What is normal eating when you’re in recovery from an eating disorder?

By our Nutritional Therapist, Marissa…

During our Nutritional Therapy sessions at The Recover Clinic, we teach our clients that there is no precise practice, diet plan or fashion that can be called normal eating. No matter what glossy magazines or diet book or TV shows or parents or so-called-experts say, normal eating is not about fulfilling any particular criteria.

In fact, normal eating is about responding to your body; and this may mean asking for food at times that aren’t necessarily when society says it is time to eat. It is about saying “I am full” before others at the table, and feeling calming able to stop (or having only a little extra). It is about wanting and ordering dessert, despite your date only ordering a coffee. It is about feeling it is more than OK to have Indian food on a summer’s afternoon, or a chicken & avocado salad on a winters evening – if that is what you want.

Normal eating is also about not feeling ‘tied’ to food. It is about eating, enjoying and then ‘letting go’ and getting on with life. It is about eating a slice of cake and not beating yourself up about it after – or even thinking about it (unless it was extra delicious and you want to tell someone about its deliciousness!). It is about not thinking about food all day, and feeling calm and positive about the thoughts you do have.

Normal eating is about enjoying food. While some people are born gourmands, others have a more laissez-faire approach to what they eat. However, everyone needs to enjoy the food they eat, while being relaxed about eating the occasional kitchen disaster or badly ordered restaurant meal.

Most of us are brought up on three meals and maybe snacks. This is for a reason. The body needs constant nourishment, for energy and nutrition. Most people will feel the need for three meals a day. This is not a rule, but more to do with how we are designed. If one does not eat enough meals (and enough for each meal) then it is very hard to get enough vitamins, minerals and macronutrients in. So while it is important to acknowledge what works for you (are you more of a grazer or are you more of a large meal person? Do you need a snack at 11am or 11pm or both? Do you like dinner at 5.30pm or 9pm or are you not bothered?), it is very rare for anyone to not need three meals a day.

‘Normal Eating’ is a simple sounding term with a complex answer that depends on every individual being. Normal eating is about enjoying enough nutrition in the manner that suits you (not your eating disorder!). And if you are still thinking or obeying rules then you are probably struggling to a greater or lesser degree with feeling safe and comfortable with normal eating.

What’s next?

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