Do you ever feel overwhelmed by REGRET and SHAME? So much so that you feel paralyzed with indecision, and start asking yourself if every decision you’ve ever made has been the wrong one🤔?
If so, my friends, not only is there nothing wrong with you, but you are in the right place!
In today’s episode of the Fitness Matters podcast, I’m digging⛏️ deep into these common feelings, what’s really behind them, and how you can manage them effectively.
TUNE IN🎧 and let’s GO!
(Don’t wanna listen? Download the transcript here)
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Food REGRET and SHAME (Full Transcript)
You’re listening to the Fitness Matters podcast with Pahla B and this is Episode Number 98, “Food Regret and Shame.”
Hello, hello, my friends. Thank you so much for being here with me this week, you guys. Today I have a really special episode for us. This is something that I recorded in The Killer B Hive, which is my private Facebook group that I talk about, I think literally, every episode of the podcast. And if not every episode, like almost every episode of the podcast. Every week or – well, almost every week – I host a live Q&A where you can literally ask me anything.
And this was such a good question that I thankfully had done a little bit of prep work on. I had read the question the night before and had prepared notes and really, really was so excited about answering this question because I feel like it was something that you, my dear podcast listeners, really needed to hear. As it happens, I recorded this while I was in The Hive, but truly, I was recording this for you. So here is the replay of an answer that I gave on the Friday Q&A that I think is going to be incredibly helpful for you. Enjoy.
You guys, let’s answer some questions because here’s the thing. Yesterday I actually did spend a minute or two reading through the questions, and I’m so excited because I actually took two pages of notes on one question, and Vanessa, I see that you’re here this morning. Let’s dig in, you guys.
You guys, Vanessa’s question is amazing. I love it. There were actually several others that were related enough that, I mean, this is good stuff. This is good stuff. Vanessa says, “Hi, Pahla, this is something that I’m troubled with quite frequently: regret and shame. I often find myself almost paralyzed with indecision, even with the simplest things sometimes, because I feel like almost every decision I’ve made in my life has been the wrong one. I’m wondering if you can give some mindset insight into this type of negative self-reflection.”
Yes, I can, and I will, and I’m about to. And Natalie adds on, “Interesting comment above. I find too that I am so indecisive and am getting worse and worse over the years. Maybe there are more women with this condition than I thought. Your take on it, please.” Yes. I have two pages worth of things to say about this. So let’s dig in, you guys. So really specifically, I wanted to start by kind of backing out for a big picture just really quickly. And this is something that we talk about somewhat frequently, but I just really like to take every single opportunity to remind you that anytime we are talking about feelings, “I have these feelings of . . . ,” – however you finish that sentence – I want to be very, very, very clear that every single feeling you have comes from a thought. All of them. Every time.
And I understand just how difficult that concept is, which is why I try to repeat it as often as possible. Your feelings always come from your thoughts. We do this thing. Our brains are amazing, like truly amazing, in so many ways. Your brain is, it’s almost an unknowable mystery. I mean, scientists know a lot about our brains, but we do not know everything, not by a long shot. And here’s the thing. Your brain is such a fast thinker, such an automatic thinker, and so amazingly complex that we don’t hear most of our thoughts, truly.
I mean, I’ve given you this statistic so many times. I will continue to give you this statistic because I love it. We have about 60,000 thoughts a day. It means we’re having about 40 thoughts a minute. We can’t possibly hear all of them. So because of what looks like cause and effect, something happens. We feel something because a feeling lasts longer than your thought does. Your thought is here and gone before you can even hear it most of the time. But your feeling might last, let’s say, about a minute and a half, giving you a lot more time to notice it. So we think, we interpret, that the thing that happened caused our feelings. It’s not necessarily really the case here. I just always like to clarify that. It probably took me, I’m going to say, it took me at least a year of hearing that over and over before it really sunk in. And even now sometimes I’ll be in the middle of feeling something and I’ll be like, “Wait, wait. This is a thought that I’m having.” I still have to remind myself.
So that’s where I wanted to start this conversation. Any feeling you have ever is always caused by your thought, and your thought is probably an interpretation. I mean, it is an interpretation of something that has happened. So when you have a thought about decisions that you have made or about things that have happened or about things that other people say, the thing is actually, it’s completely neutral. I mean, it’s something that has happened in the world and then your brain interprets what has happened by having a thought about it. And then that thought creates a feeling.
