We all have some sort of concept of what is normal or typical eating for ourselves. This includes the thoughts that run through our minds surrounding foods and eating. For example, many chronic dieters will have food rules by which they must abide or face a barrage of self-inflicted guilt and shame – can’t have meals after 7pm, it’s either no cookies or the entire plate, must remove ½ the bread from a restaurant sandwich and nix any mayo or sauces.
They are stuck in a cycle of having rules (no donuts), breaking rules (binge on donuts), self-punishing (workout an extra hour tomorrow and swear off ANY carbohydrates). It’s a difficult concept to believe it could actually be the rules that are wrong and not one’s own inability to comply. Unfortunately, this way of thinking can quickly become the “norm”, yet from a nutritional and psychological perspective nothing could be further from normal eating.
So what exactly is normal eating?
Normal eating is….
1) Eating a food that is pleasurable in an amount that is satisfying – not too little, not too much.
2) Occasionally overeating; occasionally eating too little.
3) Choosing food for its nutritional value, but also choosing food for its pleasurable value.
4) Paying attention to how foods make you feel, both emotionally and physically, and honoring those feelings when you eat.
5) Giving yourself permission to eat when you are hungry and to choose whatever food is desired.
6) Eating to fuel your lifestyle and activity level.
7) Eating 3 meals a day, or 4 or 5 or 6…or munching on snacks between meals.
Normal eating is NOT…
1) Having food occupy the majority of your thoughts throughout the day – whether it is how to avoid it or binge on it.
2) Avoiding social gatherings or dinners out because of fears you will have no food choices or will overeat.
3) Eliminating entire food groups from your diet absent of any sound medical reason but for fear of gaining weight or ruining your health.
4) Not trusting yourself around certain foods for fear you will eat out of control.
5) Maintaining your activity level in order to eat whatever, whenever.
Feel like you fall into the latter category? That’s okay – it doesn’t make you abnormal. It just means your eating style (and in particular your thoughts) may need a little adjusting.
The first and most important step is to be aware – aware of your thoughts, aware of your habits, aware of your eating rules. In this case, awareness is your biggest tool for breaking them.