beautiful person you are now, because of your discipline, to come back to the rules that were in your house. 


Today you know what your balance is. You can stay up until late one or two nights a week and then have a quieter lifestyle during the week. Without these breaks in routine, life would be dull. 


This is the same thing with your “unhealthy” treats. Break the rules for a joyful moment and realise that this is part of your balance and life. 


If you don’t let yourself have these moments, you will crave them. You’ll attempt to recreate them but they won’t be the same. For example, having an ice cream with your best friend you didn’t see for a long time is a joyful experience. Having a romantic dinner with your boyfriend and sharing a delicious dessert with him is part of that love-connection moment. Eating some Christmas cookies with your family in the afternoon and watching a movie are moments of pure joy.


Step number 2: Define a treat for joy and a treat for comfort 


In my opinion, this is the most important step. 


It is crucial to remember you are having your treat because you are in a good mood—you’re not having it in order to comfort yourself in a sad moment or a stressful situation


When you have an ice cream while your best friend chats away to you, your body feels fuller because you are nourished on a deeper level: from the social connection you are having with your best friend. You are having that treat with them only to break rules and then coming back to your healthy lifestyle. The focus in that moment is on social connection and relationship with her, not on the food itself. 


But if the ice cream is an instinct reaction to a moment of sadness or stress, it is a red flag as you start to use treats, and in this case sugar, to hide your issues. 


This can cause weight gain as your body is going to want this “quick fix” every time you’re in a negative state of mind. During these moments, I suggest you to take a deep breath in and out and ask yourself: Do I really want it? Will I feel better or worse if I eat it? What’s my emotional state right now?


Step number 3: Shift your attention from the food you are eating to the experience you are living


This is really useful to put in action. It can really shift your mindset and help you live fully in the present moment. 


When you find yourself having an unhealthy treat of any kind, take a step back before you start to beat yourself up and be fully immersed in your experience. 


Notice where you are, what conversations you are having, and who is around you. Be grateful for that moment: look at the happiness that is around you. Be strong and focus on your surroundings. After that, give yourself a moment to be grateful for living that day


I promise that if you commit to shifting your attention on something other than the treat, you will feel empowered, more positive, and freer from negative thoughts. 


Step number 4: Set an intention


After you shift your attention on something else as said above, now decide specifically where you want to focus. 


Do you want to focus on your relationship with your boyfriend? Your parents? Your work colleagues? Yourself? Do you want to focus on challenging yourself with new experiences? 


Anything goes. Choose one and act on that. Every time your mind starts to wonder and think about what you ate and which detox to do the next day, come back to your intention. 


Step number 5: Visualise


Visualise yourself free and empowered with a beautiful and functional body that allows you to do so many things for yourself and for others.


After you eat anything you consider naughty and I am always presuming you are sharing this moment with someone else, come back immediately to the intention you set for yourself. Fight the inner voice that wants to bring you down. 


Here, some powerful affirmations you can use or you can create your own:


“I am free from any negative thoughts.”

“I am mentally and physically in shape.”

“This is my balance and it is ok to let it go.”

“My body needs to be in balance and I have to let it go sometimes.”

“I am strong, beautiful and empowered.”

“I am stronger than that.”

“I love life and I want to enjoy it.”

“I am healthy and I know what true health is.”


Step number 6: Come back to your 80/20 lifestyle. Don’t detox yourself from anything, just eat healthy.


You don’t need a strict detox, you are ready to keep LIVING your 80/20 beautiful lifestyle. 


You can lose weight or keep your ideal weight enjoying the treats when you’d like to have them. To help yourself feel better the next day, discipline yourself to drink lots of water and to eat lots of green vegetables and fruits with the rest of your food. Practice your exercise routine and have a good night’s sleep.


I hope you found these tips useful and you can start to shift your mindset towards these “unhealthy treats” we all want and that sometimes we find hard to give to ourselves. 


We were all born free and we deserve to be free from any negative thoughts we put in our minds; we deserve to enjoy life at its fullest having the right balance. We need to be ‘bad’ sometimes in order to be good for the rest of the time. 


Do you find it hard to create a healthier lifestyle and need expert advice? Book your free health consultation with me.


For continuous online access to pilates workouts, health & nutrition advice and ongoing support, join Shapes Studio.


With love,