Guilt & Shame understanding the consequences of diet failure!

Kris J. Snyder, MBA, MFT, CPT

Those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it” Winston Churchill

Hello All,

If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” Benjamin Franklin

If you fail to plan properly, you plan to fail and there are a number of negative consequences associated when we fail to stick to our fat loss goals. One major issue is the number of options available to choose from. There is no doubt that just by completing a general search on the internet will generate a plethora of dieting options boasting how each can help you achieve your goals. However, when we just jump right in, oftentimes following the advice of family, friends, and well-intentioned trainers and coaches, we quickly find out this may not have been the best option for our needs.  We must realize there are not only physical consequences but psychological consequences when we fail to properly plain out our steps on our body transformation journey.

Oftentimes we are aware of the physical consequences that result when we fail to reach our goals.  For example, two common consequences are those associated with the dynamics of yo-yo dieting or simply to regaining more weight than when we initially started.  As I will explain below, many times these physical manifestations are actual symptoms of bigger problems. Like a glacier, many of the behaviors such as these are just a manifestation of a bigger problem. Two of the issues I will touch on in this post is guilt and shame.

Guilt & Shame

Guilt and shame can be two highly negative consequences we experience after falling short of our past transformation goals.  Research demonstrates the main intention of guilt is a good one.  We often experience guilt when our behavior is at odds with our values, however there is the baggage associated with rumination.  According to Saintives and Lunardo, rumination involves repetitively contemplating and meditating about negative feelings, their possible causes, meaning and consequences (2016). Roan describes guilt leaves a creepy emotion that gnaws at your gut, flattens your smile, and bombards your brain with conflicting commands to atone and deny (1994). More importantly, rumination has the potential to lead to negative self-talk which is a catalyst for the manifestation of shame.

Guilt is often confused with its more disruptive neighbor shame. Many researchers and clinicians identified the difference between shame and guilt as I am bad(shame) vs. I did something bad(guilt). In her book Daring Greatly, Dr. Brown states shame manifests in our self-talk. She describes shame as that intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging (2012). If our reaction to breaking our diet causes negative self-talk that leads to shame, Clinton advises the consequences could range from eating disorders, depression, addiction, violence, and even suicide (2012).

A man’s life is what his thoughts make it” Marcus Aurelllus

Dr. Brown advised dysfunction often starts in the secrecy of conversations with our self. She adds shame survives in secret and you are only as sick as your secrets (2012). When shame is kept in the closet we are vulnerable to what authors Keller and Papson describe as actions where we tend to act on what we believe even when we believe it isn’t anything we should do because of the lack of initial accountability (2012). When shame is present, we need a way to be accountable for the negative things we say to ourselves. These conversations carry harmful messages that has the potential to muddle our thinking and cause us to partake into a number behaviors that could generate negative consequences described above.

So yes, research demonstrates there are negative consequences to our psyche, self-efficacy, and self-esteem when we fall short of our fat loss plan. The goal is to set appropriate goals by first identifying and implementing a strength based plan. Next you need to develop a support team to keep you accountable for issues such as negative self-talk. Therefore the exercise today is to start constructing your support team. Begin to identify others you can trust and feel comfortable sharing information with. Your support team will be crucial for addressing issues associated with challenging the secrecy and pain associated with guilt and shame.

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Upcoming post will be the power of a journal and Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM)


Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transform the way we live, love, parent, and lead. New York:Avery

Chilton, Jenifer M,PhD., R.N. (2012). Shame: A multidisciplinary concept analysis. Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, 16(1), 4-8. Retrieved from

Keller, G., & Papasan, J. (2012). The one thing: The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results. Austin, Tex.: Bard Press

Roan, S. (1994, May 02). Feeling guilty? good believe it or not, guilt does serve a purpose. (moms have always known this.) it can shift the balance of power in a relationship and it’s one way of atoning for your sins. Los Angeles Times (Pre-1997 Fulltext) Retrieved from

Saintives, C., & Lunardo, R. (2016). How guilt affects consumption intention: The role of rumination, emotional support and shame. The Journal of Consumer Marketing, 33(1), 41-51. Retrieved from 12/06/11



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