When I used to watch the way one of my friends would eat, I’d be in shock. I had no idea how she did it.
I remember one time we were hanging out at her place watching a movie. She had a block of chocolate with roasted hazelnuts. I watched her eat some of it, put the rest down on the coffee table and not touch it again… for the whole movie.
As in, she did not care it was there. She was cool and calm, just relaxing away while watching the movie.
Then there was me. Sat there in discomfort, obsessing about how someone would be able to comfortably leave a block of chocolate half eaten.
I didn’t get it. And this wasn’t the first time I’d been witness to effortless eating and seemingly hard as steel willpower.
What magical power did she possess? I was desperate to be a normal eater like her, but in that moment it seemed impossible for me.
I spent years observing all the normal eaters in my life, in awe and amazement.
Take a second to think about someone you know who is a normal eater. Someone who is pretty relaxed around food and doesn’t stress about eating. Someone who doesn’t even seem to be trying when it comes to willpower. Someone who just eats and moves on.
Note: OK, before we go on I should explain that there is kind of no such thing as “normal”, when it comes to eating. There isn’t one right way to be. But I know the word normal resonates with a lot of people, including myself, when referring to people who have a good relationship with food.
Got someone in mind? Great. There’s something you need to know about them…
They don’t have more willpower than you.
They don’t have more self control.
And they aren’t better at resisting food.
So why are they so good at having a packet of choc chip cookies sitting in their kitchen cupboard and are comfortably able to eat just one at a time (rather than smashing the whole packet), you might be wondering?
Here’s the thing:
Normal eaters understand, on a subconscious level, that no particular food is off limits.
I’m not suggesting they eat anything and everything all day long, it just means they know they are allowed to, if they wanted to. They know they have the choice.
Hear me out.
Let’s take chocolate for example…
When a typically normal eater has some chocolate they feel no panic or guilt.
It isn’t something they “aren’t allowed”, so they know it is available whenever they feel like it. This enables them to actually decide how much they would like and if they even feel like it in that moment.
That’s why normal eaters can eat a row of chocolate and stop without stress. They stop when they’ve had enough because they know it’s there whenever they feel like it again. There’s no stress because they don’t feel like they’ve done something “wrong” by eating some of it.
Now compare that to believing you aren’t allowed chocolate (or the sugar in it or the dairy in it etc)…
Even though you “know you’re not allowed” you really want some chocolate and you can’t resist any longer. So you have some.
But now you’ve done something you weren’t allowed to do!
You’ve eaten something “bad”, and now you feel like a bad person.
You feel like you’ve failed and you’re frustrated that you don’t have more “willpower”.
So you think “screw it! I’ve messed up, I’ve fallen off the wagon, I’m just going to finish it. It makes sense since I’m not allowed this normally, so I’ll just finish this and never ever have it again.” And so you quickly eat it, even if you don’t actually feel like it!
This is the Last Supper Mentality.
The idea that you’re not normally allowed to eat something not only causes you to want it more, but when you do inevitably “slip up” and eat it, you’ll really go for it with that food. It will feel like the last time you’ll ever be able to eat it, so you make sure you get as much of it as possible.
Since normal eaters don’t have any off limit foods, they don’t experience Last Supper Mentality.
Now it might seem scary to tear up your imaginary I’m Not Allowed These Foods list, but it’s actually what is causing all the chaos and holding you back from becoming a normal eater.
Are you willing to let go of the belief that you’re not allowed certain foods? Oh good! I knew you’d be up for it.
It took me a while to really practise the belief that I was allowed everything and that nothing was off limits. I was scared it would open the floodgates and I would eat anything and everything that wasn’t nailed down. But it was actually quite the opposite. It was calming, not chaotic.
It just requires a little leap of faith, some experimenting and a whole lot of practise.
All you have to do is give it a try! I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Stay tuned for Part Two next week. There’s one more thing that normal eaters (don’t even realise they) do that makes them, well a normal eater. Catch you then!
Jessica Silsby is an Eating Psychology Coach, reformed fad dieter and peaceful eater.
She teaches women the real reasons they feel out of control around food, so they stop stressing and obsessing about their eating habits and finally feel free.