Topic Tuesday: Normalcy

What is “normal” anyway?” (By: Anna Cragon, RDN, LDN, CEDRD)

Over the past several years, it has become more apparent to me as a dietitian that many individuals use their surroundings as a comparison for normalcy in eating, movement, and bodies. Maybe it is comparison to friends, family, teammates, classmates, or individuals you see on social media. But what is “normal” anyway? Many individuals believe that as long as they are the same as individuals or patterns they think is “normal,” they must be “ok.”

I want to challenge you today to take a moment to think about whether your relationship with food is “normal.” Not normal to your friends, or your family, or your coach, but appropriate for your journey. Eating disorders and disordered eating come in many shapes and sizes, and just because you are doing what others around you are doing does not mean you have a healthy relationship with food and your body.

I love Ellyn Satter’s definition of normal eating. She says that:

“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 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. In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.”

Source: http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/hte/whatisnormaleating.php

In society today, there are a lot of food, movement, and weight fear tactics promoted and diets disguised as “clean eating” and “health.” But keep in mind, that perfection eating is not normal eating. When we strive for perfection eating, we set ourselves up for guilt and shame in the reality that comes from being unable to achieve perfection. Food is one aspect of our health, but it is not the only aspect of our health. Whether it is perfection eating, perfection recovery, the perfect movement, or the perfect weight, let go of the perfection today. Look today to how you can treat your body with care and move towards the freedom and flexibility of true normal eating, not the normalcy that we believe from our comparisons.

As a registered dietitian, I am aware that dietitians can have a reputation with either being known as the “food police” or the “bad guy on the treatment team” that encourages clients to expand their food variety and abstain from eating disorder behaviors. But what do dietitians actually do? Dietitians work to be experts in all things food and bodies and work with clients and families to have healthier relationships with both food and their bodies. My hope is that you will be encouraged to find a moment today to check in with yourself, and see where your relationship with food is. Don’t define “normalcy” through comparison to others.

About the Author

Anna is a registered dietitian who specializes in eating disorders and practices in private practice at Fowler Nutrition PLLC. Anna obtained her nutrition and dietetics degree from Auburn University and completed her dietetic internship at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is originally from Huntsville, AL. Anna enjoys spending her time at Nashville restaurants and going for runs at local parks. Anna also enjoys traveling, reading, cooking, and spending time with family and friends.