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  • Writer's picturelindecatherine

Understanding "Normal Eating"

Eating intuitively is a natural process for some people, but for people with an eating disorder, it isn’t. After restricting or overeating for a period of time, it becomes hard to define what is “a lot” or “too little” of food. Hunger cues become disrupted, which makes it difficult to decide when to start eating or when to stop. Learning to eat intuitively requires listening to your body, which is exactly what people with eating disorders have not been doing.

During recovery, people crave to be able to eat “like normal people”. Not restrict to eating at certain times, be able to prepare a meal without planning, spontaneously go out with friends and choose a dish they crave. But most importantly, people in recovery want to not feel guilty for eating and enjoy every single bite of the meal.

It is hard to break out of habits that have been a part of your life for a long period of time. There will be ups and downs, moments of sadness and helplessness, but with time eating will begin to feel natural. It will finally become intuitive, something that people in recovery so desperately try to achieve.

Normal eating is not labelling food and not putting any restrictions or rules. You allow yourself to eat all food groups whenever you want. Yes, there may be a self-care structure around eating, but no hard and fast lines are drawn in the sand. It is okay to give some thought to your food selections, but you shouldn’t be too wary or restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable moments and cause yourself distress.

It is also completely normal for a person to eat when they are not hungry. This includes eating something just because it looks appetizing, or during a social occasion, or when there is no opportunity to eat later. People might eat something just because they are experiencing sadness, happiness, or boredom, and it’s normal, but it should not become the only coping mechanism with a emotions as it can lead to another eating disorder.

People’s eating habits vary day by day. Some days a person will be hungrier than others and for that reason, the body will require more food. Restricting is not the solution, but nourishing your body is. Normal eating is being flexible. Eating patterns will vary by day depending on a person’s hunger, their schedule, their proximity to food/food options, and their feelings. It is key to accept the flexibility.

Sometimes people overeat and feel stuffed and uncomfortable - it’s okay. Normal eating is allowing yourself to trust your body to balance things out. Food is no longer simply a means of keeping our bodies alive. It has become a means of connection to people and enjoying life. People need to accept this without feeling ashamed. Instead of keeping the focus on your fullness, shift the focus on the happiness and enjoyment you experience while you were eating.

Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for the mistakes in eating.[1]

For “normal” people, food blurs into the background of life, instead of being the main focus. It does not carry emotional luggage that can drain all the energy. When food is in its rightful place, people have greater focus and clarity for things they love and enjoy.

Learning to eat intuitively will not happen overnight. But it is important to remain patient and consistent as you relearn to listen to your body again.

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