3 Keys to 'Normal' Eating, from Diet Blog

By , SparkPeople Blogger
From our friends at Diet Blog

By Melanie Thomassian, R.D.

Do you feel like you've been on a constant diet-binge-diet roller coaster for as long as you can remember? Perhaps you can’t even imagine having a healthy relationship with food anymore.

Food obsessions can be hugely overwhelming, but you can find a way out. Here are three keys to becoming a "normal" eater:

1. Stop Eating When Full

Seems like pretty simple advice, but it is so easy to ignore that little voice in your head telling you to, "stop eating NOW!" However, eating more than you need makes you feel bloated, uncomfortable, and wrecked with guilt.

The secret is to listen to what your body is telling you, or "tune-in" to your level of satiety, if you like. That means you notice when you are starting to feel full, rather than eating mindlessly past that point.

The idea is to eat just enough food to provide the energy and nourishment you need to maintain good health.

Easier said than done, but re-educating yourself on what a “comfortable” amount of foods feels like in your stomach will help (try using the Hunger Scale). Also, making your dietary focus fresh, healthy, colorful, whole foods -- it's difficult to overeat on a diet like this.

2. It's OK to Enjoy Food!

For many people who struggle with their weight, the idea that there is a "perfect" way to eat can be their crippling factor. If this is you, you must stop striving for that perfection, because it doesn't exist.

Rather than using restrictive diets to help you lose weight, allow yourself all foods in controlled amounts -- I like the 80/20 rule. This is where 80 percent of the time you eat well, and 20 percent of the time you allow some treats.

In health, it's what you do consistently that matters. So, when you eat well most of the time, there is no need for guilt or thoughts of calories to evade your thoughts continually.

Remember, if you choose to have a little dessert one day, it doesn’t mean you’ve de-railed your diet… it just means you had some dessert. No big deal!

3. Don't Overthink Food

When you've battled with dieting for what seems like forever, you may find yourself thinking about food a lot of the time.

The best way to overcome this problem is to set a new goal to only think about food when it is time to eat. Then, once that meal is over, you don’t think about it again.

So, that means no stressing over what you will eat, and no stressing over what you ended up eating… just forget about it, learn from it if necessary, and move on.

Menu planning can be a huge help with this, because then you don't need to constantly wonder what to eat at your next meal, and you won't have to grocery shop everyday either, which is a hugh benefit for avoiding impulse buys.

So, what is your biggest challenge as you try to establish a "normal" eating pattern? Can you share your tips and experiences with us?

Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian and health writer. She regularly writes on her own blog Dietriffic.com, and she is editor and contributor at Diet Blog.

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Great article, this is what I have been doing! Taking a whole new outlook on food and its function. Report
Biggest challenge is always I can control or even restrict as to how much food I consume throughout 90% of the day, then right at night, I'd crave for the unhealthy food such as muffin, chocolate, ice cream etc., and end up ruining my almost well-planned day... Report
PLANNING and tracking my food is the key for me. Report
I have yet to learn the balance in food. Picky eater and I will try anything once but it is discouraging because I make recipes and they just dont taste so well. I love to eat Carbs and dairy probably which ones I eat are the factor in this case. I hope to learn the good carbs and dairy and try to implement more protein seeing as my only real source for that is Bread, cheese and eggs! Report
My problem is that I don't eat enough in the day, and from supper on, I just want to eat all evening. When I was successful, I didn't count calories, I ate when hungry, and soon it didn't take much to know when I was satisfied. I have to get back to the right mindset. Last year, I lost 24 lbs. and now I gained 14 back. Boo! Report
I tracked my calories and exercise for over a year. When my old computer started shutting down on me I had to stop using it because it became incredibly difficult to keep up with. I started to gain weight again and my clothes became to tight. I got rid of all my fat clothes except for my barn clothes light tights and sweats, and elastic waist band shorts. I didn't wear my skinny jeans all summer because they were so hot. ( I thought skinny jeans were jeans that make you look thinner and I now know that isn't he case necessarily). It was very discouraging because for the first time I was really feeling successful. I have learned that journaling is key to weight control. I discovered that writing it down was not as helful to me as using my computer. As I learn more about the spark people program I am even more impressed with how much it can help me. I went for several months not being aable to use my computer as well as being unable to make it to the library to use their's. I got a lap top for Christmas and am now in business again. I have already lost 9 pounds that I had gained! Report
When I began w/SP, tracking my food was such an eye opener and now my eating habits are just that - good opportunities to continue the efforts I began...Thanks SP!! Report
Tracking has been extremely helpful in learning what is "just right" for me - eating for health & energy feels really good! Report
Love the 80/20 rule. Though it seems to me right now that it would work better for maintaining than losing. Maybe a 90/10 rule right now would work. I'll look forward to 80/20 in the future. Report
good article and that pic looks just like me in rollers .... tee hee Report
This is an area I struggle with on a daily basis. I'm tracking my nutrition daily; writing down what I eat when I am away from computer; reading labels, consuming 6-8 servings of veggies and fruits per day, etc. I'm still hungry at least twice a day (I eat 3 small meals and 2 good snacks) even with 1600 calories. It seems like my life revolves around counting calories and making sure I can have this amount of calories at a given time. I don't restrict certain foods, but am careful with calories. I've been back hard at this for five weeks and I was so in hopes it would get easier, but it hasn't.

