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Eating Normally is the New Black

(quoted from the clever & witty Fat Nutritionist)

This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week.  Eating disorders are life-threatening illnesses, not choices. Prevention is key in the fight against eating disorders.  Although I’ve never had an eating disorder, I did go through a period of being a little too concerned with what I was eating.  Here is one of my favorite handouts from NEDA.  I love this message in particular.


Eat what you want, when you are truly hungry. 

Stop when you’re full. 

And eat exactly what appeals to you. 

Do this instead of any diet, and you’re likely to maintain a healthy weight, and avoid eating disorders.

This is where normal eating comes in.  Normal eating is basically eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you’re satisfied.  Do this and you will naturally control your weight while falling into your natural healthy weight.  For a more detailed definition we can go to Registered Dietitian Ellyn Satter:

  • Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
  • Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
  • 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.
  • 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 hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

This is a very good definition of normal eating and sounds relatively easy, but for some, it’s harder than you think.  An article in the New York Time’s Blog addressed normal eating with Ellyn Satter’s definition.  There were over 300 comments.  Everyone’s view of normal eating is different.  Someone’s view of normal eating could be eating fast food only once or twice per day.  It’s really important to clarify that it’s both quantity and quality that matters the most.  Eating healthy is very important, but how much you eat is even more important.  If you want fast food, eat fast food, just don’t order and consume the entire supersized value meal.  Normal eating as mentioned above is “going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.”  This can be difficult for some, but it’s all about having the right attitude.  Food is fun, delicious, and satisfying.  Forget trying to lose weight… carry your head high and your attitude positive.  Let yourself eat what you want when you’re hungry and stop when you stomach isn’t hungry anymore.  Like Ellyn Satter says… “Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps it’s place as only one important area of your life.

I leave you with a question… “What is your description of Normal Eating?”  Let me know… I’d love to hear!

26 Responses

  1. MelissaNibbles said on February 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    Very interesting post. I’m not sure what normal eating is anymore. I try to eat intuitively, but always end up binging, it just doesn’t work for me. If I knew what normal eating was, I’d tell you, but I have no idea. I’m looking forward to other people’s comments.

  2. Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday said on February 24, 2010 at 1:03 pm

    I think most of those comments apply to IDEAL eating habits, not NORMAL ones.

    Also, I think that “eat until you’re full” should apply to healthy balanced meals. No one should be eating junk food until they are full. I can’t even get full off of a fast food meal!

    • Estela - Weekly Bite said on February 24, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      HI Samantha,

      I agree with you! This all depends on what someone views “normal eating” as. If someone views normal eating as eating lots of fast food… that not good. The idea is too eat healthy, but not deprive yourself.

  3. Heather (Heather's Dish) said on February 24, 2010 at 1:42 pm

    this is such a great thing for me to read today…it goes right along with my post about the healthy pants journey! thanks so much for all of your sweet comments too, it really makes my day and makes me do this —> 😀

  4. Emily (A Nutritionist Eats) said on February 24, 2010 at 1:56 pm

    Wonderful post!
    My normal eating can probably be summed up as: 75% balanced meals (veg, protein, whole grain) and 25% fun/treats (wine, cheese, sweets, etc). Most importantly though, it works for ME!

  5. Gelareh @ Nutritious Foodie said on February 24, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    This is a great post, it definately makes you think and wonder.. what is MY definition of “normal eating”? I consider normal eating as litening to my body.. I have days and weeks that I eat clean and whole and then couple days due to TOM, stress, or whatever elese that I eat foods taht I normally don’t eat.. i.e. sweets. I don’t consider fast food (McDonald, Burker king etc) as normal eating.

  6. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman said on February 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm

    It’s such a hard question. Normal eating for me is eating healthy most of the time but not freaking out when I eat like crap. I realize vegetables, whole grains, fruits and healthy fats are good for me. But I won’t stress when I feel like dessert or eat white wheat pizza crust over whole wheat. Food is food. You can’t take it too seriously or you’ll go crazy.

  7. Stef said on February 24, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    i was so happy when you shared that def of eating normally! i also think it’s great that you did a post about ED awareness even though you didn’t have one yourself. i think the underlying ideas are applicable to ALL women, and men too come to think of it!

  8. Nicole @ Making Good Choices said on February 24, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    To me eating normal means eating a well balanced diet filled with whole grains and lots of fruits and veges. Also it means everything in moderation, including treats too!

  9. Anne @ the doctor takes a wife said on February 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Love this. I like to track calories every once an a while (I’m in an on period lately) just to see if I’m within a healthy range. If everyone did this, we would all be at our happy weight, with happy eats 🙂

  10. sophia said on February 24, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    I saw that list on normal eating before, and I thought it was a very good list. To me, normal eating is just eating and enjoying foods…but not obsessing over them. Not to count and analyze, but to just listen to your body and eat in moderation.

