NJ Dietitian Discusses The Concept of Normal Eating

by Erica Ban, MS, RD, 1614878721026

Have you been thinking about food more during the past year of the pandemic? Are you eating more comfort foods? As a New Jersey Dietitian, I know you are not alone and it doesn’t mean that you are not eating “normally”. The formal definition of “normal eating” goes back to 1983 when dietitian and family-feeding expert Ellyn Satter wrote about nutrition and released her rules of “What is Normal Eating?”, found in [Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family]( Satter writes “Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose the 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 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.” I love this explanation! Why can’t eating be adaptable and fun? Some days, you may eat a lot of salad and vegetables; other days, you may bake more, and reach for that big piece of cake. Normal eating shouldn’t be judgmental either. Now more than ever, most dietitians agree, we need to be easy on ourselves and eat food that makes us feel good. These can be balanced meals that include carbohydrates, protein, fruit, vegetables, and fat or it can be having chocolate chip pancakes for dinner! Normal eating means adapting to what food is available in the situation. How meaningful has this become in the past year? Maybe that means eating different foods because you couldn’t get your usual items at the grocery store. Maybe that means ordering takeout because you don’t have time or don’t want to cook. Maybe that means having a bunch of snacks that will make a meal and, even though it isn’t super-satisfying, you know you have plenty of opportunities for more “proper” and nutritious meals in the future. Unfortunately, in a world that is filled with [disordered eating and diet culture]( This definition of normal eating has become abnormal. It is much more likely that most people are focusing on dieting and controlling their weight, instead of being in tune with their body and listening to its wants and needs. Normal eating allows room for eating a pint of ice cream after a breakup or a stressful day of work, but also allows us to not have to compensate for this after, but instead to consider a different path the next day or the next meal. If we take some time and focus on these principles of Normal Eating, we can learn that food isn’t our enemy. So the question on everybody’s mind is - how do I become a normal eater. Here are a few tips to get you started on the pathway to normal eating · Learn to listen to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. · Try to eat mindfully. Even if that means starting with one meal a day, sitting down without distractions, and focusing on the sensations associated with eating. · Eat foods you enjoy and AVOID deprivation. So, what do you think of Ellyn Satter’s definition of “normal eating”? And how do you define normal eating? [Nutrition services at Body Positive Works](, is always here for you and open to talking about your ideas!