What is Normal Eating?

What the heck is normal eating!?

I think that the definition of normal eating is completely skewed.  And words like “diet” and “restriction” have become the norm.  We always want to be leaner, fitter, and thinner.

We want our bones to show or our 6-pack to be visible. So called “health” magazines seem to preach having “willpower” and eliminating “bad” foods from our diet.  Or they are coming up with strategies to eat less and restrict. Normal eating has become lost and I don’t think many of us know what it is anymore.

I spent some time googling the internet for some possible answers and stumbled upon a few good explanations of what others think normal eating is.

I found this by a woman named Karly Randolph Pitman,

I eat foods that make me feel good. I like a steak every now and then. A pizza is a favorite treat. I love colorful salads. Risotto is my idea of heaven. These things make me feel good, so I eat them. Sugar makes me depressed and wacks me out. Fried eggs give me the willies. Too many fake foods—think lots of processing and packaging—make me feel icky. So I usually abstain.

I eat what I really want. What I want to eat today may be different tomorrow. What I want in the winter may be different than what I crave in the summer. How nice that I can choose; that I don’t have to eat the same four things from a “good foods” list over and over again. Right now I’m in a raw fruit and vegetable phase, stemming from the heat wave we’re currently experiencing. But as the weather cools I crave warm, cooked vegetables and hearty soups. A few weeks ago, when my baby was going through a growth spurt (I’m a nursing mother), I had a hankering for nuts and nut butter. I followed my craving, got a spoon, and dove into the almond butter, without any guilt, shame, remorse or thoughts of calories.

I enjoy my food. I love food. I always have. And I’ve come to glory in that, rather than feel ashamed by it. Who started the lie, anyway, that women shouldn’t have an appetite? I’ve always had a hearty appetite, especially when I’m exercising regularly and nursing, as I am now. I have no qualms about getting a second helping, rather than undereating to be socially acceptable.

Ellyn Satter had this to say,

“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.”

My Definition of Normal Eating

To me, normal eating means the following:

Eating what I enjoy and truly want

Honoring my cravings, not eating what I “think I should be eating” or what is the “right choice”

Being mindful that I am getting enough nutritious foods

Eating a variety of foods, not the same “safe foods” day in and day out

Not counting calories or being a slave to the food scale.  I know that my appetite is different each day

Listening to my hunger cues and feelings of fullness

Understanding that I eat for other reasons other than hunger and giving myself permission to do so

Not going on an all out- binge because I “blew it” by eating too many cookies or ice cream.  It’s being able to stop and move on.

Not restricting when I feel I ate too much the day before by eating too little or exercising too much

Not having unrealistic expectations for my body

Not being afraid of food

Above all, normal eating is truly enjoying each meal, whether alone or with others


What is YOUR definition of normal eating?


29 responses to “What is Normal Eating?

  1. Great post…as usual! Normal eating to me is eating when I am hungry and eating wholesome foods that make me feel good and healthy! That also includes indulgences because a life without pizza or cookies isn’t really a life I want! 🙂

  2. Love it. It is such a good question though. What the heck IS normal eating… especially because the more we freak out about it, the less healthy we are getting as a culture! For me I try to look at it this way: eat what I want. For the majority of my decisions, choose foods that are going to fuel my body and make me feel good and strong, and then the rest of the decisions, stuff that will make me happy. I know that you are not supposed to eat for emotional reasons but the truth is that a lot of emotions are tied up in food and sometimes you just need to celebrate.

    The most ABnormal thing to me about eating is how much we think about it now. It is really unhealthy, the level of food obsession that so many of us get to. Moving away from eating as an intuitive and essential natural process is the most harmful thing, and I am so guilty of it.

  3. Can I just say ditto to everything you wrote? That is 100% my definition of normal eating as well. Great post Lindsey. I’m so glad we have both been able to approach food better in recent years. I know it makes our lunches more enjoyable. I’m about to email you back about that actually. 🙂

  4. I love your definition of normal eating. For me, it became so much more enjoyable when i stopped counting calories. It’s just about eating what I crave in a sensible matter…

  5. Normal eating for me is eating what I crave, but eating real, whole foods as much as possible.

  6. i have to agree with ecerythin you listed and im amazed at how hard normal eating is for a lot of people. im pretty sure every single person has or will in the future struggle to find what is normal. i think normal eating totally is about being intuitive to ur body’s needs. i dont think its normal to obsess or dishonor cravings.. even if its for soemthing that some would say is ‘unhealthy junk food’.. if it is a genuine craving and u ignore it.. it will just build and u’ll end up overdoing it because u didnt allow urself to have it. i always enjoy reading ur posts because i find your relationship to food one of the healthiest of all the blogs ive read. and im so happy u posted about this subject too, definitely something worth bringing attention to!

  7. Oh you’re so right about “normal eating” especially when you start digging around the blog world and it varies so much doesn’t it. I love your list and will admit that I have sort of forgotten normal eating and how to really enjoy my food without being afraid of it. Don’t get me wrong, I still have my pizza (but with a slight tinge of regret).

