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Are You a Healthy Eater?
By Abigail Natenshon

How can you tell if you have an eating problem, if you are too fat or too thin? Some healthy eaters worry that underlying compulsions could flare up and take control of their lives, causing sudden overeating, overweight, and a ruined appearance and life quality. Others struggle with on-going eating-related fears and problems, assuming that such quirky or immoderate eating behaviors are perfectly “normal” and do not require attention or concern.

Becoming a healthy eater requires that you become educated and smart about what healthy eating is. Becoming “food smart” is not about learning to calculate grams of fat or limiting one’s fat intake; nor is it about studying nutritional labels, or counting calories. Healthy eating is balanced and moderate eating, consisting of nourishing meals eaten at least three times a day, and one or more snacks.  Healthy eaters are fearless eaters who trust their body, feeding it a wide variety of foods, and maintaining a physically active lifestyle. Healthy eating offers a great deal of leeway. You may eat too much or too little; you may consume foods that are sometimes more, sometimes less, nutritious. The bottom line, however, is that you fuel your body and your brain regularly with enough of nutritionally dense foods to keep your body strong and your mind alert. What you eat beyond that is fine; there are no “bad” foods.  

If you can do that, you can trust your body to look and feel good, and your brain to function optimally, both now and in the future.

Beware of the widespread misconception that healthy eating is fat-free or sugar-free eating, that it means never eating “junk” or fast foods.

Quiz: Do you

  • Skip meals?
  • Avoid all sweets?
  • Diet to be thin?
  • Eat only fat-free or light foods?
  • Count calories?
  • 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 rather than eat lunch or nutritious snacks?
  • Drink soda pop instead of water?
  • Feel guilty when you eat foods containing fat or sugar?
  • Feel embarrassed to eat in front of others?
  • Believe that you must never leave the dinner table feeling full or satisfied?

If you answered “yes” to any number of the above questions, you are probably not a healthy eater. You may be a disordered eater, a condition that could lead to the onset of a clinical eating disorder in the genetically predisposed individual.  It is likely that you share some common misconceptions about healthy eating with many others like yourself.

Becoming 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 or work or to the super market 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.
  • Eat meals together with your family whenever possible.
  • 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 at times you feel that you cannot trust yourself to know what you want and need to eat, ask for help from your parents.
  • If you still live at home and with your family, ask your parents to make healthful foods available to you at home. Perhaps you would like to shop or cook together with them; don’t forget that serving and cleaning up afterwards can all be part of these wonderful, “together,” family times.
  • Being a healthy eater means that you know how to take good care of yourself…. in ways that far surpass the food you ingest.

Healthy eaters are good problem solvers. Healthy eaters are individuals who have learned to take care of themselves through exercising sound judgment, and through making wise decisions. Eating disordered individuals recover not just through restoring lost weight, but through the process of learning how to reefed themselves, to care for themselves, consistently and lovingly, to make wise decisions through sound judgment in problem-solving.  Having learned how to recognize and meet their eating needs, they become adept at introducing moderation and balance into all aspects of their lives. Healthy eaters are empowered eaters who live empowered lives, free of fear and misconceptions about who they are, and how to behave.

When people are unable to take control of their eating, they are likely to be out of control of other aspects of their life as well. They may study too much, exercise too much, spend too much, talk on the phone too much, go to bed too late. They may communicate with their family too little, study too little, or help with household chores too little. How a person eats tends to be a metaphor for how a person lives, functions, and solves problems in other life spheres beyond food and eating.

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

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