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.

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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.

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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. 🙂

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