Are You A Healthy Eater?
By Abigail Natenshon
Author of When Your Child Has An Eating Disorder

Becoming a healthy eater requires that you become educated and smart about healthy eating. Becoming wise is hardly about calculating fat or protein grams. Nor is it about studying nutritional labels, or counting calories in an effort to eat well.

There is simply no better way to eat well and to lose unwanted pounds than to eat nourishing foods regularly and liberally and to stay physically active.

  • Remember that dieting or restricting food in any form is the worst possible way to lose weight.
  • Research has also shown that young people who diet during their childhood and adolescent years are far more likely to become obese in their adult years.

Food is not medicine that has to be eaten in prescribed ways. You have a great deal of leeway with genuinely healthy eating; you may at times eat too much or too little, some foods you consume will be more or less nutritious. The bottom line, however, is that you eat three nutritious meals a day, that you feed your body and your brain enough of the kinds of food that make you strong and alert, and that you become and remain active. If you can do that, you can trust your body to look, feel and be as it was meant to be.

Quiz: Do you

  • Skip meals?
  • Avoid all sweets?
  • Diet to be thin?
  • Eat only fat-free or light foods?
  • Count calories?
  • Leave a meal hungry?
  • Eat only when you are hungry?
  • Restrict certain kinds of foods?
  • Take pills to control your appetite?
  • Read food labels?
  • Calculate fat grams?
  • Fill up on diet Coke or water rather than eat food?
  • Feel guilty when you eat foods containing fat or sugar?

If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are probably not a healthy eater. You share common misconceptions about what constitutes healthy eating entails with many others like yourself

Become a Healthy Eater

  • Eat lots of nutritious foods; you can never overeat nutritious foods.
  • Don’t leave the table hungry.
  • Have protein with every meal. It keeps you satisfied and energized.
  • Never miss a meal.
  • Make your lunch for school the night before so you will sure to have it ready to take in the morning.
  • Walk to school when you can; spend time out of doors as much as you can.
  • Turn off the television. Don’t be taken in by commercials for sugary foods. Never eat in front of the television.
  • Trust your instincts to tell you when you are hungry and when you are full. Your body is wise and knows what it needs to survive and do well. Let it guide you.
  • If you have concerns about your eating, talk with your parents about helping you to eat better, and about their making healthful foods available to you at home. Perhaps you would like to shop together with them, or join in some of the food preparation, serving or cleaning up. These can be wonderful “together” times, family times. Try to get the entire family to be together as often as possible.

Healthy eaters are kids who have learned to take care of themselves through exercising sound judgment and making wise decisions. They are good problem-solvers. They have learned how to recognize and meet their needs, and to introduce moderation and balance into every aspect of their lives, even beyond food and eating. Healthy eaters are empowered kids who live empowered lives, free of fear and misconceptions about who they are and how to behave.

Kids who are out of control with their eating are most likely out of control in other aspects of their life as well. They may study too much, recreate too much, drink too much, exercise too much, spend too much, talk on the phone too much, and go to bed too late. They may communicate with their family too little, study too little, read too little, help out with household chores too little. How a person eats is a metaphor for how a person lives. It says a lot about how a person conducts himself and solves problems.

Psychotherapist Abigail H. Natenshon has specialized in the treatment of eating disorders with individuals, families, and groups for the past 28 years. She is the author of When Your Child Has an Eating Disorder: A Step-by-Step Workbook for Parents and Other Caregivers, Jossey Bass Publishers, San Francisco, CA. October 1999. Based on hundreds of successful outcomes, this book shepherds concerned parents step-by-step through the processes of eating disorder recognition, confronting the child, finding the most effective treatment for patient and family, and evaluating and insuring a timely recovery. A guide to eating disorder prevention, this book is useful to parents, health professionals and school personnel alike in countering the pervasive epidemic of unhealthy eating and body image concerns, and destructive media and peer influences. Her work can be reviewed further at her web site at To order visit

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