There is so much stress and confusion around what to eat these days that many of us have no idea what normal eating is anymore.
You may even be suffering from disordered eating or an eating disorder and not even know it as it’s becoming increasingly more common in younger girls and middle-aged+ women because of perfectionistic food and body ideals from diet culture.
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.
- Sarah Herstich, LCSW, Signs Your Client May Be Suffering From An Eating Disorder
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.
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 negative term. Maybe everything in the fridge was labeled Fat Free or Low 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.
Yes, there’s a nutritional difference between apple pie and an apple, but morally, there’s no difference. But in our current culture, diet culture, we feel guilty for simply enjoying a slice of pie because it contains processed sugar, gluten, dairy etc.
After finishing nutrition school in 2012, I avoided all these “bad” foods because I feared the health consequences from eating them. I restricted my eating so much that I would avoid certain social situations (because I couldn’t control the food and worried about my willpower to resist tempting foods) 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 nutrition professional. I was obsessed with eating only things that are considered “healthy” to be “healthy.”
Obsessing about ‘wellness’ can actually make you quite unwell. - Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C
Eating Psychology, Intuitive Eating
Thankfully I discovered Dynamic Eating Psychology and studied to become a coach when I learned that my restrictive, seemingly perfect “healthful” eating was actually not so healthy - it would have been considered “disordered.”
I returned to normal healthful eating, “gentle nutrition,” when I became professionally certified in Intuitive Eating.
I let go of the supposed “healthy” restrictive food behaviors and learned to tune back into my own body’s cues and needs.
What I love about Intuitive Eating is that it’s not just focused on food. It’s a self-care eating framework that focuses on our WHOLE health - physical, mental and emotional because our health is more complex than what you eat and how you exercise (and what your body looks like - as fit doesn’t have a look despite what diet culture tells us).
So what is 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.
Oh wow. I was shocked when I discovered this fact.
According to National Eating Disorders Collaboration, examples of disordered eating include:
- Fasting or chronic restrained eating
- Skipping meals
- Binge eating
- Self-induced vomiting
- Restrictive dieting
- Unbalanced eating (e.g. restricting a major food group such as carbohydrates)
- Laxative, diuretic, enema misuse
- Steroid and creatine use – supplements designed to enhance athletic performance and alter physical appearance
- Using diet pills
And “dieting” is one of the most common forms of disordered eating.
“Dieting is the number one cause of the onset of an eating disorder and seeking help early is the best preventative measure.” - NEDC
What is Normal Eating?
According to the Ellyn Satter 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 and so much more. It’s time to return for our physical, mental and emotional whole health.
In order to help you return to normal eating, I teach you how to eat again using a self-care framework called Intuitive Eating. Want to learn more about it, click here.
To your happiness and health,