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Feed yourself with love and good sense

Your eating can be joyful and positive

At the heart of a positive relationship with food is the principle of Eating Competence. The evidence for ecSatter shows that we can trust and gratify our natural desires rather than struggling against them.

  • We all long to eat as much as we want of food we enjoy . . .without feeling guilty and worrying that our weight will go out of control.
  • We long to enjoy delicious food with other people . . .without feeling we are eating too much of the wrong food.
  • We long to nurture our children and delight in family meals . . .  without continually second-guessing ourselves and feeling like the food police.

ecSatter shows how to make your eating one of life’s great pleasures

  • Stop worrying about food and trying to go without. Instead, give yourself permission to eat.
  • Have rewarding, regular, and reliable meals
  • Pay attention while you eat
  • Then eat what and how much you want.

Your eating will become orderly and reliable

You may fear that throwing away the food shoulds and oughts will send your eating and weight out of control. But the way Eating Competence works is quite the opposite.

  • Foods you no longer have to eat become enjoyable foods that you can eat for pleasure.
  • Foods that are no longer forbidden became ordinary foods that you can eat matter-of-factly and moderately.
  • Large portion sizes won’t dictate how much you eat: You can eat it all if you are hungry enough, not if you aren’t.

Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family says the secret of raising a healthy eater is to love good food, enjoy eating, and share that love and enjoyment with your child. When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers. 

Family Meals Focus ~ No. 19


Raising Eating Competent children

To rear a competent eater, be Eating Competence yourself. It takes time, years in fact, and it all begins with establishing a feeding relationship based on trust. Doing your job with feeding and trusting your child to do her job with eating, children learn and grow to eat in a way that is right for them. From infancy to adolescence, you are raising your child to do well with a lifetime of eating. Understanding your child’s development will help you to feed – and parent – in a way that is right for each stage. You can support your child along the way by following The Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding (sDOR).


Eating Competence and weight

The Eating Competence model says nothing at all about what and how much to eat or how much to weigh. Isn’t that a little dangerous? Won’t you eat like there is no tomorrow and gain a lot of weight? No, you won’t. Research shows that folks who are Eating Competent weigh the same or less than others. Being Eating Competent lets you trust your feelings of hunger and fullness and accept the weight that is right for you. Granted, that weight might not be one that the charts or the fashionistas dictate, but consider the alternative. You could spend the rest of your life struggling with your eating and weight, take the joy out of eating, and end up weighing same or even more. Less that 5% of people succeed at sustained weight loss. Instead of keeping the weight-loss hope alive, why not hope for a rich and valuable life and being all you can be . . . at this weight?


Eating Competence and wellness

Avoiding food doesn’t make you healthy. Being Eating Competent does. Competent eaters do better medically and nutritionally, have stable body weights, and feel good about their bodies. Because they enjoy it, not because they should, Competent Eaters eat a wide variety of food. Variety supports health and dilutes any naturally or artificially occurring food toxicants. There is more: Competent Eaters are more active, sleep better, and have higher overall social and emotional functioning. With eating, as in life, Competent Eaters are tuned in and responsive to information coming from within and use that information to guide them in taking care of themselves.


Eating competence and medical nutrition therapy

Stop being afraid to eat food you enjoy! You don’t need a special diet to address your medical issues. Instead, develop Eating Competence. Consider the research: Eating Competent people have better blood lipids, lower blood pressures, better Hemoglobin A1Cs, and weigh the same or less than other people. That makes being Eating Competent a natural fit for addressing cardiovascular issues. The structure, predictability, and energy balance of Eating Competence is a natural fit for your diabetic regimen, as well.  Consider food allergies and intolerances: Give ease and practicality to your coping by staying in tune with your body’s natural processes and focusing on providing food rather than avoiding it. Pregnancy isn’t a medical issue, but what a fine time to become Eating Competent! Maintaining the joy and predictability of Eating Competence allows you to nourish yourself and your baby, lay the foundation for feeding your family, and gain the weight that is right for you.


Eating Competence and mental health

The evidence shows that Eating Competent people do better, socially and emotionally. They are more trusting and accepting of themselves and other people. They are aware of how they think and feel and are effective in guide their lives with that self-awareness. Why should positive eating attitudes and behaviors act as a measure for mental health? Because eating goes well when it is based on tuning in on and respecting our inner experience of hunger, appetite, and satisfaction as well as being accepting and nurturing with our ourselves and our bodies. This self-awareness and self-respect originate in earliest life, with parents who follow the Satter Division of Responsibility in Feeding.


Eating Competence and eating disorders

Eating disorder attitudes and behavior are the antithesis of Eating Competence

  • Do people with eating disorders celebrate eating? Hardly. To feel good about eating means it could go out of control!
  • Do they enjoy food and trust appetite? Not at all! Since they are trying not to eat, they experience appetite as unbearably compelling and never satisfied.
  • Do they eat enjoyable food? No, such food is particularly hazardous because it can undermine rigid control.
  • Do they eat as much as they want? Horrors! The goal of the person with anorexia or bulimia is to not eat very much.
  • Do they feed themselves regularly and reliably? Not likely! They experience eating as being so negative that they would forget about it if they could.
  • Is there a secondary benefit to all this misery? By all means! Eating becomes so engrossing that it distracts from the underlying life misery that they regard, likely unconsciously, as being even worse.


Get help when you are stuck

Resolving eating issues is important enough to merit an investment in time and money. You don’t have to spend years struggling with your eating and weight. You  deserve to have a relationship around food that is relaxed and joyful. What can you do to find help? 

  • Look for an eating competence professional. An Ellyn Satter Institute Faculty member or Associate may live near you. Alternatively, ask around. You may be able to find a professional who has been trained in eating competence intervention by studying with Ellyn Satter Institute faculty members and/or demonstrated their expertise by taking ESI continuing education exams. 
  • Grow your own. Look for someone who has studied the eating competence model and is willing to learn right along with you. 
  • Consider online coaching from ESI faculty members. Via Skype, telephone, and email, ESI faculty members do assessment, create a treatment plan just for you, and work with you as you institute that plan over several weeks.


Are you in a muddle about eating?

  • You worry about eating almost continuously – doing it, avoiding it. 
  • You feel you know what to do with respect to eating, but can’t do it.
  • You feel bad if you eat and bad if you don’t.
  • You can’t remember when you have felt good about your eating or weight.

ESI can help you

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