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Adult eating and weight

Smiling young women sharing meal


Secrets tells you how to be relaxed and positive about eating.

Click for details and purchase

Click here for the handout, “The Joy of Eating”

How to become eating competent

Eating competence is sensible, sustainable, and good for you. Have rewarding, regular, and reliable meals, pay attention while you eat, and eat what and how much you want. You will enjoy eating, do better nutritionally, and be healthier.

When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers

  • Roughly half of today’s consumers who know about “official” dietary guides say they ”don’t really follow the rules.”
  • Fewer and fewer people say they enjoy eating.
  • If they follow the rules they later reward themselves with “forbidden” food.
  • Only 20% of consumers get their five-a-day of fruits and vegetables, and overweight is a major concern.

Consider the evidence-based Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter)

  • Feel positive about your eating.
  • Be reliable about feeding yourself.
  • Eat food you enjoy.
  • Eat as much as you are hungry for.

Respect and trust your body’s wisdom

  • Your hunger and your drive to survive.
  • Your appetite and natural need for pleasure.
  • Your enjoyment from sharing good food with others.
  • Your tendency to maintain your own best weight.

Your eating will fall into place

  • Being able to eat the foods you enjoy in satisfying amounts gives your eating order and reliability.
  • 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 eat moderately.
  • Large portion sizes won’t make you overeat. You can eat it all if you are hungry enough, not if you aren’t.

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A taste of eating competence

Research with the Satter Eating Competence Model shows that people do better when they feel good about their eating, eat enough, and eat what they enjoy at regular meals and snacks. They are healthier in all ways, eat what they need, and eat as much as they need.

We are entitled to enjoy eating and eat the food we enjoy

  • To feel good about our eating, rather the guilty or anxious.
  • To put together a meal with food we really have a taste for.
  • To eat as much of that food as we want.
  • To get up from an enjoyable meal knowing another on is coming that will be just as good.

Provide; don’t deprive

  • Go to meals hungry, have food you enjoy, tune in while you eat, and eat as much as you want. Then stop, knowing another meal or snack is coming soon and you can do it all over again!
  • Have rewarding, regular, and reliable meals
  • Pay attention while you eat
  • Then eat what and how much you want.

What is it like to be eating competent?

  • Going by your body rather than the rules for what and how much to eat.
  • Taking good care of yourself. Planning for feeding yourself and paying attention while you eat.
  • Having regular meals with food you enjoy. Sitting down for snacks between times if you need them.
  • Feeling good about your eating and about your food, and feeling good about feeling good.
  • Thinking about what you want to eat and letting yourself eat it without feeling guilty.
  • Letting yourself eat as much as you are hungry for.
  • Trusting your body to weigh what it needs to.

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Young woman comfortably eating meal


Secrets teaches you to trust your body to know how much to eat. Click for details and purchase.  

Click here for the handout, “The Joy of Eating”

Eat as much as you want

Your body knows how much you need to eat. To be able to trust your body to help you with what and how much you eat, you must help it. You must have structure. Whether there are one or ten people in your family, have meals with food you enjoy, and have sit-down snacks between times if you need them.

  • Feed yourself at more-or-less set times.
  • Go to some trouble to make food taste good.
  • Eat often enough so you can go to the table hungry but not starved.
  • Take the time to tune in and enjoy your food.

You won’t be able trust your body if you . . .

  • Don’t take feeding yourself seriously.
  • Grab food when you happen to think about it or when hunger drives you to it.
  • Snack and nibble instead of taking time to feed yourself.
  • Try not to eat as much as you are hungry for.


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Resolve the weight dilemma

We are told to lose weight and keep it off. Nobody can do it. That makes trying to lose weight  the impossible dream – and hard on your body, besides.

How can so many be so wrong?

  • Health policy makers and most health professionals insist – repeatedly and with a great deal of judgment and urgency – that any degree of overweight is medically dangerous.
  • However, high body weight is a serious health risk only for people who are very, very heavy (more studies).
  • Somehow the many, many studies don’t sink in: There is no successful method for reducing and maintaining a lowered body weight.
  • In fact, weight loss attempts backfire: Almost all people regain lost weight; many gain to a higher level with each loss-regain cycle (more studies).
  • Weight instability as a result of dieting is associated with health impairment (studies).

The weight dilemma is worse for people of size

  • Body composition is, for the most part, genetically determined, but people of size feel guilty about their weight and therefore ashamed of their eating.
  • They have accepted society’s judgment that they overeat and that they are digging their graves with their knives and forks.
  •  In reality, most relatively fat people eat no more or no differently from thin people. They just pay the price.
  • People of size at times eat chaotically. However, that chaotic eating, rather than being a cause of high body weight, is far more likely to be a consequence of the weight-reduction dieting.

Define the problem in the way it can be solved

  • Whatever your size, to keep from being caught in the weight dilemma, work with your body rather than against it.
  • Eat well and joyfully, and trust your internal regulators to guide you in what and how much to eat.
  • Move your body in ways that you enjoy and can sustain.
  • Let your body weigh what it will in response to your positive and consistent eating and activity.
  • Develop loyalty and respect for your body.
  • Stop postponing living until you get thin.


