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Why Do I Feel Guilty For NOT Dieting?

Just let me eat my Cheetos puffs in peace, please.

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As a woman who works in retail surrounded by other women, I'm accustom to listening to diet talk and to conversations about how bikini season is only three months away. While I personally am anti-dieting culture, it's something I understand will always be around, and for some, dieting can really help change lives. However, recently I've realized a new development in this strange diet culture- shaming those who do not diet.

Let me paint you a picture, it was my company's annual pre-holiday party and for our festival potluck I decided to make a bowl of puppy chow (if you don't know what this is, google the recipe, make it, and thank me later). As I could eat a whole bowl to myself, I decided to make extra as it was a party of 20. As the night progressed I started to realize I was the one eating my delicious bowl of sugary goodness, and offered some to my friend. Maybe no one knew what it was? Well, as I started to offer it around, the overwhelming response I received was "no thank you, I'm on a diet," or "no thank you, I'm trying to eat healthy," or my favorite "no thank you, I'm trying to be 'good' this holiday season."

By the end of the night I was not only feeling really sick, I ate way too much puppy chow because I was embarrassed that I brought such an "unhealthy," food to a party, I was also feeling pretty low. I've always been naturally thin, and live a pretty healthy lifestyle. I eat fruits and vegetables, exercise, and try my hardest to drink a lot of water. But I also have been raised knowing that food shouldn't be treated as inherently bad or good, but just as that-food. I went home that night and started thinking about going on a diet. Whether it was Paleo, Gluten-Free, or South Beach it didn't matter, I felt like I should join the group of girls at work who only had an apple for breakfast and ate their perfectly measured carb-free meal for lunch.

In fact, for the next two days, I made sure to pack a healthy lunch, to be 'good,' this holiday season before the madness of Christmas feasts kicked in. During my lunch breaks I'd unpack my apple and almond butter (no legumes for me!), and munch on some veggie chips instead of animal crackers (ew, carbs). I was showered with "Oh you're so good you brought such a healthy lunch," and "no wonder you are so thin, you are such a healthy eater!" In reality, all I really wanted was my bag of Cheetos Puffs. But I was too ashamed to pull them out because what would the others say?!

After a week of living like this, I started to feel really anxious, guilty, and to be honest, I wasn't feeling myself. Making foods like Cheetos Puffs, or chocolates, or other fun food the "bad guy," started to really mess with my head. I started to only think about these foods, how I wish I could cheat on this diet and go back to my old way of living. After a while, and a couple long chats with my family, I realized this life of extremism and dieting wasn't good for me or my mental health. That all food is good, and everything is OK in moderation.

I returned to eating my Cheetos and having my chocolate at work, and started to receive "I don't know how you're eating that," or "is your diet over?" comments. But instead of feeling anxious or guilty, I shrugged and let it go. I wasn't going to feel guilty because I wasn't dieting. I wasn't going to let food control me, and I sure as hell wasn't going to let my junk food go uneaten. Instead I was going to live as an active 23-year-old and not let the dieters get to me. Because I was going to have my cake and eat it too. #YOLO

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