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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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What is “Normal” Eating?

When I talk to “normal” eaters, I find it fascinating to hear them tell me about the times they over- or undereat and how comfortable they are around food. I can tell you that they don’t always make the best decisions. One major difference between them and someone with eating problems is that they don’t put much attention on what they’ve done “wrong.” In fact, they often pay no attention to it whatsoever.

Using the analogy of making a mistake while writing, I’d say that disordered eaters try to erase a food mistake, wildly scribble across it, trying to make it disappear, or toss out the paper they’re using and start again. A “normal” eater just keeps on writing. They have little interest in what they’ve done and it may not even register on their radar screen. They don’t have strong feelings about food decisions one way or the other—that they’ve eaten right or wrong. The more you can get yourself into this neutral mindset, the better you will do after responding to food in a way you wish you hadn’t.

Most “normal” eaters pay so little attention to making food decisions that they’re surprised that other people have difficulties. This may be the problem you have with parents, spouses, colleagues or friends for whom eating is a no brainer. They really don’t get what the big deal is for you. I’m not saying that “normal” eaters don’t spend time and energy learning about nutrition, planning meals, or choosing restaurants. I am saying that they don’t have judgments and unhealthy perceptions about food. They may eat a donut after a run or not, overeat at the holidays or forget to eat because they’re finishing a project, eat a little now because they know they’re going to eat a lot later or eat more than usual to avoid future hunger. By coupling intuitive responses to food with (sometimes) healthy decisions, they are reasonably happy with their eating. They don’t make food judgments or let eating reactions color their day or their life.

Think of something you do in which you simply act naturally and don’t second-guess yourself or make judgments (I hope you can find something!). Notice the mindset of flow that feels comfortable and automatic, how you’re more interested in the present than what you’ve done in the past or will be doing in the future. The best way to explain it is that you are so yourself that you forget yourself. That’s how “normal” eaters feel about food. If you’re able to connect with that flow feeling in some other area, you will know that this is the state you seek with food, moving from one “now” moment to the next “now” moment. If you have no areas of your life in which you feel this present and authentic, now is a good time to learn what this experience is like.