First off, straight off the bat, let's get one thing clear:
This is a not a post to judge yourself by.
It's not a list of criteria that you succeed ('yay I'm normal!') or fail at ('I knew I was messed up!').
I'm writing this with this aim in mind: it's easier to move towards something when we have a clearer idea of what that is.
So in the world of food where there are still labels as good/bad/clean/treats etc, this post gives you some ideas that are moving away from restriction/giving up foods/trying to be good/in control/get back on track etc.
Firstly, can we just say there is NO SUCH THING as normal.
Normal eating literally does not exist. So when I use that term here, 'normal eating' is referring to what it could be like to eat in a way that's aligned with our unique, always-changing needs, as well as the concept of deep health (missed that idea? Refresh yourself here).
'Normal' eaters eat in ALL different ways, varying in frequency (2 meals, skipping meals, constantly grazing, 6 meals etc), and in all sorts of styles (vegetarian, kosher, halal, vegan, pescatarian etc).
What 'normal' eaters tend to have in common is this:
- they're attuned to their internal cues and physiological needs
- their mindset is balanced
- their behaviours are relatively moderate and consistent
So let's have a look at what 'normal eating' mindset MIGHT look like:
There's no such terms as 'good' or 'bad', there's not place of identity or worth in their food choices. In fact, they don't think much about food at all. It just doesn't take up huge amounts of head space.
That doesn't mean they don't take time to plan and prepare and ensure they make healthy choices, but that just takes up the time, and head space it needs, and no more.
They eat mindfully, aware of the choices they make and how they feel. They eat slowly, paying attention and notice satisfaction.
They understand how their food choices relate to fitness, performance and health. They get a basic understanding of what options are appropriate to their goals, and then seek out those options. WITHOUT fretting about getting it perfect.
They are able to manage and process their emotions without food, knowing that food is not a substitute for love and connection.
They will eat when they're hungry: they know the difference between anger, anxiety, thirst and hunger. At the same time, when they experience a craving, hungry or not, they can choose whether to satisfy that. The craving doesn't choose for them. They are attuned to what their body needs AND wants.
And remember, if this sounds like a long way off from you, DO NOT FEEL BAD. Many of us have experienced distress around food. Most of us have inherited, internalized and practiced eating philosophies and habits that don't necessarily serve our long term health and happiness.
So can we have GRACE for ourselves? And not judge ourselves for what we have learnt (often in ways that have helped us survive, stay safe, succeed and achieve in other areas).
This might give you a few ideas of simple things you could add, like eating a little slower.
And if there's many from the list above, just pick ONE that feels nice and kind and doable, and start there.
With kindness towards yourself.
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Note: Please seek help from a health professional, such as your GP or an eating distress counsellor, if you need support in this area. This blog post is not a substitute for therapy or counselling.