Many people carry around a lot of "shoulds" in their heads when it comes to eating. We tell ourselves that we "should" eat this, and we definitely "should not" eat that. The problem is that many of these "shoulds" are based on limited or false information that comes at us from the outside. Instead of being guided by our own internal wisdom and appetites, we turn these choices over to some outside authority and in the process, we lose touch with our ability to tune into our bodies and give them what they need.
We focus on what we should eat, but overlook paying attention to how we are eating. In our busy lives, we often forget to slow down and pay attention to our food and really allow ourselves to enjoy it. In addition, we have to unpack a myriad of messages about "good" food versus "bad" food, and this can get in our way of listening to our bodies and determining how well we respond to what we are eating.
Ellyn Satter, a social worker and registered dietician, suggests that normal eating includes:
- Going to a meal hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
- Being able to choose foods you like and getting enough of it - not just stopping because you think you should.
- 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.
- Sometimes giving yourself permission to eat because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
- Eating three meals a day - or four or five - or choosing to munch along the way.
- Leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or eating more right now because they taste so wonderful.
- Overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And undereating at times and wishing you had more.
- Trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
For more information, see Ellyn Satter's website.
The UHS Registered Dietician Nutritionist has great resources to help people learn to eat mindfully. See Nutrition Clinic for information.