What is Normal Eating?
Good question, right? What the heck IS normal eating? What does that look like? Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve played around with so many different ways of eating over the years that nothing seems normal to me anymore. Read one magazine and they tell you to eat frequent meals throughout the day. Read another one that same month and they instruct you to eat three meals a day with no snacking in between. Which one is it?
I’ve struggled with the definition of “normal” eating for awhile now. With a history of emotional and some binge eating, in addition to a PhD in dieting, I certainly don’t have the answer to what normal is. After all, I’m still figuring out what works best for me. And since I’ve cut out the sugar and the binges have stopped, does that mean I’m eating normally now? Again, what the heck does normal mean, anyway?
Here’s a definition of Normal Eating, written by Ellyn Satter RD, LCSW, that was absolutely MIND-BLOWING to me. I think you’ll see why in a minute.
“Normal eating is being able to eat when you are hungry and continue eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it–not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to use some moderate constraint on your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is three meals a day, or it can be choosing to munch along. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful when they are fresh. Normal eating is overeating at times: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area in your life.
In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your emotions, your schedule, your hunger, and your proximity to food.”
Um, what? You mean…..there really is NO such thing as normal eating? That eating 10 chocolate chip cookies that I really wanted could be considered normal? Or that eating because I’m tired or bored is normal, too? I cannot tell you how much I LOVE this definition and how much it rocked my world when I read it a few months ago. In a way, it took the pressure off of me to be a “perfect” eater (and what the heck is perfect, anyway?). What Satter is saying is that our body knows best. Listen to it. Trust it. Eat how and when it feels good for you at that moment. And give yourself a friggin break once in a while, too.
I hope that the next time you see the buzz words “normal eating” you’ll stop and question what that means, and remember that there is NO such thing as normal. Plus, who wants to be normal, anyway?
What does normal eating mean to YOU?