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Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational, and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life. Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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Explaining “Normal” Eating

In a thin-obsessed culture, it can be difficult to explain why you would choose not to diet—especially if you’re overweight, more so if you are obese—because we have few culturally accepted methods for weight loss. In the past, diets and fasting were the way to go and now, of course, we have surgery, as well. All are easily understood concepts.

However, if you choose the route of “normal” eating, you’re talking about an animal that is not easily described. Yes, you can enumerate its four rules and give examples. You can explain that learning to eat “normally” is a process that goes beyond changing behavior and targets beliefs and emotions. In my experience, what gets in the way of understanding the concept is not you giving a poor or incomplete explanation, but your listener’s limited ability to “get it” or to understand what the big deal is. Their limits fall into two categories. The listener: 1) either subscribes to dieting and “self discipline” or can’t imagine exerting enough control for self-trust to lead to “normal” eating, or 2) is a “normal” eater and can’t figure out what all the fuss is about you becoming one.

In the case of people who fear food and don’t trust themselves, you can empathize and share their mistrust, then point out that intuitive eating is a learnable skill. You can explain how children gain self-trust by making mistakes and living with consequences, how they gain confidence by combining good judgment with gut instinct. Moreover, you can share your experiences with trying to become a “normal” eater, along with your refusal to live your life dieting and deprived or struggling with food. You don’t have to prove to anyone that intuitive eating works; your job is only to explain how it works.

In the case of “normal” eaters who can’t comprehend why it’s so darned hard for you to eat like them, it helps to describe how your early learning about food may have been different than theirs; show them cause and effect, if you can. If they still don’t get why you can’t simply flip a switch and be comfortable with food, try pointing out (gently, please) a behavior that’s easy and natural for you but not for them—lecturing in front of 2000 people without batting an eye, juggle 12 tasks at once without getting flummoxed, having a blast when thrown into a party of strangers. The idea is to show them that everyone has areas in which they are challenged and eating is one of yours.

Remember, no one needs to understand why you want to become a “normal” eater but you, and that explaining the process can help you get clearer on your reasons and strengthen your motivation to get there.