Relax, if you are thinking you are ab-normal reading this article about eating like a ‘normal‘ person, you’re probably pretty normal.
Sure, there are people who have an easier relationship with food. You might call these people ‘normal’. They eat just one serving of dessert and leave the remainder in the tray. We’ll talk about these ‘normal people’ in a minute. But let’s first be clear on two facts:
- Approximately 60% of Americans are overweight or obese.
- Meanwhile, the weight loss industry is worth about $1 Billion dollars.
Now, if you were one of those people spending tons of money trying to lose weight, but you weren’t losing weight, I bet you would think you were abnormal. Hell, you might think of yourself as broken, ruined, pathetic, a total failure.
You wouldn’t be thinking or asking about how to eat like a normal person. Because trying to lose weight using your typical dieting products makes for terrible eating habits. Many people become disordered eaters after dieting.
Although most people don’t gain an eating disorder after trying to lose weight several times, the different instructions from various diets leave people feeling confused.
- One diet said to cut out the carbs, while the other said low carb was fine
- One program said this food was dirty whereas this other person said that food was clean
And that’s at least 60% of the people all around, at a minimum, feeling terribly confused. And when you are confused, it’s hard to find a pattern. It’s hard to find order. The result is disordered eating.
Disordered eating = Normal eating
So let’s talk about normal, and how to eat with grace, ease, and wisdom (which is what most people mean when they ask about ‘eating like a normal person’.
Relax, sit back, stop judging, and let’s get into today’s content.
Here are the 5 topics we’ll be covering:
- Your Perspective Of What It Means To ‘Eat Like A Normal Person’ Matters
- Flexibility: Like A Normal Person Behaves Towards Food
- 4 Ideas: How To Not Care About Food Anymore
- What Does A Normal Person Eat In One Day?
- Snack Pairing Examples
Your Perspective Of What It Means To ‘Eat Like A Normal Person’ Matters
“What does normal eating mean to you?”
Oftentimes when people ask this question, they really are not asking about ‘normal eating’. As noted above, there’s tons of people trying to lose weight and not seeing results. This, unfortunately, is normal.
Realizing that disordered eating is normal is saddening. It’s sad that so many people feel confused and stuck around food. Yet, realizing that you are not alone in your eating struggles, is a powerful step forwards into becoming more at ease with food.
Let’s face it, most people who ask about ‘how to eat like a normal person’ are really seeking information for two outcomes:
- Clarify their confusion
- Get unstuck around food
Initially you may think that most other people are eating normally. But as we’ve covered, many other people have some form of disordered eating.
Quick Note On Disordered Eating Versus Occasional Binge Eating
Sometimes people say they ‘binge eat’ a bit too much. This probably means they are a disordered eater.
While binge eating too much may have negative health consequences, there is a big difference between binge eating occasionally and what is known as disordered eating, as opposed to Binge Eating Disorder.
Binge Eating Disorder is where you feel incredibly stressed out many times per week During these times of distress, you also eat way too much food far beyond the point of fullness.
For most people wondering about eating normally though, they simply have a few binges every now and then. They are overeating, but it’s not causing extreme distress, depression and anxiety.
Disordered Eating Is Normal.
Realizing disordered eating is normal is an important part of making peace with food.
The reason is simple: ‘common sense wisdom’ about food is often what creates so much confusion in the first place.
When you realize that most people are confused, you can see that ‘common sense wisdom’ might not be so wise after all.
That’s why I call my website ‘Eating Enlightenment’. You really have to think differently. Seeing how common it is for people to struggle with food may make you rethink your fundamental assumptions.
For example, let’s talk about ‘a diet’. Diet is still a popular word. Yet, nowadays we don’t use the word ‘diet’ like we used to use the term. For example, Weight Watchers is now a ‘lifestyle’ program. There are ‘cleanses’ or ‘fasts’. Eating Clean vs Eating disorder is another example of ‘diet’ being used in a different way.
But, we haven’t changed our fundamental diet assumptions. We are still essentially dieting. Like ‘clean’ eating versus ‘dirty’ eating. There is still a dichotomy. It’s the same as a diet, just different words.
