A Healthy Diet Includes Guilt-Free Indulgences

05/13/2015 06:04 pm ET | Updated May 13, 2016


Go ahead and indulge. You heard me the donut. Or, the side of fries. Or, the slice of pizza.


Because it's part of a healthy diet.

There's no gimmick here. No reverse psychology. No tricks or "gotcha's." Lighten up. Enjoy yourself. Live a little. Stop thinking that a healthy diet means totally depriving yourself of foods that you enjoy.

Is Your Healthy Diet too Healthy?

Confession time: I tend to attract women into my practice who are like me...the type-A, perfectionist, over-achieving types.

While there are aspects of these qualities that are gold-star inducing, this personality type can have an unhealthy relationship with healthy food. Women often sit in my office like it's a confessional... "I'm so sorry doc, I sinned. Last weekend I couldn't help myself...I ate a donut."

Imagine their surprise when I laugh and say, "That's okay! Let's talk about it." Most of the women I work with are healthy eaters and make great choices. They're not the type of women who eat fast food, pizza, pasta, and drink gallons of soda, coffee or wine.

But they go to the extreme of eating too healthy. And when they indulge and eat the donut, they feel really bad about themselves.

The downward cycle of negativity gets triggered and feelings of shame, guilt, and self-deprivation emerge.

These feelings are far more toxic to your health than the food you indulged.

Chronic negative feelings create recurring stress in your body leading to anxiety, depression, and even mood and eating disorders.

It's not good to be uptight, overly aware, rigid, and perfectionistic!

That's why I tell women they can eat cake (in moderation, of course).

Please note: I still encourage "healthier cake" free of known food sensitivities and made with organic ingredients.

Eating: An Act of Self-Love

Food is meant to be enjoyed and eating to be a loving, nourishing experience.

Eating should be an act of self-love...every bite should nourish your body, mind and soul.

But, are you like the many women who have created unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors around your food choices?

Geneen Roth, author of Women, Food, and God, holds firm to the theory that your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and, spirituality.

If that's true, then it's also a great opportunity for personal growth, exploration, and self-reflection.

Sometimes I eat a gluten-free, dairy-free, coconut macaroon (or two) "just because." Oftentimes it's because I need a quick afternoon pick-me-up. Sometimes it feels like a reward for a day well done. Sometimes it feels nourishing. Other times it feels like straight-up rebellion.

But, I enjoy the macaroon...I savor every sweet bite. And, I don't feel guilty.


Most of the time, choose healthy, organic, good-for-you foods. But, allow yourself the freedom to enjoy and savor (in moderation) additional foods that bring you pleasure and enjoyment.

Your intuition will help you know how often, what types of foods are on the "okay to indulge" list, and what quantity to enjoy.

Release yourself from all judgment, guilt and shame around your choices. You consciously made the decision to indulge your cravings and desires... so enjoy it.

But the next steps are the most important. Because I'm not just giving you the "green light" to blindly indulge whenever you feel like it.

Go ahead and indulge but do so mindfully.

Be open to asking yourself, "Why did I want the cake?"

What are you feeling? Needing? Wanting? Is it reward, comfort, or rebellion? Were you tired and needed a quick fix? Or was it "just because" it was your birthday and you always eat cake on your birthday?

You'll start to notice themes.

How does your choice reflect how you feel about yourself? Or, as Geneen Roth suggests, what does it mirror about your fears, anger, transformation or spirituality?

Every aspect of your health...the choices you make, your lifestyle, the foods you choose, and even the ailments you're given...are opportunities for personal expansion and growth.

Food is a great tool because our relationship with food is a deeply personal and intimate one. And it's something we "do" three times a day. What's your take?

Please leave a comment below.

Originally published by Dr. Deborah Caldwell on

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