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Have you ever felt guilty about your fitness? Maybe you missed a workout. Cheated on your nutrition plan. Stopped in the middle of a workout. Overslept. Overate. Did you have a feeling of guilt after you deviated from your plan? Should you?

What is GUILT?

Websters’ defines it two ways: “the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty” and “feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy.” I think both are helpful in the type of guilt we can experience along our fitness journey. Let’s start with a breach of conduct.

A Breach of Conduct

I think the feeling of guilt that comes from the feeling of a [personal] breach of conduct can be healthy. Guilt a good thing? Yes. You have to own your actions. If you have truly committed to completing a program then you should have some feelings of guilt when you breach that commitment. Guilt should be something that allows you to see that misstep while still drawing your attention to correcting the problem. Look at a healthy example of guilt.

You miss workout. You feel bad because you know you committed to 90 days of P90X. You take that guilt and use it to refocus. You look at what caused you to miss your workout and what you can do to change it. You realize that you didn’t get up early enough, you waited too late in the day, or bought into one of many excuses (I’m too tired, I’m too sore, I’m really busy today, etc.). Now you’re even more determined to not let it happen it again! AND YOU HAVE A PLAN! That is how to use guilt in a healthy way to better yourself.

A Sense of Inadequacy

When you have guilt that comes from a feeling of inadequacy, you can really do some self damage. Guilt be a really bad thing if you allow it to be debilitating. One example of this I see a lot is with people’s nutrition.

So you cheat on your nutrition plan. You start eating a slice of pizza that you not planned into your day. A huge feeling of guilt comes over you. Instead of stopping, you decide the day is lost and finish the entire pizza. That is DUMB guilt!

So what you had a little slip up? Sure the BEST thing to do would of been to never have the pizza unless you tracked it. Ok I get that. But don’t feel so guilty that you then throw an entire day or week away with a binge! Just stop at that slice. Reassess and do what we did above. (You look at what caused you to deviate from your nutrition plan and what you can do to change it. You realize that you didn’t plan before going to your friend’s house, you didn’t pack an emergency protein bar, or just bought the stupid lie that “I’ve ruined my day!”)

Anyone can see you are FAR better off at having one extra piece of pizza than an entire pizza! You probably wouldn’t even notice the small deviation from your plan. Use it to refocus! You aren’t inadequate, you aren’t lost, you haven’t ruined anything. Just don’t go running and jump off the wagon while you are feeling guilty!

Should we feel guilty?

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YES! If you have made a commitment to a program and it’s nutrition plan, you should feel guilty when you break that commitment. It’s a commitment to yourself. If you stop feeling guilty than that commitment was never real. You’ve bought into something else and that’s okay, but be honest with yourself and the fact that you haven’t fully committed. When you do commit and make a mistake, learn from it. Don’t make the same mistake twice.

I think it’s really beneficial, when you feel guilty, to ask yourself the question, “Should I feel guilty?” Is this guilt pointing me to an actual breach of my commitment that I could have changed? Did I not live up to my own standards? From there, your focus is not on the guilt anymore but on what you can do to make a better choice the next time. Properly placed guilt should not leave you in the same place, it should always inspire positive change.

Everyone will slip up but I feel there is always a tendency is to be too easy on ourselves. Guilt doesn’t FEEL good so we rationalize it away. We don’t have to beat ourselves up, but like I’ve said, a lot of times we feel guilty it’s for reason.

Did this post make you feel guilty about something? Fine. Good. Take a good hard look at what you’re feeling guilty about. If it’s something you can make a charge in the future about then that guilt has served its purpose. Just don’t be so hard on yourself that you can’t move on! Learn, change, adjust, REFOCUS!

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