Guilty feelings can sabotage your weight loss program.
Eating a meal is associated with pleasure and enjoyment, but can also create guilt and shame. We have all had that moment of guilt after eating something you should not or eat more than you intended. Guilt and shame, in general, are poor motivators for successful weight loss. Guilt has the potential to motivate behavior change but may also lead to feelings of helplessness and loss of control.
An interesting study entitled “Chocolate cake. Guilt or celebration? Associations with healthy eating attitudes, perceived behavioral control, intentions, and weight-loss” and published in 2013 in Appetite illustrates this concept. In the study, researchers looked at using guilt or reward as a means to motivate weight loss in 300 subjects. The association of either guilt or reward with a piece of chocolate cake is related to differences in attitudes, perceived behavioral control, and intentions about healthy eating. The study did not find any evidence for a motivational property of guilt. In fact, participants with a weight-loss goal who associated chocolate cake with guilt were less successful at losing weight over a three month period compared to those associating chocolate cake with celebration.
The bottom line: Guilty feelings sabotage your weight loss program. Guilt is a negative emotion and not a successful motivator of weight loss. In fact, guilt, actually, reduced the success of dieters.