Eating “normally”. What the heck does that mean? Is this what skinny people do? Are there people out there who hold the keys to normal eating? And if there is such a thing as normal eating, why are Americans grossly overweight and obese? Why can’t we just eat normally?
This was the focus of an article found on The PsychCentral website titled What is normal eating? The article explores normal eating, as defined by Ellyn Satter, an expert on eating and feeding in children and adults. According to Satyr, some highlights of normal eating include:
- Eating what you want to eat when you are hungry and to the point of feeling satisfied (not bursting at the seems).
- Eating 1 or 2 cookies and leaving the rest for another day because the cookies are not going anywhere. When you constantly restrict yourself from eating what you truly want, this leads to bingeing out on an entire sleeve of cookies.
- Eating is a part of your daily routine, but only part. Once eating consumes your every thought, it is no longer normal.
- Allow yourself to eat what you want within reason. If you are craving pizza, but tell yourself it is bad and have a salad instead, this can lead to obsessive thoughts about pizza and possible bingeing on pizza sometime down the road. If you normally eat two or three slices, try having one with a side salad rather than forgo the pizza completely.
This concept of normal eating falls in line with the thinking behind intuitive eating. Normal and intuitive eating are emerging in a battle against diets. The diet industry is exploding, but so are our waistlines. What does this tell us? How many times do we need to restrict ourselves, eat sugar-free this and fat-free that, lose weight, then go right back to the same old habits placing us back where we started?
Clients look to RDs as the gatekeeper to healthy diets. Clients expect us to hand them a diet plan to follow with food rules and regulations. How is that any different from Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and all other commercial diets out there? I did not become a dietitian to spit out lists of foods and calorie levels for people to follow.
My true calling as a dietitian is to help people stop obsessing about food. Myself included. I am not immune to the food and diet traps our society sucks us into. I have learned a great deal in my own journey with eating. My goal is to help others understand what it means to eat normally and healthfully. It is a journey each individual must take on their own. The answer is not the same for everyone.
So, have I completely confused you even more? If you are interested in learning about ditching the diet mentality altogether, I recommend checking out these books and websites:
- Intuitive Eating (click for website and book)
- The Center for Mindful Eating
- The Appetite Awareness Workbook by Linda Craighead
- Ellyn Satter’s website (various books available on related topics)
It is also important to consult with an RD for help along the way. Do some research and look for RDs who have experience with behavior modification counseling. Anyone can lose weight by simply cutting calories. But in many cases, losing weight and keeping it off for good means digging deep into your body, mind and soul; not just your stomach.