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  • Janelle Hunt

Am I A Normalized Eater?

Majority of my client’s come to me requesting that I help teach them about normalized eating. What does it mean to be a normalized eater and how do I become one? Do I eat the correct portions for my body?

Ellyn Satter is a dietitian who is well known for her help in training parents how to allow their children and themselves to be normalized eaters. Here is her definition of normal eating:

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 under eating 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. Ellyn Satter

The first thing I do with clients is to have them look at how they were raised around food. Believe it or not, all of us were born with accurate cues but most of us have a very difficult time sensing our physical hunger/fullness cues due to messages often given to us as children. Eat everything on your plate. You can have dessert if you finish your dinner. You will go to bed without dinner because you were bad today. Food may have been used in a rewarding or punishing way, which can lead to us no longer acknowledging our physical cues as we quickly learn to override them. Food may have been scarce in our household which leads to eating as much as we can in one sitting as survival cues kick in with not knowing when the next meal maybe served. There’s no fault in the way we were raised, but it’s important to recognize how certain messages still affect our patterns.

After clients look at their beliefs around food as they were growing up, then I can begin to provide education on what normal portions are, how much food is needed in a sitting, and how many times each day one should eat. I provide meal ideas and meal plans if needed. We work together on retraining the mind and body with normalized eating. The process of renormalizing eating can seem like a slow journey for clients but it’s important to remember this is often lifelong habits and misinformation which we’re trying to analyze and shift. Change is difficult but it makes for a very satisfying outcome.


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