... and a quarter of women experience self-loathing every time they eat something
The guilt-free life I once knew - filled with confectionary and eating whatever I want without consequence - is over. My super fast metabolism has put the boot in. So, my cupboards are now full of omissions. These days I drink my coffee black and shun Starbucks sugary syrups like the grown adult I am. White bread has been banished from my life and cake… well, what’s cake?
In truth, I enjoy the benefits of conscious eating far more than I feel hindered by it. But, during times when my hormones are running riot, I feel like a lover with a wandering eye staring down a cinnamon swirl as if it’s a curvy woman in the summertime, and I'm a middle aged bloke cruising down Deansgate in a convertible (c'mon, we all know this very man). I’d never cheat but I still feel guilty for looking.
Turns out a lot of women feel this way.
British women will experience a staggering 45,990 pangs of calorie related guilt in their lifetime, according to new research.
The study by Slim Wine revealed a staggering 87 percent of British women are consumed with guilt on a daily basis about things they have eaten or drunk. Despite 66 percent saying food and drink brings them the most pleasure in life, it also brings the most pain – with the average woman surveyed feeling wracked with guilt twice a day about something they have consumed. That equates up to three hours of daily guilt, with as many as a quarter (25 percent) experiencing feelings of self-loathing every time they eat something.
Even in this glorious age of body positivity...I still fear becoming 'fat' even though I'm anything but.
What's to blame for this? Our mothers and our mother’s mothers? Magazines and social media? 'THE PATRIARCHY'? It would be patronising to suggest that worrying about weight gain is intrinsic to the Western woman’s experience, but then, for a lot of us, this is also entirely true. Even in this glorious age of body positivity - when major fashion brands are displaying models with stretch marks and cellulite and plus-sized women are more visible as ever - I still fear becoming 'fat' even though I'm anything but.
And, as I type in the sugar content of the two biscuits into a calorie counter app, quietly scolding myself for my sins, I realise how this could get out of hand. Though I’m certainly healthy, make better choices and feel better for it, I wonder if calorie guilt could contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food in the near future.
Signs say it could.
Eight-in-ten of the females who took part in the study said they wished they could stop punishing themselves and start enjoying life, while almost half of those in relationships (43 percent) felt it was unfair that their husband or partner never harboured any guilt when it comes to food and drink.
We are more interesting than what's on our plates.
Punishing ourselves for enjoying the occasional glass of wine, takeaway or a couple of biscuits with an afternoon brew is such a waste of energy. Food is such a joyous part of life so how do we learn to put less emphasis on calories consumption and more emphasis on living?
In an informative blog post, popular Instagram campaigner and blogger Megan Jayne Crabbe 'BodyPosiPanda', says we should 'break up with diets' and stop fuelling our calorie guilt in 'communal guilt-fests':
"It is incredibly sad that our sense of female community is so bound up in shame and self hatred.
"We have better things to talk about," she adds. "We are more interesting than what's on our plates. We have more important things in our lives than what size we're wearing or what workout we have planned. So change the conversation."
A recovered anorexic, BodyPosiPanda, is just one of many social media activists helping to improve people's attitude to food, especially when '1.6 million people in the UK are estimated to be directly affected by eating disorders'. Yet social media messages can be conflicting. For every body positive campaigner, there's a fitness influencer peddling protein shakes and a 'lifestyle' sponsored by avocado toast.
Is there really a happy medium between excess and less?
Sometimes I feel more Nigella Lawson - in the throes of carb-lust, salivating over butter - other days I'm more Gwyneth Paltrow.
Olivia Buckland who was involved in the campaign by Slim Wine comments, "I think the most important message behind this campaign is that you really don’t need to sweat the small stuff. Whether it’s drinking a glass of wine or eating a slice of pizza, it’s about enjoying the good things in life, in moderation of course, and not feeling guilty about it".
Slim Wine Founder, Paul Gidley, also comments, “The results of this research really highlight how much of a hard-time women give themselves, often over the smallest thing like a slice of cake, or a second glass of wine. As a wine lover I just felt there had to be a change, a glass of wine at the end of a hard day should not be inducing guilt. I have spent two years creating a product that has zero sugar and zero carbs yet doesn’t compromise on taste or ABV - so you can enjoy the wine, without the guilt.”
Of course, Slim Wine, a purveyor of zero calorie vino, is trying to get us to drink more wine. Let's face it, I'll always feel guilty after one glass turns into two bottles and the mother of all hangovers. Watching what you eat and drink in order to live a healthy long life should not be sniffed at. But as the age old dieting advice goes: balance really is key.
As for me, I’m far more at risk of becoming an absolute bore than obese. I know that. Sometimes I feel more Nigella Lawson - in the throes of carb-lust, salivating over butter - other days I'm more Gwyneth Paltrow. Again, balance. Plus, biscuits are only the devil if I let them be. So, damn it, let me eat cake, guilt free.