The crushing Weight of Guilt and Shame


I noticed this sign recently at a Trader Joe’s market. I read it and felt like it stabbed me in the soul. “Reduced guilt”  macaroni and cheese. My first thought was–who the hell are you, oh colorful sign-maker,  to decide what should and should not induce guilt? But on further reflection I just feel very sad at the idea that macaroni and cheese induces guilt at all. Because food is not something we should feel ashamed to want or need.

Just like exercise is not a punishment for having a body.

It’s not that I don’t believe in guilt. I used to say that, but I have since read too many bad news stories to make that claim–if you are committing murder, spilling nuclear waste or harming kittens, please, take a little more guilt on.


Is making better choices a good idea? Sure. But whose better choices? Who decides what is and not “bad” and “good” in terms of food? And on what planet should occasional less-healthy-for-us choices make us feel guilt?

Has anyone considered that the ongoing guilt and shame around food, eating and our body contribute to ill health in a way that a bowl of macaroni and cheese just doesn’t warrant?

And perhaps those who use marketing and advertising to manipulate our feelings around food, using wildly emotional words like clean and toxic, guilt-free and natural in ways that really don’t hold up under scrutiny are part of the problem?

So people, let’s stop seeing every single bite of food as a choice in a way that implies the future of humanity rests on it. I support a diet rich in vegetables, healthy fats, protein and complex carbs and low in refined sugars and Cheetos. BUT. I also support eating the foods of your culture, the delights of the County fair and the real-ass macaroni and cheese with as much joy and delight as such things warrant, with no pangs of guilt, no shame, no fear and no post-weiner period of fasting or punishment to atone for the “sins”.

Sometimes a bowl of macaroni and cheese is JUST a bowl of macaroni and cheese, and nothing more or less.

NOTE: I am NOT referring to people with severe food allergies here, as that is a more complex subject that requires more caution but still doesn’t warrant guilt.

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