So I really, really like to be careful about that word “interprets” because that can help you remember that just because you think something about a thing that happened, or about a thought that you have, that doesn’t make it true. It doesn’t make it right. And it doesn’t make it the only way that such a thing can be seen, or felt, or heard, or whatever. It’s not the only way that you could interpret whatever it was that happened. So knowing that your feelings come from your thoughts means that . . . I’m going to advise you, as I always do, to find your thoughts, like find the specific thoughts in the specific case. Now here’s the thing that Vanessa, for you, really specifically, asking me this question, you’ve laid it out in a very broad manner, and that’s completely okay. I’m going to actually discuss it in a very broad manner.
But what I want you to know for your specific purposes is that when you are finding your thoughts, rather than asking yourself “When do I feel bad?” when you’re journaling, I’m going to ask you to journal about something really specific like, “How do I feel about what I ate today?” And then find the thoughts about what you ate today that create a feeling of regret or shame for you. That way you can get a really specific thought, “I shouldn’t have eaten that pizza,” or whatever it is. I mean, I’m totally just making things up off the top of my head here, because I know that that one’s pretty frequent. Don’t feel bad about pizza, just FYI, but that’s not related. We’re going to get there. Okay. So here’s the thing about why I’m actually going to parse out the difference between regret and shame.
Upon rereading your question this morning, I kind of get the impression that you’re interchanging the two of them. And while there is some argument to be made for that, I’m actually going to pull them apart and I’m going to discuss them as being very different so that I can make a point. Whether or not this point applies to you really specifically, it applies in the broader picture and I think that this is really important for us to know. When we talk about mindset work and how to manage our thoughts and manage our feelings and manage ourselves in a way that feels helpful, feels good, helps us get our goals, all of those kinds of things, there’s actually a couple of different things that we might do, like in a very practical sense, things that we might do that can help us feel better overall.
And I’m going to actually discuss that “feeling better” thing when I answer another question, because I happen to know that there are other questions coming up. But here’s what I want to talk to you about, specifically: the feeling of regret. Regret is a particular kind of emotion. And my mentor, Brooke Castillo, calls . . . there’s a certain group of emotions or feelings that she calls “indulgent emotions.” And I have actually talked about indulgent emotions in the Get Your Goal group, and I’ve talked about what they are and why they are indulgent. But I realized that I’ve felt this way for a while. I remember the first time I heard her talking about them, and I remember thinking that that word “indulgent” is a little bit judgey. I don’t love that phrase. For some of you, it might be no big deal.
And for some of you, it might feel kind of like the way that it felt to me, like I don’t love that phrase. So I’ve actually kind of created my own thought model about these particular emotions. And I call them (partly because I crack myself up) “but” emotions. And you can take it both ways because the way that I am using “but” is with one T. I’m talking about these kinds of emotions, things like guilt or regret, which I have kind of lumped together as being the same even though there are some nuances there. Basically what it is, is a feeling of, “I should have done X, Y, Z, but I didn’t,” or, “I shouldn’t have done X, Y, Z, but I did, whichever way depending on the situation. But there’s a couple of other emotions that also fall into this category of being indulgent, or in my sense of thinking about it, as “but” emotions.
They are things like worry, anxiety, overwhelm, confusion and indecision, which is where we’re going to get to this indecision thing as well. I call these “but” emotions because we are, in essence, we’re arguing with some level of reality, time, space, things happening outside of us, and this sort of thing. So in the instance, really specifically, of guilt or regret, “I should have done X, but I didn’t,” we’re arguing with the past. “I should have done X, but I didn’t.” The past has already happened. You already either did or didn’t do the thing that you are now thinking about. And there’s literally no way to change that, which is why I consider this a “butt” with two T’s thought. It’s not only unhelpful – I mean, that’s always my thing with journaling, “Find your thoughts, decide if they’re helpful.” It’s not only unhelpful, but it’s, the word that’s coming to mind is “impotent.”
There’s literally no point to thinking I should have done something because you can’t go back into the past. You can’t change what has already happened. I keep coming up with “impotence,” and I know I’m going to come up with a better word here in just a minute, something that I did not have in my notes. But there’s a futility to this thought pattern. There’s a better word, “futility.” It creates a certain kind of feeling in us. These feelings that I’m talking about, these “but” feelings. They are futile feelings because we’re arguing with something that has either already happened or trying to control something that is uncontrollable for us.
So for example, with worry, “But, X could go wrong,” is how we’re thinking about it with anxiety. “But what if everything goes wrong?” is essentially catastrophizing the future. We have no control over the future at all, none. What’s coming is coming, and we have some control over ourselves. What we do, don’t do, what we create for ourselves, what we think, what we feel, those kinds of things. But in the big picture, the world, we don’t control the future. Overwhelm is something like, “I want to do X, but it’s too much.” Confusion, again, is something like, “I want to do X, but I don’t know how.” Indecision is, “I want to do either this or that, but I don’t know which one’s right.”
