What Is Normal Eating?

This is what normal eating would look like.

A week or two ago I asked Deb from DietSchmiet how many “modes of eating” – besides dieting and bingeing – she recognizes in her life. I wanted to know if there is anything like normal eating in her life, the kind of eating that is somewhere between dieting and bingeing?

I started thinking about what normal eating even means. And even though I didn’t expect it, I managed to arrive at a definition of normal eating that satisfies me.


The truth is, I’m not so sure I know what normal eating is like. I do remember I had a quite healthy relationship to food and eating when I was a child. I didn’t dwell on food and eating, nor did I feel guilty about eating candy, chocolate or other treats. Food was simply a source of pleasure and nourishment in my life. And of course I was effortlessly thin during that period of my life. (How on Earth did I know to eat so that I didn’t gain weight?)

Then I hit puberty and dieted for the first time, probably at age 14. The rest is history.


But let’s get back to defining normal eating.

I thought normal eating would be too hard to define, so I decided to try another approach. I made a list of signs that indicate your eating and your relationship to food has gone out of whack. It’s mostly based on what I’ve learned from my favorite “nutrition counselor”, Patrik Borg.

Here’s my list:

  • your diet goes well at first, but then you start overeating or bingeing (because your diet is too restrictive)
  • you limit your social life because it would endanger your diet/weight loss
  • you categorize foods as bad/forbidden/no-diet foods and good/safe/diet foods
  • you limit your eating on days you’re not working out
  • you feel guilty around food
  • you ban entire food groups from your diet (fat, carbs, whatever)
  • you’re feeling cold and have dizzy spells or feel light-headed (you’re starving, stupid!)

Have you ever had any of these “symptoms”? I’ve had most of them at some point or other in my life.

My ultimate goal if of course to learn to eat normally some day. For me that would mean the following things.

  • I would eat mindfully most of the time – not like a feeding automaton!
  • I would have a neutral relationship to all foods – from carrots to chocolate
  • I would know how to eat candy and chocolate in moderation (I’m learning!)
  • I and I wouldn’t feel guilty about eating certain foods or food groups
  • Eating would be a source of pleasure in my life, and I would choose foods based on my personal preferences
  • Emotional eating would be at minimum
  • I would eat when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full (GASP!)

My relationship to food is already improving, but it’s a slow process. It has required lots of hard work and experimentation with forbidden foods. Of course I would also like to be at normal weight some day, and I probably will.

Even though I didn’t expect, it looks like I managed to define what normal eating means to me. 🙂


Now it’s your turn! What would normal eating mean to you?


  1. Aimee says:

    Normal eating to me would mean that I would eat to live rather than live to eat. Of course I would still find enjoyment in what I’m eating, but I would be able to savor and enjoy my food.

    I have come to realize that my issues with food stem not from what I’m eating but how often I eat, how much I eat and why I’m eating. It is only recently that I’ve begun to identify the impact emotional eating has on me. I have stopped yo yo dieting over the past few years. I no longer eliminate entire food groups (I was never very successful at this anyway. I think I was only able to eliminate carbs for a few hours!). However, the emotional eating, boredom snacking and mindless tastes are holding my weight hostage and preventing me from achieving a healthy weight. It’s a victory to finally identify this and now I need to change it. It is definitely a process.

    Excellent post Satu.

    • Satu says:

      You put my goal in a nutshell when you say I would et to live rather than live to eat, and being able to savor and enjoy my food.

      I think I’m still a bit rigid about my eating, trying too hard to be “a good pupil” Yet I’m much better than 12 months ago.

  2. It’s difficult for me not to categorize food because a lot of foods are migraine triggers. But I’ve learned to change my approach to those foods. Instead of saying I can’t have this or that, I remember that I can…I just choose not to because of the consequence.

    • Satu says:

      Oh, it sucks having to restrict your eating because of migraines. I think foods are not my major triggers.

  3. Marion says:

    Hi Satu! Very interesting subject, you have here. Well, in the past, I ate 3 meals per day, plus also ate any time that something irritated me, and then also ate at least one dessert per day. All of that means that when life was less stressful, I was slimmer. And I weighed much more when life got hard. That is a crazy way to live because, firstly and mostly, I need more than one size of clothes for this lifestyle.

    Lately, I’ve been eating only when I’m hungry and *not* eating until I’m full. I finish when I am not hungry anymore and never get to that point of feeling full. Instead of eating to avoid irritations, I allow myself to be irritated and deal with the stress.<<Isn't that a novel idea!

    l love your choice of word –automaton! I've done that type of eating for far too long.

    Oh, I have those foods from hell that I just have to avoid. Don't worry, though, I have plenty of foods that I enjoy a lot that don't cause major problems.

    🙂 Marion

  4. I’m the same as Aimee…. it would mean a life NOT obsessed with food, weightloss and exercise. It would mean a life with room for other things!


    • Satu says:

      I love when you say “it would mean a life with room for other things!” I read your post about the book you’ve been reading after I published my own post. I like what the author had to say about what is normal eating and what is not. I could incorporate that to my own list.

  5. I’m glad to have discovered you…and I know this is a relatively “old” post, but wanted to comment 🙂

    To me, normal eating = food doesn’t control me and I don’t have to control food. It’s that simple (and yet that hard LOL)

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