How to get out of the guilt trap once and for all!

Finding it difficult to lead a healthy lifestyle even though you know what to do? This post is for you.

My previous posts have set out exactly how to be successful in ‘setting and keeping habits’ so that you can live a healthy life, meet your weight loss or healing goals and feel good. Easy right? The truth is you may have to dig a little deeper, understanding some of the enemies of willpower will go a long way to help you with this.

I often talk about how our children are being sold to every waking minute, but actually so are we. The tactics are so sophisticated because let’s face it large cooperations have a lot of resources to employ on research to help them sell,sell,sell. Its all in the game of life isn’t it? I suppose that depends on your moral value system, after all, our minds are so powerful, it is not so difficult for people to rationalise they are providing jobs, doing the workforce and the economy a favour. I shall leave that topic of conversation for the danger that I will leap onto a giant soapbox!

I want to help you navigate some willpower sabotage tricks so that you can set your small habits and understand further why sometimes they may be extra challenging or even painful.


On the surface, it may be no surprise that feeling guilty can sabotage the smallest of good intentions. In fact, most people tend to think they need the firm telling off voice (the pretty nasty one that you would never use with friends) inside their heads to keep them on the straight and narrow, but studies have shown differently. The ‘what the hell effect’ as told in the book ‘Willpower instinct’ by Kelly McGonigal and which is no stranger to so many of us means that once we indulge, we feel the guilt and regret and instead of minimising the damage we indulge even more trying to escape the pain of guilt. The brain power the guilt takes up can be enough to deplete the strongest of willpower.

A study gave a large number of women a doughnut and a glass of water (to increase the feeling of being full), half of the ladies were given a message to relieve the guilt e.g. we all indulge sometimes etc. and half were not. Then followed more goodies of which they could consume as much or as little as they liked. Interestingly the participants who had been relaxed of their guilt beforehand consumed significantly less than the group who had not.

Guilt will deplete you of willpower and sabotage your intentions and goals and so what is the answer? Release it, change the language or the voice by:

using affirmations or mantras, repeat a positive phrase to yourself over and over until it overtakes the voice e.g. I resolve to feel good and am happy to enjoy the journey

if the voice is particularly ingrained and strong, write it down. Looking at the words on paper, you can reason and realise the truth

when you feel or hear the voice of guilt kicking in think of what you would say to a good friend to help them release the guilt and feel that for you

Influence tactics

When we can understand the motivations employed we are able to manage the tactics much better than those we can not see.

Terror triggers

What are your terror triggers? Did you know that death warnings on cigarette packets were found to increase smoking? Shocking isn’t it, but when a person sees the warning it invokes a stress response in the brain which leads to the ‘automated stress response ‘kicking in, yes you have it – smoking.

Studies have shown that when shoppers think about death they not only spend more but buy significantly more junk food. Kelly McGonigal talks about supermarkets that have employed the tactic of having funeral homes give out leaflets outside to invoke this very response, boggles the mind doesn’t it?

News stories can invoke a similar stress response and so can induce cravings. A person watching a violent/scary news item or documentary could start to respond to the need for comfort food. Pay attention to how you feel in theses situations, do you crave comfort food? It may be worth giving up watching the scare tactics. I assure you the world will not end and you will find out the important non-sensationalised stuff.

‘promise of reward’

Studies have shown the ‘promise of reward’ is so strong that it will lull you into sabotaging all good intentions again and again.

How many times have you thought about that ice cream, cake, crisps, clothes item or another indulgence only to be disappointed once you have eaten it or gotten the ‘dress’ home? This is the same with drugs, alcohol, clothes shopping or food. The promise of the reward is the draw, not the actual vice. What can you do to replace the reward with something that will not make you feel bad, spend too much, or sabotage your goals? Think about a time when you have felt the draw of the ‘promise’ but enjoyed something much healthier and felt amazing, fully knowing you would not have felt this good had you given into the ‘promise’.

Quick tips for weight loss and tricking your brain

Here are some proven tips for successful weight loss:

  • Use small plates/ bowls – the optical occlusion will trick your brain into thinking you have more, and we know that portion sizes will make a difference to your waistline.
  • Use heavier cutlery or chopsticks – these are tools to slow you down and make your eating experience more mindful enabling you to check in, enjoy and know when you are full.
  • Switch off the TV – you will consume at least 30% more when eating in front of the TV, again mindful eating at the table will reduce the amount you eat.

Simply quinoa and radish salad

Here is a beautifully light dish that can form an accompaniment or a main meal, packed with nutrients for longevity and lots of protein for growth and repair.

serve 2-4
200g quinoa (boil as per packet instructions, approx. 10 minutes and then rinse and drain)

6 radishes – slice
6/7 mint leaves – chopped
a handful of edamame or another type of bean
3 spring onions – chopped in small rounds
1-2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lemon
season with black pepper and Himalayan or sea salt

if you like spice, add a little cayenne pepper
*prepare all the vegetables and just mix everything in with the quinoa, delicious x

I hope you have found value here, please comment below or contact me if you would like any further help.

lost of love and health,

Kelly x

Kelly Rose RNutr


143 thoughts on “How to get out of the guilt trap once and for all!”

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