When I am stressed it seems more intense and every evening (even with no stress), it is difficult. Oh well, I will keep journaling, tracking, and exercising until it does get better. Thanks for allowing me to vent!! :-) Report
This is a really good blog, and very helpful. I struggle with the meal planning. Report
I finally stopped overthinking about a snack that I've eaten--I try not to deprive myself.

My main problem is one week before I get my monthly visit I become a starving, ravaged manic that eats everything in site and not get full! Like the woman stuffing her face on the top of the page! Report
I have finally learned to stop when I'm full. I'm also pretty good about what I eat. If I want a cookie, I will eat it and just record it. The biggest problem I have now, is overthinking what I will eat. "Ok, if I eat this for breakfast then I can't have that for lunch..." and so on. We plan our dinners, so I think I have to start planning at least breakfast and lunch too and let the snacks just fall into place. Report
One thing that helps, when I'm getting ready to eat, and I'm tempted to over-eat, is to think about how many calories "are enough" for healthy eating at this point in the day. I get this knowledge through food tracking. When I'm doing this well, I can gauge what the food in front of me would be in calories, in general, and I say to myself: "This is enough food for me right now." I don't want to under-eat either, so I try to be conscious of each meal and enjoy it. e.g. I know 500-600 calories may be enough for a meal and will sustain me so I try to keep to this amount.

I like these tips! My idea above fits in with "avoiding mindless eating" and "enjoy food". Report
I noticed the term "food obsession" used instead of food addiction. I like food obsession better, as I am sceptical about food addictions. I don't think food is an addictive substance like alcohol or drugs in & of itself. But I can see how it can be an obsession. In previous times, I was either eatiing, thinking about eating, or looking for a new recipe. Seems all I thought about was food. I'm glad to be a little different & get to think about other things. Don't get me wrong...I still love food & I cheat often. I'm just not fixated on it! Report
All about lifestyle change. We are empty nesters so we are used to eating leftovers. Now even my husband says at supper , "I am going to save this for tomorrow's lunch. I am full." When I eat out with my friends (which I do often) I look for menu items I love to eat and pack up well for leftovers. Then my husband and I have that for lunch the next day with a salad and some fruit. Now I don't hesitate to eat out any more. Works for me anyway. Report
Fun read, and important advise. My faves? The 80/20 rule and the photo!

