‘Normal’ Eating

Almost all of my clients suffer from some level of emotional eating – some more severe than others.  Many come to me and say “I have no idea what normal eating is.”  Most people don’t, and it’s hard to say exactly what normal eating is, but I remembered a great handout one of my professor’s at NYU gave us, called the: Definition of ‘Normal’ Eating.  It is an excerpt from the book How to Get Your Kid to Eat: But Not Too Much, by Ellen Satter MSW, RD.

Ellen Satter (www.ellensatter.com) is a very well known dietitian for her resources on eating and feeding.   According to her website: “Ellyn Satter pioneered the concepts of the feeding relationship and eating competence.  She is the author of the division of responsibility in feeding.”  While she is typically associated with child nutrition, this excerpt from her book applies to all, and I could not have come up with a better explanation myself:

Definition of ‘Normal’ Eating

“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 in 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, most of the time, but it can also 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 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 of your life.”

“In short, normal eating is flexible.  It varies in response to your emotions, hour schedule, your hunger, and your proximity to food.”

Satter, E. (1987).  How to Get Your Kids to Eat: But Not Too Much. Bull Publishing. ISBN 0915950839.

It’s easy to go on a “diet” and become fixated and deprive yourself of your favorite foods, only for it to backfire.  It’s also easy to eat everything and anything in site, and not enjoy it.  Some where in the middle is where normal eating lies, and it’s a really great place to be.

What do you think of this definition?


15 Responses

  1. what a great definition! Education is the key to the puzzle like you said. It’s amazing how cheaply fresh made foods can be, but some still choose the packaged/processed ones even though they may not be cheaper. Thanks for your comment!

  2. I think its fabulous. Eating until contently full and eating a variety of healthy and pleasurable foods. Perfect. Now if it were only that simple 😉

  3. I like it 🙂 I think I’m getting the hang of it 😀

  4. Love the definition! 😀

    I think so much of it has to do with our mindsets towards food. “Diet starts Monday.” “I messed up.” “I ate too much.” etc, etc…so many excuses, and they all fall back to “good vs. bad” eating rather then looking at the whole picture!

    The article definitely put into words exactly what I think normal eating can be defined as. Thanks so much for posting it! 😀

  5. […] by Eve, “Normal Eating” (8/4/09) here — I also loved this.  I usually scoff at intuitive eating, but Eve’s definition of […]

  6. I think I’d love for you to post up my post on ALLOW…yes (it’s a giveaway for Cetaphil products!)…and I love the notion that we should trust ourselves http://thespecialktreatment.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/trust-yourself/

    GOOD versus BAD doesn’t exist…only WHAT AM I CRAVING NOW? WILL IT NOURISH ME?

  7. Hi!

    When I read this last month, I also posted it in my blog so that I could always read it whenever I wanted to remind myself about what normal eating is.


  8. […] Check out the post here: Normal Eating. […]

  9. I like that. I have had issues with eating for most of my life but seeing the concept of food and eating now that I am a mom has really helped. Normal eating is what I want for my little guy and normal eating, in this defination, seems to be how he feeds himself most days.

  10. Sounds great, now only if it came easily! workin on it… 🙂

  11. This is so great! I think it’s mostly common sense, and it’s so easy to forget common sense when you start worrying too much about what you’re putting in your mouth. Thanks so much for sharing!

  12. Thanks for a great article! I never knew that normal eating included overeating at times. I really need to be more flexible in my eating and not be so scared to have a treat once in a while.

  13. I think this is so succinct and inclusive. I read a book in college called “It’s not about the food” and also in there was the idea of “you don’t have to eat all the cookies today, they will be there tomorrow – and you can have them” has really helped me not only approach more normal eating, but – in my opinion – become a more normal person. Thanks for the post!

  14. I’ve spent years coming to understand this and I am just recently having some success putting it into practice. May I copy the definition with citation and give your site a link on mine? I agree with Katie, too. This makes me feel like a more normal person. Thanks for the post!

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