  11. Jennifer said on February 25, 2010 at 12:07 am

    Hmm I don’t think I’ve ever done normal eating since my mid to late teens. I’m now 27 and I still don’t know what normal is for me. I mean there was a time were I severely cut my calories and binged, tried every new diet fad that came out. Now I still struggle with the concept of good and bad food – and really the intelligent part of me knows that I shouldn’t associate & label food as good and bad.If i eat one bad food that’s the end and I feel like i’ve ruined the day. An inner struggle i battle everyday. One day I will be able to say I eat normally, thanks the ‘normal eating’ definition.

  12. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) said on February 25, 2010 at 1:43 am

    OMG what a fab post, Estella! Normal eating for me is high raw all vegan gluten free. That’s my normal; that’s how i feel optimal. For others, it’s eating red meat and cooked veggies. We are all diff and on diff paths and my normal is diff from yours who’s diff from another’s. But being at peace with food and one’s reality is key!

  13. Fit Chick in the City said on February 25, 2010 at 6:34 am

    I’m really loving this post! I was an “abnormal” eater for most of the first 1/2 of my life. Normal for me is my eating patterns now that I don’t have any sort of eating disorder in any form or fashion. It’s choosing to continually strive to improve my diet, but always maintaining some sort of balance.

  14. Joanna Sutter (Fitness & Spice) said on February 25, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Normal to me is 5-6 small meals a day. But that’s just me. I wish “Normal” eating really was eating all day long….that would make me happy! Is that normal? ;0)

  15. Andrea @ said on February 25, 2010 at 8:53 am

    I think because the idea of “normal eating” has become so convoluted, I just try to eat what makes me feel happy emotionally and physically. Flexibility is huge. I really really agree with the list of normal eating behaviors but I don’t know many people (including myself) who completely engage in all of them. I think I do pretty well but probably spend more time thinking about what I’m going to eat and when than what may be considered normal. It’s hard to tell if I’m just passionate about food or if I’m focusing on food to get my mind away from other things. Probably a mix of the two. Great topic

  16. Beth @ DiningAndDishing said on February 25, 2010 at 10:22 am

    I totally agree that eating normally means eating intuitively. I try to eat when hungry, stop when full and eat exactly what I want. I balance this with exercise and don’t really struggle with my weight. It took a while for me to get to this place though which I think is refelctive of the poor ideas American women are given about health and weight. So glad we have things like NEDA to call attention to these things now!

  17. katie said on February 25, 2010 at 11:45 am

    i agree that normal eating means listening to YOUR BODY! eating when you arent hungry, and stopping with you are full. this is soo hard to grasp! but its soo crucial!

  18. Kelly @ Healthy Living With Kelly said on February 25, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    To me, healthy eating means eating when my body tells me to eat and stopping when it tells me it is full. I know that sounds really simple but I know it isn’t. That is what 90% of my clients struggle with. They don’t eat only when they are hungry and they eat way past the point of being full. It is a learning process for everyone.

  19. Nicole, RD said on February 25, 2010 at 2:34 pm

    Ellyn Satter is such a role model to me! Wonderful post!

  20. Andrea@Celery In The City said on February 25, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    I am taking a nutrition class about the history of diets, and the week we discussed what normal eating was a THROW DOWN. It was so interesting to discuss vegan/vegetarian lifestyles/omnivores,lol.
    One of the questions that followed our discussion of eating was (this is black and white, very limited scope), would you rather eat anything you want but die 10 years younger, or feel limited and be healthy?

  21. The Candid RD said on February 25, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    I love the message at the beginning of this post. That’s what I try to do, everyday. Basically, it’s eating intuitively. It’s eating like we did as a child! Have you ever been around a kid who was offered a piece of pizza, and he or she said no? Have you ever thought, “what?! NO?! I can’t believe he said no! I mean, he’s a kid, he can eat that kind of stuff and not feel guilty!”. I have been there before, and that’ when I realize that kids are intuitively eaters. We were all born as intuitive eaters, and now as adults we should all work on bringing it back!

  22. lynn @ the actors diet said on February 25, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    oh my, is this a trick question?! for me, “normal eating” is being able to enjoy my food, stop when i’m full, and not obsess over everything i just consumed.

  23. Angie said on February 26, 2010 at 7:42 am

    Great, great post, Estela!

    I believe in the definition of normal eating exactly as it was written by Ellyn. I think that it is possible for everyone, but we have been brainwashed into thinking that “healthy” eating is so much more difficult, strict, and structured.

    Great post!

  24. Anna@ Newlywed, Newly Veg said on February 26, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Great post! I like most of her definitions of normal eating. To me, normal eating is focusing on your body’s wants AND needs, and focusing on balance. Normal eating should not consume your life, but should be a source of pleasure and delight.

  25. Jessica @ How Sweet said on February 26, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Guess what…this didn’t come up in my reader again. 🙁 I’m sorry!!

    I believe in all of those rules! I try to follow them everyday. Sometimes it is harder than others.