The biggest issue with the term "Guilt Free"

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The biggest issue with the term "Guilt Free" is the insinuation that certain foods should make you feel guilty if you eat them. Regardless of whether your goals are to gain weight, loose weight or build muscle; there is no food that will be the reason for achieving or not achieving your goals.

The word "guilty" has very negative connotations and whilst there are certain foods that need to be moderated more than others, no foods should make you feel guilty. In order to have a healthy lifestyle you also need to have a healthy relationship with food and exercise. This means being able to eat without feeling restricted or negative towards yourself after eating certain foods. 

First and foremost, the amount of everything you eat is far more important than the individual food itself. For example, if your goal is to lose weight, then having five 200 calorie chocolate bars a day may be counter-productive if it uses up too much of your daily calorie allowance, however having one may not affect your weight loss goal in the slightest.  There are no 'good' or 'bad' foods - you simply have more nutrient dense foods (vegetables, fruit, potatoes, rice, chicken, beef etc...) and less nutrient dense foods (ice cream, biscuits, cereal etc...). The less nutrient dense foods are also seen as the foods that should make you feel 'guilty', when in reality if they are consumed within your own calorie guidelines for your own personal goal, then they will have the same effect as the supposed "guilt-free" foods. 

I do want to be clear that I'm not suggesting you should never use these 'guilt-free' recipes - sometimes people find ways of making your favourite dish (eg pizza) lower calorie - which is great and can allow you to eat with more emjoyment on your weight loss journey. My issue here is that they should not be called "guilt-free", but rather simply "lower calorie", or "low-fat" versions; as calling something a "guilt-free version" insinuates that someone should feel guilty if they eat the real deal. There is nothing wrong with eating healthier versions of your favourite foods as a way to to eat them more frequently and not moderate them so strictly, but in the same way there is no reason to feel guilty if you do choose to eat your favourite foods. Remember: everything in moderation. 

A bigger issue is when "guilt-free" doesn't even mean what you might expect. Recently, I saw a recipe for "guilt-free" truffles which had the exact same calories as a Lindt chocolate truffle! So what does "guilt-free" even mean in this case? People will see the words "guilt-free" and think they can eat more of that food; so in this case they would be more inclined to eat just one Lindt truffle, and more likely to eat several of the "guilt-free" version... and as a result end up eating more calories overall. Buzzwords such as "guilt-free" don't have a specific meaning, and can be very misleading. Look at the facts (ingredients, nutritional information), not how something is labelled/packaged!

You need to enjoy your diet, just like you need to enjoy your training - because if you don't, you won't adhere to it. Your diet should be 80-90% nutrient dense, nourishing and energising foods (good quality carbs, protein, fats and micronutrients) whilst the other 10-20% should be foods that help you keep on track with your diet and help you adhere to it day after day. But at no point should you feel guilty for eating a certain food or food group. 

If you do eat something that perhaps was a little more indulgent or not in line with your health and fitness goals, don't worry. Enjoy the food, savour the taste and get right back on track when you're finished. Consistency week after week will counter any of these foods that are making you feel "guilty". Food is a huge part of our society, you should not feel restricted or guilty, but rather focus on portion control, moderation and balance. 

Write down your goals, build your diet around your goals and make sure what you do is realistic, sustainable but also enjoyable. You'll be better off for it in the long-term - trust me.