Are You a Normal Eater?
Think about it. Think about how you eat, what you eat, why you eat. Do you think you’re a “normal” eater? Does a normal eater even exist?
For people with any sort of disordered eating (overeating, compulsive eating, impulsive eating, emotional eating, undereating, etc.), it is difficult to imagine being a normal eater again…or ever. Some started with a pattern of disordered eating from a very young age and have no recollection of eating solely out of biological hunger. Others learn to cope with life’s struggles by using food, but still have memories of relating to food in a healthy way as a child or a young adult.
The Rules of “Normal Eating”
An incredible book that deals with this subject is “The Rules of ‘Normal Eating’” by Karen R. Keonig. Her message targets people who follow external cues for eating, rather than internal ones; people who have lost touch with their bodies’ attempts at communication with them; people who feel scared and out of control around food.
Being a dietitian, sometimes I think I know too much about food. It’s easy for me to quickly calculate the amount of Calories in a dish or in a day’s worth of meals and snacks. I’ve learned the biochemistry of how food is turned into energy (or stored) in the body. I know the short- and long-term effects of various diet patterns. Is this a good thing? It definitely is beneficial to have this knowledge and understanding to be able to help people achieve better health through diet and exercise. On the other hand, it makes it a bit harder to be a normal eater.
Let’s look at the rules of normal eating from Koenig. According to her, normal eaters:
- Eat when they are hungry or have a craving
- Choose foods they believe will satisfy them
- Stay connected to their bodies and eat with awareness and enjoyment
- Stop eating when they are full or satisfied
Amazing! It’s so simple, and yet so many of us and so far from this definition of normal. More of us have a more complex list of irrational behaviors and beliefs. Koenig addresses these and explains how to replace them with their normal counterparts. Here are a few examples of some of the irrational beliefs Koenig addresses:
- There are good foods (that is, low-Calorie, low-fat) and bad foods (that is, high-Calorie, high-fat)
- I need to be in tight control around food
- It’s better to not eat and be thin than to be fat
- Eating is better than feeling emotional pain or discomfort
- Feeling good or bad about myself depends on what I eat or don’t eat
- I can’t trust my body to feed itself in a way that keeps me healthy and satisfied
Did you connect with any of the above statements? Did they sound a little too familiar (a little bit like the chatter going on in your head)? If so, don’t be discouraged! There is hope! Check out Koenig’s book or talk to a registered dietitian to get started on your journey to (or back to) normal eating.