There is still dualism, diet dualism.
Growth Occurs After Questioning Your Assumptions
In general, being more aware of what you are thinking and assuming is what enables us to change and grow. If we can become aware of why we are off, stuck or confused, then we can naturally move towards peace and better health.
In the more specific context of eating, what makes you feel confused and stuck around food? If we can spot how you get stuck and confused around food, from there we can learn to think differently and feel more at peace with food.
Let’s identify some supposed ‘common sense wisdom’. You may think this common sense way is what it means to eat like a normal person. These are food rules you may have internalized, but which keep you feeling stuck and confused. While these rules, listed down below ,might seem reasonable and common sense, they can actually be preventing you from peace with food.
On the surface, you think ‘this is what it means to eat like a normal person’. It sounds easy. Yet when you take a close look at your own mindsets around eating for the first time, you’ll see tons of rules.
These rules will be contradictory and confusing if you study them up close, but without further inspection, these are the rules guided by ‘common sense’.
Please note how these rules are usually black and white, right or wrong, yes or no. You either succeed in these rules, or you fail.
Common Rules About Food That May Be Keeping You Stuck:
- I shouldn’t eat as much food.
- I shouldn’t constantly think about food.
- Should eat less carbs.
- Shouldn’t go for sugary foods .
- I should be able to control my desire for carbs and sweets.
- Should eat much more vegetables.
- I should eat only whole foods, not processed foods.
- Should only eat ‘clean’ foods, no ‘dirty’ foods.
- I shouldn’t snack in the evening.
- I shouldn’t eat what I want to eat.
- Should eat what is most healthy, not what I want to eat.
- I should avoid anything with processed sugars.
- Should only eat dessert once a week.
- I shouldn’t eat as much cheese and bread.
I know questioning these rules might sound crazy. After all, these rules listed above are very common for many people.
It might seem crazy or threatening to question these rules simply because these rules are what many people learn during childhood. In many ways, how you learned to eat as a child can become like a religion.
But that’s why we talked earlier about why common sense rules aren’t always best. The fact is the majority of people struggle with food, so the ‘common sense rules’ might not be good for you.
These rules represent the typical ‘common sense wisdom’. But, as you can see, these rules are black and white, yes and no, pass or fail.
This type of thinking is what leads to getting stuck and confused around food.
Let’s now examine the opposite scenario. Let’s talk about being at peace around food. How does a person who feels at ease with food behave?
We know that the majority of people feel confused around food. We also can see that these traditional common sense rules are black and white. While it may sound a bit strange to question these rules like ‘eat less food‘, hopefully you can see that the ‘common sense’ ways we think about food are pretty rigid.
While you may have thought ‘normal’ meant being at peace and easy going around food, now you know better. Now you know that today’s ‘traditional normal’ means disordered eating and guilt.
But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Peaceful eating and feeling good about your food choices can be the default standard.
In this post, that’s what I mean by eating like a normal person. When eating intuitively is your nature and it’s working for you.
I know this back and forth over the word ‘normal’ can be a bit confusing. What’s actually normal is disordered, and that by creating flexibility around food and having less rules, we can change to have a new ‘normal’.
But this new ‘normal’ comes at a cost. You have to be open to admitting and seeing that the rigid rules we call ‘common sense’ and consider normal, are actually preventing you from being at peace with food.
It’s okay if you still feel a bit confused. To help clarify confusion, let’s see how someone who is at peace with food behaves.
As you’ll see, the person who is at ease with food oftentimes has less rules, and has more flexibility around the rules he/she does have.
Flexibility: How A Normal Person SHOULD Behave Towards Food
From my perspective, what should be normal is very different from the rigid “common sense” approach. Truly normal eating is getting hungry and eating until you feel satisfied and don’t want any more food because you are satisfied, not because you are too full.