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Young man looking skeptically at broccoli


Secrets says to eat vegetables because you enjoy them, not because you have to. Click for details and purchase. 

Click here for the handout, “The Joy of Eating”

You can learn to enjoy vegetables

In our culture, fruits and vegetables especially are considered both critically important and difficult to eat. Generations of parents force themselves to eat vegetables and are convinced that children will only eat them under pressure. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Vegetables and fruits can be challenging

  • They have a variety of textures and flavors, some of them strong, sharp, or biting.
  • You or your child may be a supertaster, which means you are sensitive to strong flavors.
  • Some people are sensitive to textures.
  • However, even supertasters and people who are sensitive to textures learn to enjoy vegetables and fruits.

Learning to enjoy: Time, many chances to learn, and no pressure

  • Plan to eat fruits and vegetables because you enjoy them, not because you feel obligated.
  • Tone down strong vegetable flavors with salt, fat, sauces, bread crumbs, herbs, and spices.
  • Tone down fruit textures by making sauces, desserts, using canned rather than fresh.
  • Sneak up on the new: Look at it, prepare it, watch others eat it, put it in your mouth and take it out again. Don’t swallow until you are ready.
  • Take your time, and be persistent. It may take dozens of the sneaking-up bit before you enjoy eating it.

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What is normal eating?

Written in 1983 by Ellyn Satter

  • Normal eating is Eating Competence. It is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied.
  • It is being able to choose food you enjoy and eat it and truly get enough of it – not just stop eating because you think you should.
  • Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food.
  • Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good.
  • Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can occasionally be choosing to munch along the way.
  • It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful.
  • Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more.
  • Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating.
  • Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
  • In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.


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The adult picky eater

No one eats everything. That only is a problem when you eat such a short list of food it’s hard to get the nutrients you need. It is even more of a problem when you feel singled out, shamed, and criticized. You are probably a picky eater because of the way you were raised with food: Too much pressure or too little exposure to unfamiliar food. As a child, you may have been especially sensitive to taste and texture. However, you could still have learned to eat a variety of food with lots of chances and no pressure. 

Begin by addressing your attitudes about eating

  • You are entitled to eat what you eat and to feel good about it.
  • Say to yourself, “It is all right to eat this. I just have to sit down and enjoy it.”
  • Once you learn to be kind to yourself about eating, work on protecting yourself from food pressure.
  • Be matter-of-fact and unapologetic about saying ”yes, please,” and ”no thank you.” Don’t complain and don’t explain.

Develop positive mealtime behavior

  • Pick and choose from what is on the table.
  • Politely and firmly decline to be served.
  • Eat only one or two foods, if that’s all that appeals.
  • Leave unwanted food on your plate.
  • Take more of one food before you have finished another.

Avoid negative mealtime behavior

  • Drawing attention to your food refusal.
  • Requesting food that is not on the menu.
  • Wasting a lot of food.
  • Discussing what you eat and don’t eat.
  • Expecting others to cater to your food preferences.

After you learn to say no, learn to say yes

  • Begin ever-so-gradually sneaking up on new food and learning to eat it.
  • Provide yourself with regular, repeated, and unpressured opportunities to learn to eat new food.
  • Always give yourself an out: Pair familiar food with unfamiliar, foods you eat with those you don’t yet eat.
  • Don’t force yourself to eat if anything you don’t want to eat.

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Pregnant family mom dad little boy smiling happily


Secrets says to feed yourself enjoyably and dependably! Click for details and purchase.

Eating during pregnancy: provide, don’t deprive

Pregnancy in general and eating during pregnancy in particular give you a marvelous opportunity to gain respect for your body and for the miracle of giving birth. Trust yourself. Eating competently will allow you to do well nutritionally and gain weight in a way that is right for you. Your hunger, appetite, and weight gain will be different from that of other women and will vary month to month and among your first, second and third trimesters. Don’t spoil your pregnancy by dieting or by worrying about your weight!

Goals for feeding yourself well during pregnancy

  • Nourish yourself and your baby.
  • Lay the foundation for feeding your family.
  • Gain the amount of weight that is right for you, in your own distinct pattern.

To achieve those goals, be nurturing and trusting with yourself

  • Feed yourself enjoyably and dependably. Be positive and reliable about taking care of yourself with food. 
  • Give yourself permission to eat food you enjoy. Provide, don’t deprive. Seek food rather than avoid it. 
  • Emphasize three meals a day and as many snacks as you need to feel comfortable and energetic.
  • Start where you are: Eat what you are eating now, just have it at regular and structured times.
  • Get the meal habit by choosing food you enjoy. For you to maintain the meal habit, your food has to taste good!
  • Once you have the meal habit, sneak up on menu planning.
  • Go to meals hungry but not famished, savor your food, and stop only when your hunger and appetite are satisfied.

The bottom line: Trust your body!

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