A few weeks back I wrote a blog called “It’s OKAY to Eat When You’re Hungry.” That blog was inspired by conversations with friends, family members and clients about how hunger is shameful and should be ignored. Like it somehow isn’t natural. It wasn’t until I posted that blog that the thought occurred to me – “Oh no, are people going to read this and think it’s not ok to eat if they aren’t hungry?”
Because here is the reality – it is totally normal to eat when you aren’t hungry.
Hear me out.
Dietitian and child feeding expert Ellyn Satter has a beautiful definition of normal eating. I totally recommend printing this out and putting it on your refrigerator.
“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 undereating at times and wishing you had more.
Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.”*
If you’ve been dieting much of your life, this might sound so different from the path you’ve been on. That is ok. The good news is that you can get help to become a more “normal,” or what is also known as a “competent” eater.
What I am trying to get at here is that normal eating sometimes means that you are eating just to eat. You are eating out of an emotion or just because it tastes good! We all do that sometimes. It’s normal.
What I always tell clients is that it’s ok to eat if you are having a bad day or feel stressed or sad. And it might also help to broaden your coping tools list so that you have many ways to care for yourself when experiencing negative emotions. The fact that eating is one of your coping tools is ok and a layer of guilt or shame really isn’t helping.
I pray that after reading this blog you give yourself permission to eat for reasons other than hunger. I pray you don’t feel guilty or shameful for doing so, and you don’t call yourself a glutton.
When I work with clients who struggle with this idea I suggest they find a phrase or a “mantra” to help them get past that voice inside their head saying they don’t “deserve” to eat. It may be something like:
“I am allowed to be comfortably fed.”
“It’s ok for me to feel full and satisfied.”
“Food is not the enemy.”
Whatever you decide on as a mantra, I promise you – it is a thousand times better than any message from diet culture.
Many clients report back that when they gave themselves permission to satisfy cravings and embrace self-compassion, they actually discovered that they felt more at peace with food.
Shaming ourselves into eating less has never made anyone healthier in the long run. Give yourself permission to eat when you’re not hungry sometimes and you might find that by honoring your desire to eat you are honoring your body, thus improving your overall relationship with food.
Faith-Based Nutrition Counseling
Body positive blogs are inspiring, but sometimes it might not be enough. We get that! You might want something more. An expert to walk along side you in your journey towards body respect and food peace. We've got you covered. Sign up for a free "pre-consultation" to see if working with one of our registered dietitians doing faith-based nutrition counseling is right for you.
Nicole resides in the East Bay Area where she works in private practice as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. She is a new Mom and serves alongside her beloved husband in their local church. She completed both her bachelors degree and her dietetic internship at California State University, Chico, where she was also a NCAA cross country and track athlete. Through those experiences, God prompted her to help people of all shapes and sizes discover body peace and acceptance through the unconditional love of Jesus. Nicole most enjoys spending time around a table and cooking for the people she loves.