And in that instance, really specifically, how I’ve been talking about how we’re arguing with the future or arguing with the past, we’re arguing with things. This one we’re arguing with whether or not there’s something right, you guys. Whatever decision you make is going to turn out however it turns out. There is no such thing as a right decision or a wrong decision. There’s the decision that you make. And then you get to choose what you think about it and how you feel about it. And that actually is worthy of its own whole conversation. The other emotion that I forgot to mention is stress. It’s another “but” emotion. “I want to do X, but I can’t.”
You guys, these “but” emotions are very deceptive in terms of what they purport to be necessary. We really think that if we worry about the future, that we can somehow have something to do with it. I mean, worrying about the future is actually the worst thing that you can do in order to get a specific outcome. The best thing that you can do is make plans and work towards those plans so that you can create a future as opposed to worrying about it. But here’s the thing. We think that we can argue with the past. We think that we can argue with the future. We think that we can argue with time or a number of things or whether or not there’s a right way or a wrong way to do things.
And then we have these “but” emotions – these feelings that are not just unhelpful, but indulgent the way that Brooke Castillo talks about them. They are emotions that you can’t do anything with. They’re not productive. They’re not moving you forward. I call them sit-and-spin emotions pretty frequently. You just keep going around and around and around and around with them. Because no matter how much you feel this regret, it will never change the past. So feeling all the way through it – allowing yourself to feel the regret – doesn’t actually do anything for you the way that it does in the case of other emotions. And that’s where I’m going to. I’m going to come back to regret, but I want to really contrast it with shame so that you can understand what to do with your emotions in different instances.
With a sit-and-spin emotion, my personal recommendation, honestly, is that you understand what thoughts are creating that emotion for you. And you allow yourself to have those thoughts, certainly. But you also kind of redirect your brain just gently and lovingly. “Oh, that’s right. You do want to think that there was something wrong with the way that I did something in the past, but I’m not going to be able to change that. So I’m going to go ahead and focus on being able to do things that I want to do in the future.” Redirecting your mind is not always the best strategy. And that really is why I want to talk about shame also because in some instances, redirection is perfectly lovely. In some other instances, I’m going to encourage you to actually feel the emotion. That’s why we’re going to talk about shame.
Haha, Page 2, Shame. Also a feeling, you guys. It’s a feeling like every other feeling, caused by a thought. The thing that’s different about shame really specifically, and again, I want to clarify that the way the question was asked, I think that you might actually be using regret and shame interchangeably. But shame really specifically, for me personally, has a precise meaning to it that I really wanted to parse out for you today. The “but” emotions are all arguing with stuff out there. Shame, really specifically, is pretty unique. There’s only a couple of emotions that I could come up with while I was thinking about this that are actually directed inward in a way that other emotions aren’t. Like when we’re sad about something, “Oh, I’m sad that somebody died.” That’s about something that happened out there.
It’s our brain’s interpretation of something that happened out there that we have a feeling about. Or, “I’m angry about the guy who cut me off in traffic.” That’s something that happened out there that created a thought in me that creates a feeling. So shame really specifically isn’t about “out there.” It’s about “in here.” And the other emotions that I came up with that were kind of in the same genre that maybe will make more sense to you are things like worthiness or likability or lovability. When we feel shame, we are not necessarily thinking about something out there. We’re thinking about the essence of ourselves. When we feel shame, it’s not because of an outward expression, like we did something that we feel shameful about. We feel that shame because of an interpretation of who we are as a human being.
For example, “There’s something wrong with me,” is really at the core of that feeling much more so than sadness or anger or fear. Those are about, “There’s something wrong out there, and this is how I feel.” But shame, worthiness, lovability, likability, the reason they feel so sick in your stomach is because it is an assumption that there is something wrong with you. And I’m going to tell you that that’s still arguing with reality. Here’s the thing that I want you all to take home with you. You are worthy of being on the planet because you are here. The very fact of your existence means that you are worthy, that you are whole, that you are completely fine.
You are exactly the way you are supposed to be because this is who you are. That doesn’t mean you’re perfect. Not by a long shot. Not any of us, not even a little tiny bit. I’m certainly not trying to pretend any such thing. We all have human foibles, human thoughts, human feelings. We are a mess – a hot mess – all of us. But being a hot mess doesn’t make you unworthy of being on the planet. Your worthiness, your need to be here, your deservingness of being here is total and absolute because you exist. So this feeling that we have of shame, it’s a thought error. And I mean that. I mean that really nicely. I know that’s such a funny thing to think, but it’s a thought that creates a feeling that is really unhelpful and untrue. You are worthy of being here.