..*) .*)
(. (. (..`* Report
This is so refreshing this morning! I messed up last night and ate a cinnabun donut my husband bought for me and I was plagued with guilt this morning. I wasn't hungry when I ate it and I knew that I had alread exceeded my calories for that day. I believe once I mess up, I normally give myself room to keep doing it. I know this is not healthy and this is what I am having to deal with. Read a scripture this morning that hit me hard- Proverbs 24:10 when you faint in the day of adversity your strenght is small! I have to get to the point wherein I do allow myself a little moderation but do not allow food to have control of me and my thoughts! Report
I love the idea of 80 20 rule.......It really would be a wonderful thing if I could get to a point of only thinking about food at the time of eating it. Report
Love the Picture! Report
When food becomes an obsession, or reward, or its own form of entertainment it becomes extremely hard to use these core basic skills this article emphasizes. Sometimes that harder we fight food with food ( whether its bad food vs good food...smaller meals vs larger meals) that fighting, or conflicting mode we have with ourselves makes it seem like theres only 2 options...winning the battle with food or losing the battle with food...that in itself is enough to make some people indulge even more when you can't control....thats why i think fighting food issues with actions slightly more doable...I'm not saying its a cure but it helps...Writing how you feel and actually reflecting on it consistently...hobbies (yeah i know who has times for hobbies) things that can actually counteract with your cravings that are NOT food Report
I think I've been guilty of all three of these, but am seeing gradual changes for the good just through articles like this and also by connecting with like-minded people with the same problems with food and share the same goals to do something about it as I. Keep up the good work. Report
I found all of the tips helpful except the not thinking about food. I have to in order to plan and make sure I stay on track. I am working on not obsessing over what I've eaten or not and the tracker is a god-send (could not have made it this far without the tracker). I also know, planning the night before helps me too, so that it becomes just one more thing to check-off during the day but I still need to think about food and my meals alot in order to make it happen. Report
These tips are fine for careless eaters. But they don't help a seriously addicted compulsive eater. I'm 69, and I've been struggling all my adult life. I know tips, nutrition, helpful hints, all that stuff, and it simply doesn't work for me. Report
On the whole a sensible contribution, but there's a glaring mistake: how can you plan ahead as recommended and at the same time not think about food except at mealtimes? Doesn't make sense! Report
Great, basic tips for being mindful and planning ahead! Unfortunately, I got distracted by some of the writing mistakes made. "Wrecked by guilt" is not correct usage -- it's "wracked" by guilt. Same with "constantly evade your thoughts." I think you mean INvade, because if calorie-guilt evaded my thoughts, I'd never be worried about my diet at all!

Not trying to replace your editors, but if you're going to publish something from a professional writer, it ought to look professional. Report
Great post - perfect reminders for me! Report
I find that if I eat my 4 meals and a snack and bedtime snack, there is no room for feeling hungry or wanting to go off. It is when I skip meals or do not eat enough that I am tempted to eat out or eat whatever is readily available. Right now, I am finding it a little difficult to get back to my diligent tracking because of an emotional situation. I am finding that I am not hungry and therefore am skipping alot of "normal" nutritious meals... Report
I have a bowl of fruit salad usually made so if I want something it is available, I put in
raw pineapple . grapefruit, oranges, and melon... a cup of this is about 85 calories... bull of
anitoxidants and fiber Report
For me, having found out that I truly am addicted to certain foods has given me a wonderful sense of freedom. I have been staying away from all gluten, dairy, sugars. I no longer feel the tremendous cravings that I used to, and it is so much easier to eat healthy because I don't feel restricted. I just enjoy what I eat, and don't obsess about what I am not eating. And I am finally losing weight! Report
Love the 80/20 concept. A lot of times I'll give up completely because I've "over-indulged" and feel that I've blown all hope of eating healthily. Thanks! Report
My two biggest hurdles right now are recognizing "full" and mindless eating. I have come to realize that I cannot multitask when I am eating or I eat to much and never feel full until I am over-full! Report
Great blog. I am a snacker. I constantly feel the need to eat. I have moved to low cal snacks such as the 100 calorie pack snacks but now I want to incorporate eating my fruits and vegetables. Thanks for the helpful advice. Report
I am a boredom eater and love sweets. Word rieting does stress me out..am learning to relaz and be concious of being hungry or bored Report
I don't live a "normal" lifestyle and get in trouble when I think I can eat that way. I'd say living an abnormal life is a challenge and learning how to pattern my eating even more so. To work on it, www.sparkpeople.com is where I spend much of my time. I've found relief and comfort and much success by way of the knowledge of so many dedicated sparkpeople employees and members. Thank you all! Report
What a timely article this is for me. Using SparkPeople, I've gotten good at tracking my food and controlling my portions. And it has paid off. I have even built in treats when I really want them. I don't equate the word diet now with deprivation. It is simply a new way of eating for me. This has been huge.

