After being overweight, losing weight and then spending 5 years in physique competitions my eating was very disordered. I took quite an extreme approach to look good and picked up some bad beliefs and habits about eating and nutrition along the way. It took me at least 2-3 years to regain normal eating habits and still to this day that old belief system rears its ugly head when I decide I want to drop a few kgs. Times have changed and I have a new more balanced way of looking at food, a new belief system, but the old one is still there, I just choose to ignore it as it only leads to stress, shame, guilt, and me being unhappy.
Disordered eating is rampant and socially accepted as normal from the person looking to lose weight to professional sports people.
There has been a shift to promote and educate us on eating a balanced diet to lose weight and stay healthy, looking to shift our beliefs on what is healthy eating or normal eating; however, we have yet to embrace these habits and still hold old beliefs about what you need to eat to lose weight and idea of health is often ignored.
We are led to believe by the media, books, friends, family, and so-called experts that we must eat all the junk in the house before we start our diet, it tells us carbs are bad, sugar is bad, fat is bad and eating chocolate or a biscuit or even a piece of fruit will set us back. We are told to cut out whole food groups, to try to exist on 800 kcals a day. We are told we must be perfect and abstain from the things we love. We are told bad food is a sin or a cheat, even if it’s healthy. No wonder we are all messed up and don’t know what is right or wrong.
What is Normal Eating?
It depends on who you speak to and how they normally eat. Everyone has a different view on normal eating which is shaped by our family, our culture, race, environment, and social influences to name a few.
So, let’s look at what normal eating is not… and some things may surprise you because they are just accepted as normal. They aren’t.
It’s not takeaways every day
It’s not extra-large meals
It’s not eating entire packets of crisps, a whole cake, a whole block of chocolate.
It’s not eating massive portions every meal
It’s not drinking daily.
It’s not eating so much we feel sick
It’s not eating so little we starve
It’s not eating so clean you’re boring
It’s not living off diet bars or powdered food devoid of any nutrition
It’s not being scared to eat fruit because of the sugar content.
It’s not taking your meals to a friends’ house because you’re keto
It’s not only eating low fat
It’s not only eating low carbs
It’s not only eating high protein
It’s not living on processed meals and snacks
It’s not eating gluten free because you think it’s healthier (unless you have a gluten intolerance)
It’s not avoiding going out for dinner because that one meal will make you fat.
It’s not eating like a child even though you’re an adult
It’s not tracking and weighing your food 52 weeks a year
It’s not eating to extremes
We must be sensible and find a way of eating that improves our health, helps us lose weight if that’s the goal and stops us feeling guilt, shame, and other negative emotions when we over-indulge.
Yes, if you want to lose weight you need to cut back in some areas, you have to be more attentive to what you eat, you have to re-evaluate and negotiate with yourself what you will and won’t eat. You have to sacrifice BUT you don’t have to demonise food, cut out whole food groups, never drink alcohol again, decide never to eat sugar again or carbs, or fats or sweets or chocolate. THAT’S NOT NORMAL.
Normal eating is not bingeing on the whole chocolate bar today, so you finish it to start your diet tomorrow – there is no difference between eating the whole chocolate bar over a week than eating the entire bar in a day, except for the fact that you labelled it as bad so felt the need to binge on it.
Normal eating is having days where you eat more and days where you eat less – you don’t have to stick to a set number of calories a day to lose weight. I like to look at calories over a week and eat to how I feel over that week. This may mean some days I eat less and save more calories for the weekend to allow me to eat more – without the guilt and shame.
Normal eating isn’t tracking your calories all the time, if you eat normally, you are less inclined to binge, and less inclined to over consume calories as again the guilt and shame is removed.
Normal eating is eating a wide range of fruit and veg, a variety of good quality fats. It includes eating all the food you enjoy without labelling it as good or bad. Its finding a balance that gives you the outcomes of fat loss and improving your health.
If you aren’t losing weight, adjust what you eat, decrease portions, cut back on a few of the finer things in life but you don’t have to cut them out altogether.
You can still enjoy food and lose weight, you must set your boundaries and stick to them – see how that goes, readjust, and keep going.