This week I had a potential new client ask me ‘As a mid-40 year old woman, I just don’t know what to eat?!?’ My response to her was ‘You do. You know more than you are giving yourself credit for and this is the work we will do together.’ I went on to say to her that I don’t give diet plans (she asked!). They don’t work. I could hand her a meal plan with a set number of calories to follow for two or three weeks. She would end up maybe coming back to see me once, hating her body even more, and feeling even more hopeless in her relationship to food and her body.
Last year, I wrote a very personal piece for Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Aside from the challenges of distorted social media, friends, or family obsessing over their looks or food ALL THE TIME, a person must also overcome their own limiting core beliefs in terms of size, weight, and nutrition.
Our core beliefs are driven into us starting in utero. So when I work with someone in their mid-50s (or even 20s and younger) we try to reframe and undo years, and years of FEAR (False Experiences Appearing Real) around food or body and completely hijacked thoughts, feelings, and actions. This takes work.
I have dug deep to determine what normal eating is for me, both personally and as a clinician. I’ve always used Ellyn Satter’s definition, but after many years (24!) in the field, this is my own….
- Normal eating is relearning your own way and changing your thoughts, feelings, and actions around food and your body.
- Normal eating is leaving the body hate behind.
- Normal eating is not letting the scale mandate your feelings for the day.
- Normal eating knows bodies change and all bodies are beautiful.
- Normal eating is baking and eating cookies at 10 PM with a friend, or 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 relating food to your body in a nourishing way as fuel, strength, wisdom, and some extra icing just for fun.
- 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’!).
- Normal eating is respect, inclusion, peace, knowledge, and confidence around food and your body (not the size you were at age….??!)
My answer to the comment, ‘I don’t know what to eat!’ besides, ‘Yes, you do!’ is my own definition above. My esteemed colleague, Karen Chinca, included the definition above in her most recent blog post titled, A Journey Into Mindful Eating. You can read it here.
For more events on Eating Disorders Awareness week look to these websites:
Multi-Service Eating Disorders Association
National Eating Disorders Association
Binge Eating Disorder Association
The International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals