Nutrition Articles

What is ''Normal Eating''? --Part 1

Test Your Knowledge with the Normal Eating Quiz

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Do you often wonder how “normal” your eating habits are, or how they compare to what experts consider to be a “healthy” approach?

If you’ve adopted SparkPeople's philosophy of a "lifestyle” approach to weight loss, then you know that a crash diet—or any other temporary diet—isn’t a good idea. But what does “normal” eating look like, especially when you have quite a bit of weight to lose? Do you sometimes wonder where to draw the line between doing what’s necessary to lose weight, and becoming too focused on what you eat? Are you confused about whether normal eating is something you start doing after you’ve lost the weight, or something you should aim for now as part of your weight loss program? And can you recognize the difference between normal eating behaviors and attitudes, disordered eating, and full-fledged clinical eating disorders—and determine when you or a family member might benefit from professional help?

If you feel a little confused about all this, you’re not alone. There are a lot of confusing and contradictory claims floating around about what’s “normal” when it comes to food.

This article, the first in a series of three articles discussing "normal" and abnormal eating habits, contains a quiz that will help you identify your own eating behaviors, attitudes and assumptions. When scoring your quiz, you'll learn how your behaviors stack up against what the experts say about healthy, normal weight loss and effective long-term weight maintenance.

Quiz: Are Your Eating Normally?
The six statements below discuss common eating behaviors and attitudes. If you agree or mostly agree with the statement, mark it True; if you disagree or mostly disagree, mark it False. Write down your answers as you go along so that you can compare your responses with the explanations below.

1. True or False: It is normal to eat when you are hungry and stop when you feel satisfied.

2. True or False: People should trust their food preferences to guide them in making healthy food choices.

3. True or False: To lose weight, you must adhere to strict goals for daily calorie intake and exercise.

4. True or False: It is abnormal to eat for any reason other than meeting your body's nutrition and energy needs.

5. True or False: "Good" foods should be eaten regularly and "bad" foods should be avoided as much as possible.

6. True or False: Since you have to eat fewer calories than you burn to lose weight, you should expect to be a little hungry most of the time.
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • "Problems such as emotional eating or poor impulse control may have led you to lose contact with this system over time. But you can reconnect with it and use it to establish normal eating behaviors and patterns that you can rely on, even while you are working to lose weight."
    As far as I know treatment for BED tells patients to NOT try to lose weight when learning to overcome their disordered eating. First stop the emotional eating and the poor impulse control - only AFTERWARDS, it is stated, can one - very carefully and slowly - try to lose weight. - 9/4/2015 4:20:12 PM
  • TOUMIX23
    ur-metabolism/ - 7/1/2014 9:20:55 AM
  • Very good article, thanks. - 1/22/2014 3:38:55 PM
    There was a time not too long ago that I would have gotten most, if not all of the questions wrong.

    It's interesting to see the comments. You can see those that have had an epiphany, those that have had their intuition validated, and others still that haven't embraced the idea of Normal Eating. Everyone has to come to it in their own way at their own time. Unfortunately, not everyone will get to that point. Luckily though, many of us have or will and that IS something to celebrate! Food, ANY food, is not the enemy. - 10/3/2013 4:05:47 PM
  • This is brilliant. I've always intuitively known this but always thought I was wrong. The more I listen and trust my body the more I AM doing whats right for myself. If we allow the diet industry to over ride our own voices we lose. Deep down we know whats best for ourselves - 6/10/2013 3:10:01 PM
  • Well, dang. I'm disordered again. I got one of the questions right. I guess I better study up, then.

    *looks over meal plan and starts putting together everything on it for tomorrow* - 12/13/2012 2:47:57 AM
    There are obviously good and bad foods. It is irresponsible to suggest otherwise.

    A fast food burger is one example of a bad food. It is coated in chemicals isn't just high in fat and calories, it has added chemicals for flavor, and hormones, antibiotics and pesticides from the cow was cared for.

    - 5/14/2012 3:12:43 AM
  • Good article! The author is doing a good job debunking the popular myths out there. There is solid science backing up everything stated in the article. I'm glad he addressed the fact that you do not have to be hungry all the time to lose weight. That doesn't mean you don't experience some hunger now and then on a weight loss plan, but most of the time you don't have to be plagued by it. I've lost 35 lbs. in six months by eating a healthy diet with filling meals and avoiding refined carbs and high glycemic foods and eating a satisfying amount of protein, veggies, and healthy fats. - 2/7/2012 7:42:27 PM
    I've talked to a couple of friends and family members who have never had weight issues about their eating habits, and one thing we talked about was the "good" and "bad" foods. They didn't seem to view food as good and bad like I do...just healthy and not so healthy. Not one of them deprives themselves of something that they want to eat - like ice cream, potato chips, pizza, etc. - and they don't feel guilty about eating it.

    I believe that is where the mind comes into play. I know that as soon as I label a food as "bad," I crave it something terrible, and then if I eat it, I beat myself up, which usually end in a binge. I really want to get to the point that I don't label foods as good and bad so tha I can eat 1 cookie instead of feeling like a failure and wanting to eat the rest of the bag. - 10/20/2011 2:13:53 PM
  • I don't agree on most of the quiz's answers. One thing is the theoretical part of those questions and the other is the practical part to them. NO NO. That's like "in a perfect world there would be peace"... Come on, that's not true! Everyone who has lost weight knows for a fact that you'll feel a little hungry most of the time, that you have to say NO to BAD food, etc, etc. - 10/18/2011 1:32:23 PM
  • @nightowl62 I think what he's trying to get at is don't make yourself feel like you're being a criminal for eating white bread and other less healthy foods. I know a big part of people learning to eat healthy is learning not to punish themselves for eating processed or refined foods. If people are living healthy lives while enjoying a piece of cake, good for them for finding that balance. That's the important part of the message. - 8/21/2011 9:54:16 PM
  • RECLAIM2012
    Great article! It is all about balance and not going to extremes. Our favorite foods can be included in reasonable amounts - its when we overeat that the problems occur. - 8/14/2011 11:46:11 PM
  • totally disagree with answer to question 5...

    5. False—There are no "good" or "bad" foods. PLEASE! YOU CAN'T BE SERIOUS! - 2/25/2011 1:20:50 PM
  • I thought I did well on the little "quiz". but I only got 2 right!! This was really great, I can't wait to read the rest in the series! Thanks Dean. - 10/19/2010 9:31:04 AM
  • This article explained all the things I believe about eating "properly" but that I have always had a hard time putting into words.! - 10/18/2010 2:43:14 PM

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