breaking out of food guilt

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and I’m working the Juice Box. I’ve got a Greens 3 in my bag, Toms on my feet, and my friend Paris and I cannot move fast enough. We’ve got it down like clockwork: I’m only four days into my training at Pressed Juicery Brentwood and I’m rattling off produce facts like a boss. I snag the juices out of the fridge, she numbers each bottle, I bag, she closes the transaction, they’re off. We’re zipping through the 20-person line like wildfire, yet spending just enough time with each customer to exchange smiles, words of wisdom, and of course, how-was-your-Thanksgiving’s. The resounding reply makes no mention of family, gratitude, or even vacation days off; what I hear the most is one thing: “I was so bad. I am such a pig.”

Fun fact: I worked at Pressed Juicery’s original Brentwood outpost, which I lovingly deemed The Juice Box, within its very first year of existence. It was an anomaly in Los Angeles, and I got to know the community so well they became like a whole new circle of friends. While I absolutely loved imparting fun facts about our juices’ ingredients and learning about the customers’ lives, I took the most pride in empowering them to make decisions not out of guilt or a search for a quick fix, but out of self respect and self acceptance. Still, it broke my heart when a beautiful young woman would insist on the most extreme cleanse possible the day after a holiday or vacation because she was “so bad” and “ate like a cow.” It wasn’t about refueling her body with liquid medicine; it was about punishing herself for what she viewed as failure. I am a big fan of mindful, proactive juice cleansing, but here’s another fun fact: the effects of cleansing only last in the long run when you cleanse from a place of self love, not self loathing. You’ve got to know you’re fabulous no matter what.

Food guilt lasts way beyond Thanksgiving. It’s become almost expected day-to-day commentary, especially around the holidays. While all we speak of before Thanksgiving are the things we’re blessed to have – the trees we’re down to deck, the family and friends we get to go visit – it makes me sad that those positive sentiments get replaced by jabs at our self image not even 24 hours after our day of gratitude has ended.

Growing up, the conversational topic of good and bad food was almost as prominent in my family’s gatherings as questions about detailed life updates. We’d starve ourselves the day of Thanksgiving to “save up” for the main event, and while we’d enjoy the pies and cookies and stuffing in moderation they would ultimately lead to complaints and comparisons afterward in the kitchen. For some it’s almost a way of bonding with one another; to talk about how uncomfortable they are and how guilty they feel. It becomes almost like a game of casual negativity to see who can out-guilt the other. And for others, myself included, it hits on a deeper level, a feeling of “ruining” days, weeks, months of healthy living and good eating.

Even the teeniest bit of food guilt is more than likely to arise at one point or another, especially during the holidays. To fight against food guilt and fight for the body that deserves to be loved, put these three tips to use year-round:

Actively choose not to define decisions as good or bad. This black-and-white mentality leaves no room for the bigger picture. Every choice is just that: a choice. Just like one single day of veggies and probiotics will not clean a toxin-filled slate, one single day of out-of-the-ordinary grub won’t negate every health-conscious decision you’ve ever made. The more we can detach from the emotional hold the seemingly bad decisions have on us, the quicker we can bounce back and the less they affect us, physically and psychologically.

Exercise and eat out of love, not punishment. Gone are the days I would take hours of fitness classes to try and burn off any “bad” decisions I had made. Gone is the jumping from one extreme to the next. I find that when I make my decisions out of self-loathing, even if momentary, I always walk out of the gym or away from the table unfulfilled, anxiety-ridden and empty. Why did it not go away, I wonder furiously. Because I was bringing my negative baggage into my seemingly positive decision. Not feeling a workout? Don’t force it! Take a walk and call a friend to catch up. Drink water because it revives dehydrated cells, sip on a green juice because it gives you energy. Maybe catch up on sleep. Maybe start to plan a cleanse during December if that sounds like something that will get you excited about taking care of your body and soul. Even if you’re feeling down, whatever you do, do it out of nurturing love.

Remind yourself that you have felt this way before and come out okay on the other side. Remind yourself over and over again that it’s fleeting. Chant this in your mind. Brand it onto your heart. You have most likely felt this way before. You have been through highs and lows – stretches of glorious body confidence and punctured (or prolonged) instances of your skin just not feeling like your own. As clean as your diet may be, as active and self-loving your lifestyle, these moments will always ebb and flow…and I promise you will come out okay on the other side. No shame, no guilt, no name calling or bad mouthing. You are fabulous – no matter what.

So, how was your Thanksgiving?

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