  8. Ditto. I believe Normal Eating is something that doesn’t take up your thought process. I like what she said about keeping its place. Spending too much time thinking about what you will or should eat next is not normal.

  9. I think normal eating is consuming what your body tells you it truly needs and stopping when your body says it has had enough. I personally am with you on your love for pizza and sometimes my body says it needs pizza so I have some pizza, but not the entire pie…unless I’ve done some sort of crazy physical activity that day. 🙂

  10. Awesome post! I need to work on “stopping when I am satisfied” as I usually listen to my taste buds over my tummy LOL.

    Have I ever told you how much I love the name of your site?!

  11. I really like this post (and love your blog, by the way!) I think a lot about what is normal- I look around different blogs and there are such varying opinions. I agree with the both your definitions and Ellyn’s (I have had that saved on my computer for a while). It’s what I am working towards 🙂

  12. Shelley (findinghappinessandhealth)

    this is such a great post bc normal eating is sOOOO ambiguous! honestly, i have no idea what normal eating is but my dietician has that second person’s essay published and showed it to me and i think its great!


  13. This post could not have come at a more appropriate time! I’ve been struggling with trying to become more of a “normal eater” and have been doing my best to spend time reading blogs that are devoted to a more “normal” eating approach than following a set of rules.

    Yesterday I was in B&N with my husband and I happened to pick up Tosca Reno’s new, “Eat Clean Diet – Recharged!” book. Now don’t get me wrong here – I think Tosca Reno is great and she’s definitely knowledgeable on the subject of nutrition. However, when I started flipping through the various “Cooler Plans” I noticed that when she wrote about eating guidelines it said you were allowed to have one whole egg per day and the rest had to be egg whites. My initial reaction was anger and I thought to myself, “Who is she to say how many whole eggs I can have per day? What if I want TWO whole eggs! Heaven forbid! What will happen?” For the first time I actually read that and thought it was ridiculous, whereas in the past I would’ve made a mental note of it to remind myself to stick to just the one egg.

    I love your version of normal eating as well as all the others – I think I need to do a post on my own blog about this! Thank you SO much!! 🙂

    • I agree about Tosca’s books. I like them strictly for recipe ideas. I have followed someone elses’ meal plan before, and it was awful! I prefer to listen to ME and what MY body wants..I should know best, right? 🙂

      Glad you liked the post and found it helpful!

  14. Pingback: Normal Eating « It's My Life

  15. Normal eating is a tough thing to nail down – I have been working on it for a long time. I think I am just about there, and it feels fabulous!

    I totally agree with everything about this post! I think I will be linking back to it every time I need a reminder : )

    Your blog is awesome – I love it!

  16. Great post! To me, normal eating is listening to my body more than my brain – eating what my body wants when it wants it, and stopping when my body is full rather than when my plate is clean or when I think I should stop. Normal eating is also occasionally eating based solely on my taste buds – eating something not b/c it’s healthy or because I should, but because it tastes good. And then moving on with my life.

  17. annnnnd another blog added to my reader. you’re great! awesome post!

  18. LOVE this post. You are quickly becoming one of my “must read” blogs. I might not always comment, but I’m reading, girl!

    To me, it means eating food that tastes good and helps me feel just as good. It’s about eating a variety of colors and mostly fresh foods, but not turning my nose up to processed foods completely because I love to eat those too. It’s about not comparing what I eat to others because everyone is different. And, it’s simply about having fun with food and NEVER having food guilt! Food is my first true love!

  19. Awesome post! I have seen the second entry before but the first was new to me and I agree with it very much. It’s so easy to get caught up in the hype of “eating healthy”, “indulging” or dieting and forget what normal even is 🙂

  20. Normal eating is not thinking about it…and having a fullfilling life with the abilty to LIVE and be with FRIENDS and FAMILY.

  21. Love your post! I’d say most of my definitions of “normal eating” would be fairly similar to yours. Eating is meant to be enjoyed – not picked and prodded over!

  22. just what you said! NOTHING is off limits, always giving into your cravings, moderation and balance!

  23. flowyogilates

    Great post!
    I think that the first step to “normal” eating is to realize that there is no “normal” eating. Everybody is special and individual and so it´s impossible to set rules that fit to everybody the same way. Because eating is such an individual thing its useless to compare the way one is eating with other ways. In our society there are so many rules and norms and we really have forgotten how to listen to ourselves and to our body-needs. So individual eating is for me to listen to my cravings and what makes me feel good. And trying not to compare with others and trying not to value my eating in a negative way …. not always easy but I work on it

  24. love this post! ever read the book intuitive eating? It focuses on the same premise and really helped me overcome my own struggles with normal eating!!

  25. I agree with your normal eating thoughts. To sum up my opinion, normal eating is what you do when you’re hungry! No second thoughts, just whatever is natural.

  26. Katherine: What About Summer?

    great, great points

    there was a recap on TV of some study and they were talking about the effects of whatever on rats v. monkey babies (sad I know) and talked about how all the monkey babies came out normal. my mom’s comment was “how can you tell if a monkey baby is normal” which I think is such a good point. there is no normal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s