I’ve searched the question “How do I eat like a normal person” on Google many times over the years. Other variations: What time do normal people eat lunch? What do normal people eat? How can I stop eating everything? Why can’t I eat like a normal person? Why am I afraid of food? And on and on. So, Past Self, I’m going to answer your questions right here in case anyone else has the same questions and just can’t get a straight answer from their Google searches. And, of course, to clarify, there is no such thing as “normal”. We can instead think in terms of a typical, or average person, but I’ll keep it at “normal” since that’s how I asked the questions.
What time do normal people eat lunch?
Or, for that matter, what time do people eat their other meals? The truth is, it completely varies depending on a person’s schedule. If you eat breakfast before work instead of when you get to work is that wrong? Of course not! Maybe you’re not hungry when you wake up or maybe you wake up just moments before you need to leave for work.
Although these times are absolutely not cut and dry, you can imagine breakfast as any time between when you wake up and 10am, lunch between 11am-2pm, and dinner anywhere between 5-8pm. And that will vary widely depending on your schedule. It may even vary widely day to day. Ideally, meals should be when you are hungry, and that might also vary depending on what you do each day.
So, Past Self, the answer is: It depends.
What do normal people eat?
Normal people eat whatever they darn well please. They eat foods that they know are good for them, and they eat foods they know aren’t so great for them. But in the end, it all balances out. Or, it doesn’t.
The point is, Past Self: Normal people eat all kinds of things. Some people are on diets because they want to lose weight or because they need it for their health. Some people overindulge all the time and have no concept of balance. Or, on the other hand, some people restrict far too much and have no concept of balance. There is no one “normal diet” that you’re supposed to follow.
How do I stop over-eating?
According to Ellyn Satter’s definition of normal eating, normal eating is overeating at times to the point of feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. Guess what, that is technically normal! And sometimes you may not eat enough and wish you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for not eating “perfectly” at every meal.
To my Past Self: You stop over-eating when you learn that there is going to be more food in the future and every meal is not your last opportunity to eat. You begin to turn to food less when you get your needs met in other ways.
Will food kill me? If not, why does it feel like it will?
No, food that is safely prepared will not kill you. Unless you have an allergy or choke on the food, it will not kill you. Eating a food that contains genetically modified foods or has sugar in it or is not whole grain will not hurt a normal eater. A normal eater is able to make the choice to eat these foods, or to avoid them, but find suitable alternatives. It only feels like it will kill you because you’ve made it off limits in your mind.
Answer to my Past Self: Food will not kill you. It won’t even hurt you. Feeling physically uncomfortable for a little while will pass and eventually you will be able to eat more normally without being so afraid of food.
How do I eat like a normal person and why can’t I do it?
First, assess how it is you eat. Do you sound like a normal eater according to Ellyn Satter? How do you differ? As we’ve seen, the definition of what normal people eat, when they eat it, and how they do it varies greatly from person to person.
You may require professional assistance, depending on how much eating gives you anxiety or how much you simply cannot eat normally. Just knowing what the end goal is supposed to look like in no way guarantees you’ll get there. Overall, as Ellyn Satter so wonderfully sums it up, normal eating means that food and eating takes up some of your time and attention, but it is only one important area of your life, not your whole life.
So, to answer your original question, Past Self: Get some support, keep practicing, and never give up because pretty soon you’re going to be the one telling people how they can “eat like a normal person”.
Struggling with your relationship with food? Ready to learn how to eat like a normal person (whatever that is!)? In search of an experienced eating disorder registered dietitian nutritionist in the Centerport, New York area or virtually? Send Christina an email to learn more about 1:1 nutrition therapy sessions!