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How To Lose Food Guilt When Dining Out

Have You Ever Felt Food Guilt?

You’re out to dinner with your diet culture crowd friends. While looking at the menu, you find something that sounds tasty. Your mouth starts to water.

You’ve been working on eating more foods that you like. You are so excited to try ordering food you want rather than what is “healthy.”

Your friends begin to order. It’s all “healthy” food. Your stomach flutters. Your face reddens. Now, you are doubting your choice of a cheeseburger and fries.

What will your friends think? What will the waiter think? You have a quick moment of self-shaming about ordering what you want rather than what diet culture says you should have.

It’s your turn to order. Your throat is dry. You take a deep breath.

Food Guilt Is Normal On A Non-Diet Journey Especially For People In Larger Bodies

Everyone that rejects diet culture and eats foods that satisfy them will feel this at some point. Diet culture is so ingrained in us that it makes us doubt our ability to feed ourselves. It makes us feel guilty about our food choices.

But, let’s be honest, it’s even harder for people in a larger body.


Not only do you have diet culture’s food rules all around you you also have experience with weight stigma. This is when you have been discriminated against or made to feel bad about your body size.

When you choose foods at a restaurant, at the grocery store, or even at family gatherings, you feel the need to choose “healthy foods”. You feel like the people around you are judging you not only for your food choices but for your body size. Those feelings of shame can negatively impact us.

It can make you start to doubt your weight neutral journey.

Woman doubting diet culture and having food guilt

It’s Okay To Doubt Yourself

Feeling like others are judging you can shake your belief in rejecting diet culture. You know that there are no good foods or bad foods. But that’s a tough concept for most people.

Feeling uncomfortable when eating with friends that follow diet culture is totally normal.

Humans are designed to want to go with the crowd. In the past, following the group made it more likely you would be accepted. Acceptance meant that you’d live longer, have better access to food, and have an easier life. Being judged harshly might mean you didn’t live as long.

Even though you aren’t living in the distant past, you still want to fit in.

But the truth is that sometimes fitting in doesn’t make your life better. Following diet culture may give you more to talk to your friends about, but it may lead to food guilt.

You know that dieting and restricting are bad for you.

Don’t Stop Rejecting Diet Culture

Even though it’s a difficult process, you’ve realized that diet culture isn’t benefiting you. It isn’t serving you. Dieting keeps you stuck in a cycle of hating your body, seeing food as an enemy, and being unhappy.

Don’t give up on that just to get acceptance from the diet culture crowd. But resisting diet culture may leave you stuck with food guilt.

What Can You Do When You Feel Food Guilt When Dining Out?

There are some things you can do to redirect your negative feelings when eating meals with people deep in diet culture.

1. Remind yourself that you are doing this for yourself, not anyone else.

That’s right. Even though you might feel guilty for eating the foods you love and not following the diet culture norms, you aren’t doing this because it’s comfortable.

You’ve chosen to end diet culture in your life to improve your health and your relationship with food. You know why diet culture is harmful.

The people around you might not be on board with the changes you’re making. They may still feel guilty about their food choices. They expect you to feel the same.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what other people think about it.

The truth is that you will never make everyone happy or comfortable with your choices. It is much better to focus on what you need rather than trying to make those around you happy with your decisions.

Woman pointing to herself and not focusing on food guilt.

2. Remind yourself that those around you are eating based on diet culture rules.

You know that so many of the eating habits people have are rooted in diet culture.

How do you know? Diet culture is something you’ve worked on recognizing and eliminating from your life.

But the people in your life probably aren’t where you are. They don’t see what you see.

That doesn’t mean that you should give up. It is hard being the only one working on a change. You know this change is worth sticking with even when it feels uncomfortable.

And by sticking with it, you could actually be helping the people in your life break free from food guilt.


3. Remind yourself that you are showing what healthy eating really is.

Let’s reframe this situation.

By making room for foods that you love, you are showing others that it is possible to eat foods that nourish and satisfy you. You are showing others how to eat without guilt.

You are modeling healthy eating behavior. Sometimes, you can try talking to the people in your life about healthy food habits.

This is even more important when there are younger children around. They get so many diet culture messages. Break the cycle early and show them a variety of foods that can be enjoyed and added to their diet.

Give Yourself Permission To Ditch Food Guilt

When that feeling of panic comes at you, take a breath.

Remind yourself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else orders and that you are making changes to improve your relationship with food.

Tell yourself that it is okay. Give yourself permission to eat without food guilt.

I hope you order food that sounds good, nourish, and satisfies you. I hope you enjoy your meal regardless of what anyone else may order. This is just another part of your journey to rejecting diet culture.

Woman eating dessert without food guilt

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Looking for an NC dietitian that accepts Blue Cross, Cigna, United Health Care insurance or self-pay? I’d love to work with you one on one. Schedule your free clarity call today.

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