The Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter)1

Eating Competence is being positive, comfortable and flexible with eating as well as matter-of-fact and reliable about getting enough to eat of enjoyable and nourishing food. EC creates harmony between our wants and our shoulds with eating. It encourages us to eat much as we want of food we enjoy. In spite of the fact that EC says nothing about what and how much to eat, Eating Competent people eat—and are—healthier. Eating Competence is measured by the validated ecSI 2.0.

Eating Competent people do better than non-eating competent people:

  • Have better diets2-4
  • Have the same or lower BMI3,7
  • Have better physical self acceptance5,6
  • Are more active7
  • Sleep better5
  • Have better medical and lab tests7,8 
  • Do better with feeding their children9,10

Are you a Competent Eater? Consider the four parts of EC:

  1. Do you feel good about food and about eating—and feel good about feeling good?
  2. Do you like a variety of food and enjoy learning to like new food?
  3. Do you trust yourself to eat enough for you
  4. Do you take time to eat? To have regular meals (and snacks) and pay attention when you eat?

Being EC will let you learn and grow with eating.11

  • You will feel good about your eating and be reliable about seeing to it that you get fed.
  • You will get better and better at eating as much as you are hungry for.
  • Having “forbidden foods” at meals and snacks will make them ordinary foods that you can eat in ordinary ways.
  • Not making yourself eat fruits and vegetables will turn them into foods you eat for pleasure.
  • Big servings won’t make you overeat. You will eat it all if you want to, not if you don’t.


To help yourself become a Competent Eater  read Part one, “How to Eat” in Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family. Also see The Joy of Eating.


Emerging ecSatter evidence, see the ESI webinar, The Evidence Base for the Satter Eating Competence Model.




  1. Satter EM. Eating Competence: definition and evidence for the Satter Eating Competence Model. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39:S142-S153.

  2. Lohse B, Bailey RL, Krall JS, Wall DE, Mitchell DC. Diet quality is related to eating competence in cross-sectional sample of low-income females surveyed in Pennsylvania. Appetite. 2012;58:645-650.

  3. Lohse B, Psota T, Estruch R, et al. Eating competence of elderly Spanish adults is associated with a healthy diet and a favorable cardiovascular disease risk profile. J Nutr. Jul 2010;140:1322-1327.

  4. Lohse B, Satter E, Horacek T, Gebreselassie T, Oakland MJ. Measuring Eating Competence: psychometric properties and validity of the ecSatter Inventory. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39 (suppl):S154-S166.

  5. Quick V, Byrd-Bredbenner C, White AA, et al. Eat, Sleep, Work, Play: Associations of Weight Status and Health-Related Behaviors Among Young Adult College Students. Am J Health Promot. Dec 20 2013.

  6. Krall JS, Lohse B. Cognitive testing with female nutrition and education assistance program participants informs validity of the satter eating competence inventory. J Nutr Educ Behav. Jul-Aug 2010;42(4):277-283.

  7. Lohse BL, Arnold K, Wamboldt P. Evaluation of About Being Active, an online lesson about physical activity shows that perception of being physically active is higher in eating competent low-income women. Women's Health. 2013 13:12-.

  8. Psota T, Lohse B, West S. Associations between eating competence and cardiovascular disease biomarkers. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39:S171-S178.

  9. Tylka TL, Eneli IU, Kroon Van Diest AM, Lumeng JC. Which adaptive maternal eating behaviors predict child feeding practices? An examination with mothers of 2- to 5-year-old children. Eat Behav. Jan 2013;14:57-63.

  10. Lohse B, Satter E, Arnold K. Development of a tool to assess adherence to a model of the division of responsibility in feeding young children: using response mapping to capacitate validation measures. Child Obes. 2014;10:153-168.

  11. Satter EM. Hierarchy of food needs. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39:S187-188.