Monday, March 9, 2009

What is normal eating?

No, really. I don't have a clue. I know my nutritionist gave me a short essay about it, but I'll be damned if I can remember what was on it. I remember at the end there was something about eating one more cookie because "they taste so good when they are fresh," but at that point I was vehemently NOT a cookie-eater, so I figured it didn't apply to me.

I can pretty much count on what I'm going to have to eat every day. I eat on a schedule. I really, really, really like Honey Bunches of Oats. I can be adventurous on special occasions - witness my trip to DC and my global eating adventure - but my daily intake is pretty uniform. Heavy on vegetables.

But is this normal? Is there one "normal" way of eating, even? I'm in college and witness to some very strange eating habits (not counting my own). I don't know if I ate normally before I developed anorexia and I have a good feeling I don't eat normally. Is it eating "intuitively?" Is it three squares a day? Does anybody really know?


Kristina said...

Such a great question! And I definitely don't think that there is a simple answer. Eat when you're hungry? It has taken me forever to figure out my body cues. I'm much better about it now, but that's after months of normalized eating. Also, for some people, it's normal to eat pizza and hamburgers, food that I eat occasionally but not regularly. I do eat Mexican food often - would that be normal if I lived in another part of the world? I realize that normal eating may be more about when and what rather than the specific nature of the food, but I think it's all a part of the same question.

Cammy said...

I had this conversation with my T not long ago. I was frustrated that my mom, friends, etc all have little eating idiosyncrasies that, if I were to have them, would be attributed to my ED. For "normal" people, they're just quirks.

I think that the thing about normal eating is that it is based on normal thinking. The behavior is just a manifestation of what's going on internally. My mom hates eating dinner after 7, not because she's afraid it will make her fat, but because she has some theory about optimal digestion and circadian rhythms. My friend insists on cutting her applies into precisely 6 slices, because that's the way her mom did it when she was a kid, etc. But the difference between "normal" quirks and disordered "quirks" is the reasoning behind them. If you do X or Y because of fears about weight, or obsession with routine, etc., then it's not normal, no matter how many calories you consume or how much you weigh.

I don't really know how to define normal eating either, though. Like you said, living in a college town makes it hard to gauge your "normalcy" from observing the local customs. I would hypothesize that whatever normal is, it doesn't include feeling of guilt for changing routine, it doesn't include budgeting you calories or weighing portions. I would say the best thing about it would be lack of anxiety, about what to eat in restaurants, at parties, at home, in front of your parents, boyfriend, alone, just that constant anxiety that causes someone to feel the need to over-control everything.

*ramble alert! I'll stop here.

Carrie Arnold said...

I think normal eating is going to vary from person to person.

Cammy's right- everyone has their quirks, and I have a suuuuuuper hard time figuring out what's the ED and what's just me. For instance, do I eat the same breakfast every single day because I like it or because it's habit or because I'm rigid? Maybe a bit of each?

So I'm trying to discern things by deconstructing how I will feel if I *don't* do them (eat a certain meal, exercise for X amount, etc).

Tiptoe said...

I agree with all the comments. "Normal" is very individualized. As I write this, I wish I could think this way versus feeling like I have to conform in some way.

Maybe as House says, "Normal is overrrated." :grin:

Allyse said...

interesting book to check out-- Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food"