When was the last time you enjoyed a meal where no one at the table had some parenthetical avoidance or rule? If you are still trying to think back to when, you’ve just made my point.
What Is Disordered Eating?
There is an epidemic going on that we’ve normalized: disordered eating.
Disordered eating includes: following strict food rules, exercising to compensate for caloric intake, fasting and cleansing as a means for weight control, cutting food groups from your diet, and considering certain foods to be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ (Source).
And, while I don’t present this (limited) list to scare you, it is time to investigate the how and why behind our consumption patterns. Do we eat to live or to moralize? Are our attachments to food (or lack thereof) founded in self-love? What is normal, healthful eating?
This question comes to my mind a lot both as yoga teacher and as an advocate for eating disorder recovery. Having spent time investigating my own nutrient needs (in good times and bad), I’m quite certain that there no standard prescriptive diet called, “Normal Eating.”
Still, there is disordered eating…way too much of it!
Finding a New Normal
Disordered eating permeates our yoga studios and homes. Too many of us follow external dogma or internal self-loathing when we come to the table. This has to stop. You are not a better person because you avoid gluten. Period.
It’s time for us to find a new ‘normal’ way of eating. This means that we talk about why we make the choices we make. It also means that we stop enabling thinly veiled extreme dieting and self-loathing. We do not deserve it!
Let me be clear: eating for health and energy is fine; scapegoating an extreme diet because you are struggling with self-acceptance is not. I love Ellyn Satter’s definition of “normal eating”:
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.
Bring this to the table and watch what happens…