‘Normal eating’ is explored here in terms of food behaviours and attitudes. The type and amount of food eaten vary between individuals and this is ‘normal’.
‘Normal eating’ is:
“Normal eating is going to the table hungry and 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 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.”
What ‘normal’ is not…..’Disordered eating’ is:
Disordered eating refers to a wide range of abnormal eating behaviours and attitudes, many of which are shared with diagnosed eating disorders. The main thing differentiating disordered eating from an eating disorder is the level of severity and frequency of behaviours.
Warning! Dieting is the single most important risk factor for developing an eating disorder.
Disordered eating includes:
- Food and nutrients consume your thoughts.
- Skipping meals on an ongoing basis.
- Fasting or chronic restrained eating with or without to cleanse the body.
- Over-eating and under-eating most of the time.
- Basing your self-worth based on body shape and weight alone.
- Eats less for nourishment, and more for purposes of reshaping the body, for thinness, or to relieve anxiety and stress.
- Often eating causes distress.
- Feeling guilty, ashamed, or unsatisfied.
- Thoughts of food, eating, hunger and weight often dominate waking hours.
- Binge eating.
- Compensatory behaviours ie. Induced vomiting and misusing laxatives or diuretics.
For more information on disordered eating click here.
How can parents promote normal eating for their kids?
We can learn something from kids the way they eat. Here are some guidelines about how we as carers can help to support their innate normal eating habits.
- Offer a variety of nutritious food at regular intervals – usually three meals and two or three snacks.
- Help the child identify feelings of hunger and fullness. You could ask the questions, “Is your mouth or your stomach hungry? and “Do you want something nice for your mouth or something to fill your belly up?”.
- The parent is responsible for what, when, where the family eats.
- The child is responsible for how much and whether he or she eats.
- Set a good example of normal, diet-free eating, and positive body image. The use of positive morally neutral language.
For more information on feeding children refer to Ellen Satter’s website.
Teaching your children healthy eating habits and modelling these behaviours, you can help them grow normally. Early eating habits follow children into adulthood and influence the type of relationship they have with food and their body.
If you want to learn more about how to reconnect with your appetite, grab your copy of The Essential Guide to Never Dieting Again here.