Things to consider when you want to eat like a normal person
Nearly all my clients, at some point during our time working together, will refer to the fact that they just want to eat ‘like a normal person’.
I get what they mean. They want to be able to eat cake occasionally and not be overweight, they want to be able to order dessert in a restaurant and still lose weight, and they want to enjoy a bottle of wine with their husband on a Friday night.
And the truth is they absolutely can do these things whilst they are losing weight or maintaining a stable weight, depending how they eat the rest of the week. But it’s useful to really evaluate why they want to, why they want to be ‘normal’ and what is ‘normal eating’ anyway?
What does normal mean to you?
The definition of normal is conforming to a standard that is usual, typical or expected. Being normal often means being the same as others or a part of something and we seek it because we feel connected in our alikeness. We all feel part of a group when we conform. And our desire to confirm is a primitive instinct.
The problem is that just because something is normal doesn’t mean that it’s right or good for us, and of course what is ‘normal’ changes over time. Think back to when it wasn’t just acceptable to smoke at work or on aeroplanes it was normal. Just like smoking used to be ‘normal’, being overweight is ‘normal’ in our culture and one of the reasons why is because we have normalised eating food for purposes other than giving our body the fuel and nutrients it needs.
Should it be normal to give your children sweets and sugary drinks that have zero nutritional benefit and only have a negative result? We don’t question whether the fact that it’s normal to have cake on your birthday, drinks after work and dessert after dinner is a good thing because we accept it as normal.
Just because it’s normal to believe something, doesn’t mean it’s what you must believe
We have been socialised to believe that it is normal to have dessert and that it’s special to have dessert and that it’s good to have dessert and that it’s wonderful to splurge. That’s what has become normal to us. It’s very normal to eat refined sugar and flour in our society.
Isn’t it crazy to think about how we think about caring for the planet and the environment and wanting to avoid doing damage to it, when we eat in a way that isn’t goof for our health and accept that as normal?
Of course, we can see in different cultures, in different religions, in different households a difference between norms. And if it’s very normal to have dessert and every meal or if it’s very normal to drink soda or if it’s very normal to snack, you will see, most of the time, the effects of that in the household.
The food industry has studied us humans and our brains to make the food the most desirable it can possibly be because, they understand that desire drives all our purchasing behaviour. Dopamine is what keeps us motivated to stay alive, which we needed back in the day, but now, of course, we don’t need as much dopamine driving us to eat food as we used to because food is now plentiful.
And yet, all the urges and the cravings that we have, and the desire and the over-desire we have, is a product of taking our primitive brain and mixing it with a modern culture. Often what has become normal is not because it’s in our best interest. Why is cereal a breakfast food? Is isn’t because somebody studied the human body and said, “Yes, we need to absolutely have sugary cereal for breakfast in order to function well?” It was because the cereal companies told us that we should buy cereal for breakfast, and so many of us believed that, it became normal.
Three meals a day and two snacks has become normal. Going to Starbucks in the afternoon, in between lunch and dinner to get a Frappuccino and maybe a brownie, normal. A packet of crisps or biscuits whilst you watch TV or work in the evening, normal.
Our bodies are programmed based on what we repeatedly do. So, when you think about three meals a day, or three meals a day with two snacks in between, or six meals a day, you must ask yourself, is that what I want to do for my body? Is that normal for me? And the answer is, does it get me the result that I want? Is that activity, that behaviour, that way of eating, getting me the result that I want? Do I feel energised throughout the day? Am I at the bodyweight I want to be? Do I feel like I’m managing my emotions and not always eating all the time?
I’m not saying that it shouldn’t be normal; I’m just saying that you need to question whether that’s what you want, whether it’s normal or not.
So how do we change it? How do we question it?
If you consider the fat on your body as fuel, it will change the way you approach eating. You will see how much fuel you already have on your body that can be processed for fuel. And you will understand that if food is fuel and the fat on your body is fuel, that between the two of them, you can create a life where you’re energised and fuelled.
Consider how your body has evolved and how it was designed, what it was created for, and how we’ve now dropped it into an environment that is not serving us. The normalness of it is not serving our bodies. Consider how you wish you would eat, or could eat, or want to eat, if you could hack your own brain. If you could eat only for fuel, if you could eat only healthy food, if you weren’t using food for anything but fuel, what would you eat?
Imagine if the only purpose of eating was to fuel your body
If you could manage your emotional life separate to food, what would you eat if the only purpose of eating was to fuel your body? Imagine not only what your body would look like, but also how you would feel physically. What are the foods that you eat that make you feel the best physically? And then consider what that would require you to do in terms of your emotional management.
What would that require you to do in terms of your emotional health, your emotional skill set? If you weren’t ever eating to handle your emotions, what would you need to learn in order to handle your emotions?
Consider how, if you change what’s normal and you change that programming, how much you would have to use that prefrontal cortex and how brilliant it is when you require your brain to use it for planning things, for creating things, for living a deliberate life. That is the part of your brain that is the highest level of functioning. It is the part of your brain that no other animal gets to have the honour of using. What would the difference be in your life if you used your prefrontal cortex for managing your health and your life, instead of just being reactive to urges.
Consider a life programmed by you, not programmed by society, not programmed by your primitive neurotransmitter brain self, but by you, by the biggest part of you. What would look different? What would be different?
How would you define normal if you took back control of that word for yourself and decided to find it for yourself? What do you want to believe food is for and how do you want to use it?
If you take food away from your life as something that entertains you, as something that you celebrate with, as something that brings you joy, what is left and is it enough? What if you allowed the void to be there? Might you be naturally motivated to fill the void with your true-life purpose?
Work with me
If you would like to explore your thoughts and feelings about normal eating book a free ‘Weight Management Consultation’ on my calendar.