Is Guilt a Healthy Emotion?

Is Guilt a Healthy Emotion?

Guilt is one of the emotions that often comes hand in hand with exercising and diet control. It can be the emotion that we fight against to keep going and it is not a naturally pleasant feeling. Do we really want to be “guilted” into exercising? Shouldn’t we be doing something we enjoy for the benefit of our body?

You should always try and avoid guilt as much as possible. If you can’t manage your regular exercise session for a genuine reason then you shouldn’t allow yourself to be consumed by guilt. If you have a bite of something that isn’t quite on your diet plan don’t worry about it in the long-run it won’t matter. Guilt is likely to make you consume more, workout less and have you feeling totally uninspired and unmotivated.

If you’re thinking about missing a session and it’s consuming you with guilt then consider these points. They’re all relevant and have an impact on the guilt you feel.

Listen to your body

Your body knows best. You can trick your mind into thinking you’re not in the mood for a workout but if your body is feeling fine than make the most of it. This is the same when eating things that aren’t on your plan – you’ll surely feel the sluggish impact of too much of the wrong things and not enough of the right things. Rather than dwelling on guilt, plan for the future.


If your body is saying no then as above you must listen to it. Working out when you’re unwell or not fully physically able is medicine for even more pain. You cannot feel guilty for skipping a session because you need to rest and any fitness professional would tell you the same. Resting a minor injury will mean it doesn’t end up more serious and you should be patting yourself on the back rather than worrying guiltily.

You can put guilt first but if you become consumed by it, it won’t be long before you’re no longer working out and constantly comfort eating. It’s not an emotion that drives you forward and it is one you can shake off in an instant with a little enthusiasm and dedication

Check the Stats

Research carried out by the Department of Psychological Medicine of Canberra Hospital looked at the impact of guilt on a test group of 230 women between the ages of 18 and 45. The study was set up to look at the relationship between exercise and eating disorders and was also looking at how exercise could be bad for health in extreme circumstances. It brought back some interesting stats about guilt and the negative impact it can have.

The research study found that 70% of the women in the group took part in regular exercise and 12% exercise for at least one hour a day. It also found that worryingly the participants who felt guilty once they had missed their exercise session were those who were most likely to rate highly on the measures which indicate susceptibility for eating disorders.

The study also found that fitness goals such as improved health, improved fitness and enjoyment were not linked to an increase in the risk of eating disorders whilst those who were fixated on improving their body shape or tone were more at risk.

Although this study does not account for everybody it brings up some very clear warning signs about guilt. If you feel guilty for not exercising then you’re putting yourself under more stress you do not need, you’re also probably not focused on the right type of exercise goals.

Think about your goals for fitness. You should be working out with a long-term plan or simply because it helps you relax or you enjoy it. Your long-term plan can be fitness based, you could be wanting to lose weight or you could be wanting to improve your health. All these types of goals are healthy but those which fixate on body shape and improving attractiveness are unfortunately not going to take you in the right direction.

Don’t allow yourself any space to feel guilty. If you know you’re going to stumble off track then mark it down as a bad day or even a bad week and get back to it. As long as you’re in it for the long haul and you keep focused on your goals then the risk of guilt becoming all-encompassing is minimal.

The answer to our initial question is simple – guilt cannot be healthy for your fitness goals and your exercise enjoyment. If you’re only exercising out of guilt then you’ve got the wrong agenda and you need to think about why you’re really doing it. Your goals should be motivational and enjoyable not something you’re fighting against. Kick the guilt out of your gym!



Would you like to post a comment? Please register or log in.

Log In Register

Share this


Popular Posts

By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies. You can change this and find out more by following this link.