Life is hard enough without judging every little thing you put in your mouth. It’s a double whammy when you judge other people for what they eat because then you feel guilty about that, too. Food guilt shows up as a way to police our own (and others’) eating behavior. We believe that if we make the price of breaking a food rule so painful, we’ll be less likely to eat the thing in the first place.
It should be no surprise that the threat of guilt usually doesn’t prevent us from going out of bounds with food. Inevitably, we end up carrying extra guilt just for doing the thing that everyone else does: eating. Perhaps seeing food guilt for what it really is, a strategy to keep our behavior in check, would make the situation a lot more clear. This simple shift in perspective turns our attention inward, rather than it being directed at food as a proxy for our feared sense of lack of control. It isn’t really the food we’re avoiding, it’s the horrible feelings of guilt that come with it.