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What is "Normal" Eating?

By February 28, 2008 - 4:07pm
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When we talk about "eating disorders", we are typically talking about specific illnesses that are clinically-diagnosable.

When we talk about "disordered eating", we are referring to a large continuum of behaviors that could indicate an eating disorder that is "sub-clinical" (does not meet all the criteria for a clinical diagnosis) or a pattern of unhealthy eating (which is very vague!).

So, if we know the "disordered" way of eating... then what exactly is the "normal" way to eat?!

This is the best definition I have ever found:

Normal eating is being able to eat when you are hungry and continue eating until you are satisfied.

It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should.

Normal eating is being able to use some moderate constraint on your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods.

Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good.

Normal eating is three meals a day, or it can be choosing to munch along.

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 when they are fresh.

Normal eating is overeating at times: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also undereating at times and wishing you had more.

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 emotions, your schedule, your hunger, and your proximity to food.

Resource: "How to Get your Kids to Eat...but Not Too Much" by Ellyn Satter

Add a Comment4 Comments

An apple and a stick of Activia cheese before going to bed as a matter of habit. My body has been trained to respond to a particular early morning pattern, and this also helps ward off cravings for sweets and the munchies that I can get in the middle of the night. This may not work for others, but it works for me, acknowledging that I have different requirements than most because of my near-constant training.

So, for me, this is "normal eating."

March 17, 2008 - 8:12pm

This is where I disagree with some of the experts and night-time eating. I know that they say it makes no difference but I think the results of night-time eating speak for themselves.

People do not tend to eat heatlhy foods at night. They tend to choose chips, ice-cream and cookie type foods. They also tend to eat food at night while on the computer or watching tv, unlike breakfast or lunch when we are more likely to sit at the kitchen table. So they are distracted and eat more when they are preoccupied surfing the net or watching their favorite show. I mean really - who sits down to their comedy of the week with carrot sticks and low fat dressing? :)

When we sleep, our body's main function is to rest and repair. If we load it with food, digestion becomes the main function of the night. This interferes with rest and repair. And it gives the body too much work to do.

There is a saying that says "Breakfast like a King, Lunch like a Prince and Dinner like a Pauper."

No expert can tell me that I won't gain weight if I eat my calories at night. Even if I don't go over my daily calorie goals, I still weigh less and feel better when I don't eat at night. Not sure why but that is very true for me.

March 16, 2008 - 12:43pm

Looking for that panacea in our quest to be healthy, Americans seem to be subscribing to a lot of ideas about their health that just may be folklore.

We’ll try high-protein diets that tell us to avoid fruit. We don’t eat after 8 p.m. and we’ll avoid that one sweet indulgence thinking it will be the downfall of our diet.

With March designated as National Nutrition Month, I thought it would be great to take a little advice from dietitians who say “there are no bad foods, no good or bad times to eat and no magic bullet for maintaining a healthy weight. The fact is, it’s your total diet approach that matters in living a healthful lifestyle.” Here’s some more great advice from the American Dietetic Association:

• No single food or meal makes or breaks a healthful diet. Your overall pattern of eating is the most important focus. A wide variety of foods can fit within this pattern, if consumed in moderation, in appropriate portions and combined with regular physical activity. No one food or type of food guarantees good health, just as no single food is necessarily detrimental to health.

• It doesn’t matter if you eat after 8 p.m. What’s more important is how many calories you ate the entire day, not when you ate them and splurging on cake and ice cream during a party isn’t going to ruin a healthful eating plan. Pay attention to the portion of your treat and enjoy it in moderation, exercise a little longer the next day or plan ahead to save calories, like skipping your morning latte.

• Develop an eating plan rich with fruits, vegetables and whole-grains for lifelong health. Too often, people adopt the latest food fad rather than focusing on overall health. Get back to basics consult a registered dietitian and use the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans and MyPyramid as your guide to healthy eating.

Check out www.eatright.org for more details.

March 6, 2008 - 7:58am

Our ancestors were prone to stuffing themselves in times of plenty, in order to have enough fat to survive the lean (excuse the pun!) times.

Our genes have not changed much since then. Breastfeeding women tend to not lose weight (contrary to popular belief) because their metabolisms slow down in order to allow them to retain fat to feed their babies in times of famine.

I think as humans, we do have a tendency to overeat at times but since most of us no longer have to deal with famine, we need to trick our bodies into knowing that food will always be plentiful, therefore there is no need to binge. And that can be difficult. It may take several more thousand years to get to the point where our genes become accustomed to plenty.

Our problem now is that we have so much food, yet we still binge. We need to somehow mentally and emotionally stop thinking in terms of want and think in terms of need like in the days of old.

I hope this makes sense!

What do you consider "normal" eating?

March 2, 2008 - 6:47pm
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