You might do things that feel like a hot mess, but that doesn’t change your inner essence of being in a way that we think it does. We all think that there’s some condition for us being here. Some condition of us being right is that we all think that there’s some standard that maybe we’re not quite meeting. If we could only meet that standard, then we would be worthy of being here and then everything else would be okay. But here’s the thing: you’re already worthy. You’re already supposed to be exactly the way you are. That feeling of shame isn’t caused by some deep wrongness within you. It’s caused by a thought you are thinking that there is a wrongness in you.
So here’s the thing about shame. We very, very, very, very often would rather feel anything in the world other than shame or unworthiness or being unlovable or unlikable. These are feelings that we would rather avoid at pretty much all cost. We would really rather resist them. We would really rather do anything else in the world. We would really rather distract ourselves from them. We would really, really rather not admit that we have these feelings. And this is where I’m going to talk to you about the difference in strategy between something like regret or guilt or stress or anxiety where you can redirect your brain very gently. “Oh, that’s right. I hear that thought over there. I totally get it.” But here we go, right on over here. Those kinds of feelings don’t get better when you feel them, they actually just keep perpetuating themselves.
They’re sit-and-spin. They are “but” feelings. A feeling like shame, however, can be felt all the way through. When you process and feel shame all the way through rather than resisting it, rather than avoiding it, rather than trying to distract yourself from it, it actually dissipates. Guilt, regret, anxiety, stress – those don’t dissipate when you sit and feel them. Sitting and feeling them all the way through, you’re still going to sit and spin. A feeling like shame, when you process all the way through it, can truly dissipate. Now here’s the thing that I will tell you. Let’s talk about the way that you know which strategy to employ with which kind of feeling. Let’s say that you don’t have it memorized. “Oh, these are the feelings that are like ‘but’ feelings. These are the sit-and-spin feelings.”
But here’s the thing, your willingness to feel a feeling is actually a really good sign of how much you should feel it. Most of us, I’m going to argue, are actually really willing to feel worry. I have pitched a worry tent for weeks at a time. I am good with worrying. I am completely on board with feeling indecisive. There’s a decision actually today that is completely useless that I have been sitting on for way too long now. I’m totally willing to sit in that indecisiveness. I’m going to say it’s an easy feeling. It’s why Brooke calls them indulgent, because there’s no meat to it. You can just kind of keep churning in it. You can kind of keep treading water in it. You could feel stress all day long. It’s not good for you. Don’t do it. But you can because there’s no real outcome to it.
A feeling like shame or even sadness, fear, anger – you notice how we try and push those aside. You notice how we would rather distract ourselves from those. I guess I would call them more like primary feelings. That is an indicator that it is a good time to actually feel that feeling. Here’s the thing about processing your emotions. It’s scary. It’s totally scary. We’re not used to it. We don’t have any experience processing through our primary feelings because we all, I mean, they are badges of honor. Let’s look around. You guys, we all talk about anxiety. We all talk about worry. We all talk about indecision or overwhelm. We all talk about those sit-and-spin feelings because we’re all really willing to feel them like a lot. The feelings we don’t talk about very much in society are the ones that we would all benefit from truly feeling all the way through.
Here’s a thing about feeling shame. When you have a thought about your worthiness and you feel that deep sense of shame, and you notice that you would rather think, “Say, that oven sure is dirty. I’d really better get in there and take care of that.” Or, “Hey, I wonder what’s going on in the world of Candy Crush. I bet I’d better pick up my phone and distract myself.” When you notice that overwhelming desire to do anything in the world except actually feel your feeling, that is when it’s time to take a moment and peel into it. Allow yourself to feel as terrible as that feeling feels. Here’s the thing about your emotions. They are actually contained within your body. Some of them feel like they want to burst out of your skin. They can’t. It’s not physically possible.
It helps me to think about it this way. Your emotions, as far as I understand it, come from your adrenal glands. That’s why your heart beats so poundy when you feel anger or fear or shame or excitement, or almost any of them. It’s what causes you to sweat. It’s what causes you to have a feeling like a lump in your throat or a churning in your stomach. That’s your internal body chemically and hormonally making things happen. That’s all that’s going on. There’s a bubbling science experiment in your body because of a thought that you’re having in your head. That’s as bad as it’s going to feel. It’s not actually going to rip you open, which is what it feels like sometimes. It’s not actually going to purge you from the inside out, which is what it feels like sometimes. There is nothing physically dangerous about feeling your emotions.