In this scenario, you might have oatmeal in the morning and then have a heavier pasta and small dessert at lunch, only to come home and desire a salad and eat that. This approach is oftentimes referred to as intuitive or emotional eating. This person doesn’t have a set agenda:
- They don’t worry about calorie counting
- They don’t have precise times
- Food is treated flexibility
Can you see how this peaceful eater doesn’t have rigid rules on how much to eat, but rather goes by how their body feels?
A normal eater eats what they enjoy and gets enough of what they enjoy. They don’t stop eating ‘just because they are only allowed 1 or 2 pieces’. They stop eating because eventually they don’t want more of that food.
Can you see how this person who is at ease with food doesn’t have any limits?
Someone who has this kind of easy relationship with food keeps an eye out for nutritious foods, but isn’t so wary or perfectionist to try to only eat nutritious food or avoid enjoyable food. They even may eat some sugary food, but not to an extreme.
Can you see how this person is fairly balanced? They have some nutritious foods, and some sugary foods.
It’s okay to emotionally eat sometimes when you are happy, sad or bored, or just because you want to.
This person doesn’t totally rely on food to manage their emotions, but they also don’t avoid food either. Again, balance.
People who are natural with food eat usually around 3-5x per day.
Notice how they don’t starve themselves. They eat regularly. But they also don’t snack constantly all day. They allow time for their bellies to start getting hungry again before they eat again.
Peaceful foodies can leave the last donut in the tray because they know they can have another donut tomorrow without guilt, or they can order an extra donut if they really want one.
There’s no food scarcity. You can have more, if you’d like.
Sometimes even people who have this better balance with food will still overeat. They get too excited and lose track of what they ate and feel way too full. Or sometimes they accidentally skip a meal. But they don’t dwell on their mistakes.
Can you see that people who have a balance with food aren’t perfect? They still overeat and they still under eat. No, they are not perfect. They just make a mental note and move on.
People who are chill around food trust their body to eat more or less. If the person under ate accidentally, they know it’s okay to eat more the next meal or day. If they overate accidentally, they know it’s also ok to eat less the next meal.
Can you see how there are very little black-and-white rules for the person who is happy with food?
After they are done eating, they stop thinking about food for the most part.
When you trust your body, you don’t need to think about food. It’s like breathing. You trust yourself that you will breathe ok, so you don’t need to focus on breathing.
Still scared to relax, let go, and trust your body?
By reading the above statements, can you see in your head how the person who is peaceful with food doesn’t have rigid rules?
I’m sure you can see that I mean. Your friend who is so carefree around food, you can probably recognize that he or she has flexibility around food.
But flexibility can be difficult. You can probably recognize the key is relaxing around food, but you probably still feel that being flexible around food is incredibly difficult.
What holds you back is fear. And it’s okay to be afraid and totally normal. When you have been raised a certain way, in a certain culture, to think a certain way about food …
It’s perfectly natural to have fear when you start to change how you relate to food, especially when your new ways of learning food are contrary to what you learned initially.
Just remember that what you learned initially is considered by most people to be ‘common sense’. Like the guidance to ‘eat less carbs‘. That food rule sounds perfectly natural, but the food rule lacks flexibility.
In order to be at peace with food, you have to be flexible around food. And becoming flexible around food can be frightening because for your whole life you may have been following rigid rules.
It’s like learning to swim, when for your whole life you have lived on land.
4 Ideas: How To Not Care About Food Anymore
Ok, we have talked a lot about how the traditional normal is not good, and how it is restrictive. We’ve also talked about how the key to food peace is balance and flexibility.
Now let’s try to apply these ideas in a practical way. Each of these ideas below is a way you can begin to practice flexibility with food.
- Peaceful eaters loosely plan their food in advance.
- Intuitive eaters don’t think they do anything ‘wrong’ and let go of their eating mistakes before the next meal.
- Normal eaters eat when they get hungry, stop once they are full, and eat for the most part what they want.
- Intuitive eaters practice self-care in a myriad of ways. Oftentimes self-care is the secret to why they don’t turn to food in an out-of-control way.
Peaceful eaters loosely plan their food in advance: Try to know roughly when you’ll eat. If you have a big meeting, plan to eat a few bites beforehand so you aren’t starving.
