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Are you a Normal Eater?

Tape measure normal or "disordered" eating

Disordered Eating v. Eating Disorder

There is so much stress and confusion around what to eat these days that it has created a new category of eating known as disordered eating. Disordered eating is different than an eating disorder. It lies between normal eating and an eating disorder and according to survey results conducted by Self Magazine and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, 75% of women regularly engage in disordered eating and exercise patterns.

A World of Mixed Messages

I believe a part of that has developed because many of us grew up in a world of mixed messages. We may have grown up in households where we heard things like, “I’m so bad! I just ate ”.

Or maybe we heard the word fat being thrown around as a means of describing others in a negative way. Maybe everything in the fridge was labeled Fat Free orLow Calorie. And maybe our mothers loved baking cookies for us, yet the talk around the house about “good” and “bad” foods left you feeling so guilty about eating those lovingly prepared cookies.

Of all the things we learned growing up, the lesson so many of us didn’t learn was the fact that the food we eat doesn’t make us good or bad → it has no inherent moral value.

I will be the first to admit that I used to feel guilt and shame around food. I distinctively remember going to Smith’s supermarket one day to buy cupcakes. I had a craving and bought a 6-pack. As soon as I got home, I scarfed down 5 of the 6 cupcakes. Minutes later, I was wracked with guilt. I threw out the last cupcake… and then later dug the container out of the trash so I could polish off the last cupcake. I felt horribly ashamed about it and labeled myself as bad for eating these bad foods and not controlling myself.

After finishing nutrition school in 2012, I avoided all the bad foods because I had learned the negative health consequences from eating them. I restricted my eating so much that I would avoid certain social situations and was obsessed with avoiding anything bad. When I faltered I felt like I wasn’t walking the talk and that I was totally inauthentic as a nutritionist. I was an orthorexic meaning I was obsessed with eating only things that were healthy.

Eating Psychology, My Ah Ah Moment

Thank goodness, everything changed when I started to learn about eating psychology.

One weekend, I attended a workshop on dynamic eating psychology and mind body nutrition. My mind was blown as I learned that my restrictive, seemingly perfect eating was actually inauthentic. There was no way that I could maintain such restrictive eating the rest of my career as a nutritionist.

And the best part about it was that I realized I didn’t need to any longer. Health is more than what you eat and how you exercise and the stress that I was creating around my food was causing more harm than the food itself.

The bottom line is this: Food must to be separated from morality.

Disordered eating and the pursuit of thinness is so normalized in our culture that it is often dismissed and even encouraged within health and wellness fields.

Health and fitness magazines are filled with articles about what to eat in order to attain a perfect size. Popular social media posts claim you should eat this, not that, and talk of clean eating in a way that insinuates everything else is dirty. All of this fuels our insecurities about what we eat. Trust me, once you learn to separate what you eat from how you feel about yourself, life will become so much easier.

I am a Normal Eater!

Personally, I love to eat healthy foods and exercise because they bring me joy. But I also love to have margaritas and nachos. Am I bad for eating them? Heck no! And are they considered “cheats?” Nope! Am I being inauthentic? No! It’s just normal eating.

What is Normal Eating?

According to the Ellyn Stater Institute, Normal eating:

  • is going to the table hungry, and eating until you are satisfied.
  • is being able to choose food you enjoy and to eat it and truly get enough of it - not just stop eating because you think you should.
  • 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.
  • is giving yourself permission to eat because you are happy, sad, or bored or just because it feels good.
  • is mostly three meals a day - or four or five - or it can be choosing to much along the way.
  • is leaving cookies on the plate because you will let yourself have cookies again tomorrow, or eating more now because they taste so great!
  • is overeating at times and feeling stuffed and uncomfortable…and under eating at times, and wishing you had more.
  • is trusting your body to make up for (what you feel are) mistakes in eating.
  • takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area in your life.
  • © 2018 Ellyn Statter Institute

In short, normal eating is flexible… It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your food and your feelings.

Additional Information:

To your happiness and health,

  • Tanya


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