What does "normal" eating even mean?
A "normal," or as I like to call it, a "balanced" eater is someone who eats when they are hungry and doesn't give much thought to food. They are what you call intuitive eaters.
When we were kids, we were most likely innately good at eating intuitively (as long as our parents weren't either not feeding us, or they weren't making us eat all our food or eating when we weren't hungry).
Usually, balanced eaters seem to maintain a healthy weight and do so with ease. They also may be the person who seems to eat whatever they want and not gain weight! There is a reason that they maintain their weight so well: energy balance.
At the end of the day, what matters most in weight loss and maintenance is that we are eating as many calories as we burn throughout the day. Balanced eaters are good at choosing foods they will enjoy, and eating them in the right amounts, consistently. If they strive to eat healthfully, they balance nutrient-rich foods with foods that are maybe less nutrient dense, and don't give it too much thought. Below are some characteristics of a balanced eater's mindset and behaviors:
Balanced Eating Mindset
· Don’t think of food in terms of “good” and “bad”
· Don’t overthink their food; they devote only as much mental effort as possible to execute basic tasks
· Don’t underthink their food; eat mindfully, aware of choices they make and how they feel.
· Understand how food choices relate to fitness, performance, and health. If they want to improve these things, they try to improve their food choices
· Find food pleasurable, but keep it in its place: food is not a substitute for human contact or love, and it’s not expected to change their emotional state
Balanced Eating Behaviors
· Eat when they’re physically hungry
· May or may not eat when they have a craving: they may acknowledge it and pass, or decide to eat it but in small amounts
· Choose whether to indulge cravings: the craving doesn’t choose for them
· Choose foods they believe will satisfy them or be appropriate choices: if interested in health, they look for healthy foods; if very hungry, they eat something hearty
· Stay connected to their physical cues at all times: before, during and after eating
· Eat with awareness – aware of body cues and of food characteristics: taste, texture, smell, etc
· Stop eating when they are physically satisfied: hit “just right” and quit
The key to enabling yourself to have these characteristics, starts with losing the "scarcity mindset." Often when we restrict certain foods, we start to see food as being scarcely available (due to our own making). When that is the case, there is a sense of urgency to eat more than is needed, usually in a cycle of overeating and restricting. As long as we see food as being scarce, it is hard if not impossible to have a balanced eater mindset.
If you have the scarcity mindset, you may be wondering how to get rid of it?
Check out the next blog on intuitive eating to find out.
Doing the above behaviors may sound so simple. Too simple. But if you don't already eat this way, you know that these behaviors don't always come naturally. I believe if you can adopt the above behaviors and mindset first and foremost, you will be much better equipped to lose weight and/or maintain it for the long-term. No more diets, no more cutting out food groups, no more starving yourself.
Try choosing one behavior and implementing it at least one meal a day to start. Then build up to two meals, and so on. Then adopt another behavior. And of course, if you need guidance, support, and/or accountability, I can always help you in coaching.
Excerpts taken from The Essentials of Nutrition and Coaching for health, fitness and sport, 4th edition, from Precision Nutrition.