Your brain is going to offer you otherwise because your heart pounds so hard. Your brain is going to offer you that this is panic, and that therefore, you should stop doing whatever it is that you are doing, which is simply feeling an emotion. When you can allow yourself to be in that moment and feel that feeling, a couple of things happen. First of all, it’s only going to take about a minute or two. I’ve heard from various people that it takes about 90 seconds. That’s my experience with it. You might have a little bit of like, I call it a hangover, I call it a feeling hangover. You might have a little bit of a hangover for a while afterwards, because you had such a rush of adrenaline with your feeling, but it’s not going to be any worse than that.
And here’s the thing. When you go into the feeling, you feel like you’re walking into a super dark cave without a flashlight and that there’s going to be bats and things that can attack you. But what you’re actually walking into is a tunnel. And there is a light on the other side, and you can walk all the way through. And when you get out the other side, you will actually be different because of it. When you realize that you can feel your feelings, you will realize that you are bulletproof, honestly – obviously not literally, please don’t take that literally. But you can feel your deepest, darkest, most horrible, most terrifying, most overwhelming feelings and recognize that it didn’t kill you. That you’re still here. You’re still safe. You’re still in your own brain. That that was because of a thought that you had in your brain and it was a physical reaction that you had because of that thought, you will realize that you can do anything.
Literally the worst thing that can happen in the world is a feeling. I hate to always go to “everybody dies” as the worst thing in the world, but that is truly the thing that I think is the worst thing in the world. Everybody I love dies. The thing that would happen is that I would feel sadness. That’s it. That’s what would happen. I’m perfectly capable of feeling sadness. I have felt it. I felt it all the way through. And it does indeed feel like your insides are just going to come right on out of you. And it feels like you’re going to turn yourself inside out from the sadness of it all. But that’s all that happens is that you feel that feeling. When you allow yourself to feel that feeling, that is the point of why we do mindset work, feeling your feelings, all of them, all the way through. That’s the point.
And recognizing the ones that are going to cause you to sit and spin. When I just said, “feeling your feelings all the way through,” I mean, the primary ones. The “but” feelings, I want you to recognize those. I want you to recognize all of them. Recognize that every single feeling you have comes from a thought, but also recognize not just whether or not something is helpful or unhelpful, but whether or not something is going to perpetuate itself the more you feel it or if it’s going to be resolved by feeling it. Stress does not resolve by continuing to think the same thing over and over and getting yourself through the stress. Stress is resolved by reminding yourself, “Oh, hey, that’s a stressful thought, and that’s not helpful. And I’m going to go ahead and think this other thing that is probably going to be more helpful to me.”
“Totally okay that I have this thought, but I also don’t need to do anything with it. Totally okay that I have this thought about regret, but since I can’t go back and change the past, I’m going to go ahead and move forward making decisions that I feel are going to put me in a better place.” When we notice the difference between “but” emotions and other emotions, it can actually really help you make decisions more often than not, truly. When you know that your indecisiveness is coming from a thought like, “I could do the wrong thing.” When you recognize that that’s a thought, and that there really is no such thing as the right thing or the wrong thing. That no matter how something turns out, the worst that it can turn out is that you will have a feeling about it.
It really allows you to . . . I think about it this way because I’m a total control freak. I think that it allows me to release control of the things that I have no control over. I have no control over the past. I have no control over the future other than what I personally make of it through my thoughts and my feelings and my actions. But in the world, what is going to happen from other people and from things, I have no control over that. Me worrying about that, me trying to control that, makes me miserable. And you guys, I don’t want to be miserable. I would rather control what I can control, which is feeling my feelings, thinking my thoughts, doing what I do and getting the results that I want to get.
When you release control of the things you don’t actually have control over and you take control of the things you do actually have control over, it all feels a lot more balanced, a lot easier to manage. And that is not to say that you’re going to feel good all the time. I literally just told you how when you feel your feelings, you’re going to feel really lousy for relatively short amounts of time.
You guys, thank you so much for listening. I really hope that today gave you some things to think about and some good tools for how to manage your feelings in your own life. Thank you so much for listening. I’ll talk to you again soon.
So are you totally loving this mindset work and you really want to do it like, you know, every day in order to get your goal? Then my friend, you need to join the Get Your Goal group. It is my personal and private, very interactive coaching and accountability group where every day we talk about your mindset and we get your goal. You can learn all about it at pahlabfitness.com/get-your-goal. I’ll see in the goal group.