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  • Writer's pictureSam Finkelstein, RD

Are You A Normal Eater?

If you were asked if you were a “normal eater,” what would that mean to you? Could you answer yes? Would you say no? Could you respond at all? This may seem a direct and simple question, but the answer may not be so obvious. Many "gurus" of dieting or "healthy lifestyles" often assert that perfection is the only way to a wellness. But perfection, as it pains many of us to admit, is never truly an option -- not to mention the toll that the stress of perfectionism takes on our bodies each day. Ellyn Satter, a well-known Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, defines normal eating beautifully. To paraphrase and summarize, her definition can be interpreted to mean that normal eating is a combination of listening to your body’s cues, and allowing your intuition to drive you. Normal eating is recognizing what the signals mean, but recognizing how well you listen to them does not directly correlate to your worth as a human being. To quote Ms. Satter, normal eating is “leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.”*

In our culture, we receive mixed messages surrounding food constantly. But I maintain that food is to be enjoyed – and how lucky we are that it can also do miraculous things for our bodies. Evolution is a beautiful thing, and I have suspicions that the overlap of our enjoyment and utilization of food is no accident. It is true that balance is what will lead most of us to feeling our best. But we cannot expect perfection from ourselves, nor should we try. Not only do we negate any benefit one might get from excluding any food by being stressed about our eating constantly, but our bodies have fail-safes in place to make sure that if food is available, restrictive eating won't go on for very long. The restrict/binge cycle is conclusively backed up, and states that when we restrict ourselves from food--or even threaten restriction with an "I'm so bad for eating this" or a "take these away from me--no more after this bite"--sets our bodies up, physiologically, to seek out more food by any means necessary. This is what leads many people to a binge, rocketing them back into the cycle to start the whole deal over again. I often ask clients – “Why are your health goals important to you?”. Frequently, the response is something along the lines of wanting quality of life. If your health goals are important to you because you want to enjoy life thoroughly, it is nonsensical to make yourself crazy with highly restrictive diets in the hopes of becoming a “normal eater”. As it turns out, a part of normal eating is eating what sounds good. If your goal is to be happy, healthy, and trusting of your body, you are on the right track. If you are having trouble understanding what it means to trust your body, please reach out to see how I can help. *For the full answer to “What Is Normal Eating” by Ellyn Satter, visit

*An earlier version of this post can be found on

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