Action step: If you tend to have perfectionist behavior tendencies, try to let go of planning precisely what time you’ll eat.
Peaceful eaters don’t think they do anything ‘wrong’ and let go of their eating mistakes before the next meal: This step can be hard to practice. The reason this step is hard to practice is because you don’t trust that your body will adjust. Because you don’t trust your body, you feel that you have to constantly think about food.
Action step: whether you under ate, overate, or ate something you felt you shouldn’t have – say to yourself “People with healthy food relationships make food mistakes too, and they let it go. I can try doing the same.”
Peaceful eaters eat when they get hungry, stop once they are full, and eat for the most part what they want: This principle is very important because your hunger will fluctuate from day to day. If you exercise or have a stressful day, you may want more food the next meal or the next day. If you have a fixed idea of how many calories you should have eaten per day, then you won’t be able to go with your body’s natural upswings for more and downswings when you desire less food.
Action step: On an exercise day or a day where you are very busy or stressed, take a note of your appetite. Can you allow yourself to eat more food, realizing that your body naturally craves more food when you exert yourself physically?
Peaceful eaters practice self-care in a myriad of ways: This is often the big-secret. People who are ‘healthy’ and good-natured around food take care of themselves in a ton of different ways.
It’s easy to miss this, and they might do many of these behaviors without even thinking about it. So when you ask them, “what’s your secret?” they might say something random like, “Oh, my secret is coffee in the morning”. But in reality, this person’s secret may be something like they are sleeping enough, taking some time to journal and reflect, sharing their upset feelings with a nonjudgmental friend, listening to music they like, or going on walks to calm down throughout the day. Or many or all of these.
Action steps: How can you take care of yourself? If you aren’t taking care of yourself, it’s pretty natural that you’ll fall back onto eating more food to take care of you. But food is not a great self-care strategy. It’s better to start learning the art of self-care. What’s one self-care activity you can start doing in a flexible manner?
Okay, let’s now talk about the typical foods the person who has embraced intuitive eating as their ‘new normal’ eats in a given day.
What Does An Intuitive Eater Eat In One Day?
I am placing this topic last because oftentimes people over-focus on the foods.
For example, you might ask your friend who seems to be happy and healthy around food, “what’s your secret to not overeating?”
He or she then might give you a list of foods they eat. You get all excited. “If I just eat these foods then I’ll be healthy and clear around food!”
Yet this person is not telling you how they think. And that’s the most important part.
The reason I’ve placed this section last is because thinking about food in a flexible way is far more important than the types of foods that you eat.
I’ve also decided to keep my nutrition advice very simple when discussing ‘what do normal people eat per day’ because I want to keep things clear.
In the section below, I’ll outline some simple ideas on how to make a simple meal that should give you a moderate degree of fullness.
Eat Like A Intuitive Eating Person: Snack Pairing Examples
- Whole wheat bread with peanut butter
- Brown rice with chicken
- Whole wheat bread with hummus
- Brown rice with eggs
- Whole wheat bread with eggs
- Whole wheat bread with avocado
- Brown rice with beans
- Brown rice with avocado
I know this sounds pretty simple. Perhaps too simple. Please note that this list doesn’t include amounts, as I want you to experiment with what feels good to you.
My intention in giving you the above examples foods are to show you that nutrition doesn’t need to be made complex.
Please don’t think this is all that I am suggesting you eat, though. The ideas suggested above can be considered the ‘base’ of your meal, and you can add toppings or sides as you desire.
You can also of course add or mix ingredients together, or change the amounts of foods.
For example, my snack during the day typically has been 1 slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter, along with 1 slice of whole wheat bread with hummus.
How To Eat Like A ‘Normal’ Person Conclusion
Flexible thinking is the key.
And flexible thinking might be strange because most people around you are following rigid rules and fixed mindsets.
Just know that a healthier, more peaceful approach to eating and to food doesn’t need to be too complicated, and that you can adjust.
Let intuitive eating be your new normal 🙂