What is Normal Eating?
With so much information about foods, it’s no wonder people are confused about what to eat. There are no good or bad foods. Regular eating habits distinguish normal eating. For most people this means eating three meals a day and including snacks to satisfy hunger. Eating should be regulated by internal signals of hunger, appetite and fullness. The goal is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are satisfied.
What is dysfunctional eating?
Irregular and chaotic eating patterns characterize dysfunctional or disordered eating. Many people with food and body image disturbances may not have the symptoms of a clinical eating disorder but still suffer from poor body image and low self-esteem. The cycle of dieting includes restricting food intake by skipping meals or fasting, then binge-eating, which causes a decrease in self-esteem, then more dieting and bingeing, and finally a sense of being out of control. Developing strategies to improve eating habits and self-esteem are essential in breaking the dieting habit.
Why is normal eating important?
Normal eating promotes a person’s well-being. It nurtures good health, vibrant energy, and healthy growth and development. Eating a variety of foods in moderation promotes normal eating and balanced nutrition. With normal eating, thoughts of food, hunger and weight occupy only a small part of the day.
Trust, flexibility and responding to body signals are the hallmark signs of normal eating. In her book, How to Get your Kid to Eat . . . But Not Too Much, Ellyn Satter defines normal eating as follows:
“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. . Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for mistakes in eating. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your emotions, your schedule, your hunger, and your proximity to food.”
Normal eating is not about rules. It’s about developing reasonable habits that allow us to put eating in a comfortable groove and move on with life. It’s different for each person. It’s exploring what works, trusting your body and making it a habit.