Are You A Competent Eater? (Part 1)

Are You A Competent Eater? (Part 1)

NOT another guilt-inducing ‘Healthy Eating’  Quiz

Have you ever taken one of those quizzes?  You know, the ones that pop-up with the daunting question, "Are You A Healthy Eater?"  The questions that follow usually ask what kind of foods you eat and how often, and at the end you receive some sort of grade on how ‘healthy’ you are.  Oh please! More often than not, quiz-takers see the results and walk away feeling worse about their eating habits and decide that they are not, in fact, a healthy eater.   

So what is ‘healthy’ eating, anyway? 

Well, it really depends on who you ask, doesn't it?  One source will tell you that the only way to truly eat healthy is to eat only organic foods. Another will tell you that you have to go back to the 'ways of our ancestors' and cut out grains, starches and dairy. Still others say that avoiding fats is what makes a healthy diet. Or is the goal to limit carbohydrates and emphasize protein?   

Is your head spinning yet as you remember all the different opinions, books, blogs, or articles you've read just trying to figure out what healthy eating really is?  

Those of us who follow the non-diet approach to eating have our own way of defining it, and it's called eating competence.  And no, it's not another set of rules designed to stop you from eating dessert or to put you on a strict regimen.  Eating competence is a well-researched model by Ellyn Satter, a registered dietitian and family therapist who believes that healthy eating has way more to do with your mindset than the food in front of you.  

I love this quote by Satter in her book, Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: “Enjoyment is key to good health. If the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers. Rules that make us feel bad about our eating don’t help us.” Intrigued yet? I bet you never imagined you’d hear these words coming from a registered dietitian, did you? It’s possible that you’ve never heard that there’s another way to approach food, and it doesn’t involve lists of food rules. 

When I first heard about eating competence I was astonished. The more I’ve studied these principles, the more freedom and joy I’ve found in the pursuit of a balanced life. We all desire well-being, don’t we? Pursuing health doesn’t mean we have to torture ourselves. It’s a holistic experience, where your emotional, mental, and physical health all dance together in harmony. Eating competence is a stress-free way to eat, thereby honoring physical and emotional well-being.   

So, curious to find out whether or not you're a competent eater?  This little "quiz" is way better than those guilt-inducing ‘healthy eating’ quizzes: 

1.      Do you feel good about food and about eating-and feel good about feeling good? 

2.      Do you like a variety of foods and enjoy learning to like new food? 

3.      Do you trust yourself to eat enough for you

4.      Do you take time to eat?  To have regular meals (and snacks) and pay attention when you eat? 

Source: http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/other/ecsatter.php

If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you're definitely not alone.  Eating competence takes time to develop, and each step along the way is rewarding and beneficial to your health (rather than stress and guilt-inducing).  I think of eating competence as a process, and the beauty is in the journey, right?  

Take me for example. I have been studying eating competence and incorporating it into my life for several years now, and I'm far from perfect at it. And that's just it, being perfect isn't the point. Self-compassion is a key ingredient on this journey. The idea is to notice with curiosity and non-judgment when you make eating decisions that aren’t quite in line with your body’s needs and adjust accordingly.  

Stay tuned for PART 2 next week, where I will explain some of the principles behind eating competence and give you more of an idea of how they apply in everyday life! 

(If you’d like to learn more about this topic, there are some good resources out there. Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family, by Ellyn Satter, is a great place to start to learn more about these principles.)  


Hannah lives in Reno, Nevada with her beloved husband and daughter.  After struggling with disordered eating during adolescence, Hannah discovered healthy approaches to body-image, food, and exercise during her studies in the Nutrition department at California State University, Chico.  Hannah has a heart for sharing the freeing principles of body acceptance with everyone she meets, especially other moms.  She is excited to raise her daughter to know that each and every person is made beautifully in God's image and He wants us to revel in the awe of that beauty every day.  Hannah loves spending her time running around with her sweet toddler, cooking for her family, practicing Pilates, and cultivating her love of photography.