Author: Breanna Mills R.D.
Normal eating is a flexible approach to eating. Normal eating is not a diet, it is not based in rules and changes depending on the individual. Normal eating is a way to honour and listen to your body and the signals it gives you. It also focuses on nourishing yourself in the best way that you are able.
Normal eating was first defined by Ellyn Satter. She stated that:
Normal eating is eating competence. It is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you enjoy and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating 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. 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 mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. 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. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. 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 hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
In many ways, normal eating is self-care. It is choosing foods that you want because they feel good, tuning in to the signals that your body is giving you and honouring and nourishing your body to the best of your ability. In terms of recovery from an eating disorder, getting to a place of normal eating involves letting go of the rules that the eating disorder has about what, when, and how to eat. It is also working to nourish your body in any situation and making decisions about what to have based on what you want and need in the moment, as well as what is available to you.
Normal eating offers a broad perspective that acknowledges that our lives are not the same day to day. Some days we may have planned out meals that are delicious and wonderful and other days we may be grabbing whatever we can find in the pantry. Normal eating acknowledges that neither of these options are any better or worse than the other. Normal eating is free of rules around food and moral judgements associated with food. It is a balanced, flexible and adaptive way of eating that puts your needs front and centre.
Ellyn Satter Institute. (2019). Learn to eat normally: Provide for yourself, don't deprive. Retrieved from https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-eat/adult-eating-and-weight/
Hartley, R. (2018, March 02). What Is Normal Eating? Retrieved from https://www.rachaelhartleynutrition.com/blog/2015/03/what-is-normal-eating