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The Satter Eating Competence Model

The Satter approach to eating



For detailed references, click here.

At the heart of a good relationship with food is the principle of Eating Competence.1 Eating Competence, as defined by the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter), 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. Even though ecSatter says nothing at all about what or how much to eat or what to weigh, people who are Eating Competent (EC) have better diets, lower BMIs, superior metabolic profiles, and more-positive quality of life indicators. Eating competence is measured by the validated ecSI 2.0 TM.2, 3

EC show superior diets

People who are Eating Competent have nutritionally adequate diets of high nutrition quality. They eat more fruits and vegetables and have better food resource management skills.2, 4-10 Instead of going by what and how much to eat, people who are Eating Competent depend on their own natural food preference, personal maturation, and diversity-seeking processes to ensure dietary variety and therefore nutritional quality.

EC show superior wellness, medical nutrition therapy measures

People who are Eating Competent show superior wellness and metabolic indicators, are less likely to have metabolic syndrome, have lower insulin resistance and lower incidence of unidentified type 2 diabetes. 2, 7, 8, 10-15 They achieve these positive indicators without following prescriptive diets, e.g they do not go by guidelines of what and how much to eat.

EC show lower BMI

ecSatter is weight-neutral. It defines desirable weight as stable BMI at any level, and does not encourage in any way striving for weight loss. Correlation and intervention studies show that people who are Eating Competent have the same or lower BMIs.2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14-16

EC show superior quality of life indicators

ecSatter correlates with lower drive for thinness and body dissatisfaction and less restrained eating and disinhibited eating. Also correlated are more positive sleep and activity patterns and indicators of social and emotional well-being: lower interpersonal distrust, impulsivity, ineffectiveness, maturity fears, and social insecurity.2, 7, 8, 10-15

EC show better parenting with food

EC mothers of 2-6 year-olds show the highest fdSI scores (pre-validation precursor to sDOR.2-6yTM), are likely divide feeding responsibilities,18, 19 view their child’s eating positively,18 and show low restriction.19

To keep up with the ecSatter evidence as it emerges, see Evidence-base of Satter Eating Competence Model.


  1. Satter E. Eating Competence: definition and evidence for the Satter Eating Competence Model. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39:S142-S153. Computer.
  2. Krall JS, Lohse B. Validation of a measure of the Satter eating competence model with low-income females. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. Apr 07 2011;8:26-36. doi:10.1186/1479-5868-8-26
  3. Lohse B. The Satter Eating Competence Inventory for Low-income persons is a valid measure of eating competence for persons of higher socioeconomic position. Appetite. Apr 2015;87:223-8. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2014.12.228
  4. Lohse B, Faulring K, Mitchell DC, Cunningham-Sabo L. A definition of “regular meals” driven by dietary quality supports a pragmatic schedule. Nutrients. Sep 1 2020;12(9)doi:10.3390/nu12092667
  5. Lohse B, Masters L. Eating competence and oral health in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligible populations. J Dent Hyg. Dec 2019;93(6):42-50.
  6. Lohse B, Pflugh Prescott M, Cunningham-Sabo L. Eating competent parents of 4th grade youth from a predominantly non-Hispanic white sample demonstrate more healthful eating behaviors than non-eating competent parents. Nutrients. Jun 30 2019;11(7)doi:10.3390/nu11071501
  7. Greene GW, Schembre SM, White AA, et al. Identifying clusters of college students at elevated health risk based on eating and exercise behaviors and psychosocial determinants of body weight. J Am Diet Assoc. Mar 2011;111:394-400. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.11.011
  8. 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. Sep-Oct 2007;39:S154-66. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2007.04.371
  9. 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. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.11.022
  10. Tilles-Tirkkonen T, Nuutinen O, Suominen S, Liukkonen J, Poutanen K, Karhunen L. Preliminary Finnish measures of eating competence suggest association with health-promoting eating patterns and related psychobehavioral factors in 10–17 year old adolescents. Nutrients. 2015;7:3828-3846.
  11. Tilles-Tirkkonen T, Aittola K, Männikkö R, et al. Eating Competence Is associated with lower prevalence of obesity and better insulin sensitivity in Finnish adults with increased risk for type 2 diabetes: The StopDia Study. Nutrients. Dec 30 2019;12(1)doi:10.3390/nu12010104
  12. Quick V, Shoff S, Lohse B, White A, Horacek T, Greene G. Relationships of eating competence, sleep behaviors and quality, and overweight status among college students. Eat Behav. Dec 2015;19:15-19. doi:10.1016/j.eatbeh.2015.06.012
  13. Clifford D, Linda A, Keeler LA, Gray K, Steingrube A, Neyman Morris M. Weight attitudes predict eating competence among college students. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal. 2010;39:184-193.
  14. Brown LB, Larsen KJ, Nyland NK, Eggett DL. Eating competence of college students in an introductory nutrition course. J Nutr Educ Behav. May-Jun 2013;45(3):269-73. doi:10.1016/j.jneb.2012.10.010
  15. Quick V, Byrd-Bredbenner C, White A, Lohse B. Eat, sleep, work, play: Associations of weight status and health-related behaviors among young adult college students. Am J Health Promot. 2013:e64-e72.
  16. 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. 2010;140:1322-1327. doi:10.3945/jn.109.120188
  17. 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. Apr 2014;10(2):153-68. doi:10.1089/chi.2013.0085
  18. 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.



Are you a Competent Eater?

  • Do you feel good about food and about eating—and feel good about feeling good?
  • Do you take an interest in food and experiment with unfamiliar food?
  • Do you trust yourself to eat enough for you?
  • Do you take time to eat? To have regular meals (and snacks) and pay attention while you eat?


The joy of eating

To be a competent eater, be relaxed, self-trusting, and joyful about eating, and take good care of yourself with food. Read more.


Your eating can be joyful and positive. Learn how to make your eating one of life’s great pleasures. 

Eating: What do we truly want?

What we really want with eating is not the same as what we are supposed to want or maybe even what we want to want. Research with the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter) and the Satter Feeding Dynamics Model (fdSatter) shows that  we can safely gratify our wants rather than struggling against them. 

  • We want 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 want to enjoy delicious food with other people . . . without feeling we are eating too much of the wrong food. 
  • We want to do a fine job with feeding our children and delight in family meals . . . without fearing they will be sick in later life.  

Our wants are inborn

In reality, our wants are supported by our drive to be human and our bodys’ needs for survival. 

  • Hunger and drive to survive.
  • Appetite and the need for pleasure.
  • The need to have enjoyable social times with other people.
  • Our delight in our children and need to nurture them.
  • Our biological inclination to maintain a particular body weight. 

Discover the joy of eating 

  • Feed yourself faithfully.
  • Give yourself permission to eat.
  • Notice as you learn and grow.



Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family

Read how Ellyn Satter teaches Eating Competence

This kind, clear, and matter-of-fact booklet shows you how to eat. Discover the joy of eating and escape from struggling with eating and weight!


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