But today I had a real "lightbulb" moment. We were celebrating the birthday in my office and I chose to have a small piece of cake and a scoop of icecream. I knew it would fit into my plan for the week since I had workouts planned for 6 days this week. (not as intense as it sounds, two of them are yoga). I actually ate the cake and icecream first today and them moved on to my lunch (burrito bowl from Chipotle, no cheese or sour cream). Usually I would eat the whole thing because that was the plan for the day. But about halfway through, all of a sudden, I went "I'm not hungry anymore". And I stopped eating. This is the first time in a very long time that I can remember my body letting me know it was full and listening to it. (Normally, I would eat everything on my plate regardless of whether I was hungry or not, it is lunch time, I'm supposed to eat) It was actually kind of shocking. But I am very excited that I an developing this new awareness. To me it is a sign that I am moving farther away from food as a form of comfort, stress reduction, etc. and really thinking of it as a way to fuel my body. I also think that the workouts (especially the yoga) have put me in touch with my body and its signals in a way I've never know before.

Thanks SparkPeople for supporting me along this journey. I'm actually having a ball! Report
#3 - Accepting mistakes, learning from them and moving on is the best advice not only when it comes to healthy eating, but in living your life. Report
well explained problem....thank you Report
I think I really need to incorporate numbers two and three in my life to just "enjoy and not overthink food!" A lot of the time I worry so much that I lack self-control when it comes to indulging just a little that I just deprive myself entirely, but the reality is I can't live my whole without having any type of dessert. I feel so guilty when I have that cookie or that ice cream cone and it really shouldn't be that way. Food is meant to be enjoyed, just in moderation. Hope I learn that soon!! lol Great blog!! Added to my favorites!! Report
I'm a stress eater! I eat any and everything when I'm stressed or bored. I'm working very hard at overcoming this and chewing lots of Extra Mint Chocolate Chip gum. Report
It's ok to enjoy food. That's my problem. I enjoy food too much.

The biggest challenge is to realize that the way I've been eating, for the most part, is not the healthiest way to eat. Casseroles with cheese and cream of ____ soup, pizza, ice cream, etc. are foods I have to avoid. I am trying to eat clean. Much less processed foods, much less eating out. I am trying to eat to fuel and benefit my body not just eat mindlessly to comfort myself. Report
I find that there are so many "things" that you could potentially focus on with food that it becomes overwhelming. For example, eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, fat content, carbohydrate, fiber, portion control, calories...the list is endless! So what helps me is concentrating on only one of these items for 3-4 weeks such as eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables and I don't worry about the rest for that time period. Report
"... means no stressing over what you will eat ..." This part seems counterintuitive to me because if I don't meticulously plan ahead what I will/won't eat, I'm DOOMED almost everytime! Report
For me, it's learning to have a new relationship with food.

Food's job is to nourish my body and give it energy - it is not take care of my emotional needs or replace my human relationships.

What I put in my body reflects what kind of person I am - if I eat poor quality food, I'm saying that I have a overall poor quality of life. That poor quality of life is reflected in and on my body (health problems, obesity, etc.). Report
Keep a small pencil and pad handy to write things down on.. Report
I don't have a problem with tracking food. Report
Tracking what I eat helps keep in perspective what I have eaten. I hate cooking and planning meals. I find when I do plan a meal shop get all the items for the week only the kids stick to it. We keep lots of ready to eat fruits and vegetables handy for snacking on. Report
I have so many different "food" problems I don't know where to start! Mindless eating, eating while cooking, eating in front of the TV, "emotional" eating, overerating, etc. I just joined Spark and have done one day and feel wonderful. I sat at the table and ate my dinner and enjoyed every bite. Didn't watch TV and just eat to get stuffed. I'm 75 years old, have been on some sort of diet most of my life, and I can honestly say I think Spark is the way to go. I also got a Wii and have been using the Fitness Program for a month. Haven't lost any weight, but I am stronger and feel better about myself, for the first time in many years. I don't think I will burn out this time and I'm going to keep reading the motivational postings. Report
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