Are You a Normal Eater?

I shared this post with my newsletter subscribers a few months back for National Eating Disorders Awareness week. For monthly emails with similar content sign up to receive my monthly newsletter here.


In my practice, I try to emphasize that there is no right way to eat or a universal perfect diet. Everyone's bodies and nutrition needs are different. As women in particular (but men too) we can struggle with food and food rules and what 'healthy' and 'normal' 'should' look like. We get wrapped up in foods we label as 'good' or 'bad' or 'clean' or 'healthy' and go through periods of undereating and overeating. It's stressful. And to me, that's not 'healthy' and shouldn't be 'normal'.

Today, I wanted to share with you a definition of 'normal eating' from two of my esteemed colleagues. This happens to be National Eating Disorders Awareness week, so let's use it as a reminder to show a little self-respect, not judge our food choices or our bodies, ditch the food rules, the diet mentality, and the under eating/overeating cycle.

Ellyn Satter is a highly regarded dietitian known for her work with child nutrition and raising healthy eaters. Robyn Kievit Kirkman is a dietitian, certified eating disorder and sports nutrition specialist, nurse practitioner, and my mentor. Through years of experience in the nutrition field, they have both created definitions of Normal Eating. I combined my favorite parts from the two below. Visit their websites (linked above) for more practical tips and information.


  • Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
  • It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it - not just stop eating because you think you should.
  • Normal eating is 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.
  • Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad, or bored, or just because it feels good.
  • Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way.
  • It 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.
  • Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be under eating at times and wishing you had more.
  • Normal eating is relearning your own way and changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions around food and your body.
  • It is not letting the scale mandate your feelings for the day.
  • Normal eating is baking and eating cookies at 10 PM with a friend, or eating pasta or a leftover cheeseburger and fries for breakfast.
  • Normal eating is trying a food trend but knowing there are no ‘perfect’ foods.
  • Normal eating is maybe trying vegetarianism for a few years but then perhaps deciding animal protein really works well for you, your body, and your movement goals.
  • Normal eating is not what or how much others eat, it’s what YOUR body needs in that moment, that meal, that day.
  • Normal eating is knowing our appetites change meal to meal, day to day, and honoring this process.
  • Normal eating is keeping these words out of thoughts and conversations about food and your body: good, bad, sorry, should, can't, and healthy (or unhealthy, and certainly ‘clean’!).
  • In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

What does normal eating mean to you?

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