Worth Your Weight

February 9, 2008

Functional M&M’s

Filed under: fat acceptance — worthyourweight @ 12:04 am

After an exchange I had in the comments to Lindsay’s great post at BABble, I realized I needed a reminder not to be seduced into using the HAES philosophy as an excuse for orthorexia and over-exercising. Especially because this current culture views both as paragons of healthy behavior.

I find it difficult sometimes to distinguish “healthy eating” attempts from dieting. At first, it felt like dieting, and dieting feels frickin’ awful. But a choice chunk of text from Laura Fraser’s book Losing It helped me get a grip. Here she quotes Ellyn Satter:

Normal eating is being able to eat when you are hungry and continue eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it — not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to use some moderate constraint on your food selection to get the right food, but not being so restrictive that you miss out on pleasurable foods. 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 three meals a day, or four or five, or it can 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. It is also 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.

Awesome, isn’t it? What a revelation. Healthy eating is but one part of what Satter calls normal eating. I choose to think of it as functional eating (as opposed to dysfunctional eating). So if I hanker for a bag of M&M’s at the supermarket checkout, that can be a functional choice. When deciding on a side dish for dinner, opting for a small salad over the French fries can be quite functional, too — especially if the salad appeals and I know, hey, veggies are good for you (just like Mom says ;)).

I especially relate to the part where Satter talks of trusting your body. I recently stopped keeping count of the calories I consumed (I haven’t restricted the amount in almost a year), and it’s liberating and even pleasant to trust my body to keep track of the calories I need and don’t need and adjust accordingly. That’s one of its functions, no?

So I may be following HAES, but in my mind I call it FFAES: Functional and Flexible at Every Size. As has so importantly been pointed out before, mental health is a vital part of overall health. Functional eating can go a long way towards good mental — and physical — health.


  1. That _is_ awesome.

    Comment by Liz — February 9, 2008 @ 1:12 am

  2. That just sums it all up perfectly, really. Great post!

    Comment by shapelywench — February 9, 2008 @ 7:05 am

  3. This is such an eye opener for me. I love it! Thanks for the quote. I’ve mentioned you in my blog, because I wanted to talk about it too! :)

    Comment by jamboree — February 10, 2008 @ 6:27 am

  4. […] you to Worth Your Weight for my inspiration for this post, and the quoted […]

    Pingback by Normal eating? « One Fat Momma — February 17, 2008 @ 11:36 am

  5. […] Normal eating has zip to do with calories, carb count, and fat grams. See the Ellyn Satter quote here. […]

    Pingback by Touchstones « Worth Your Weight — March 15, 2008 @ 3:18 am

  6. Very well worded! I agree!

    Comment by digdeeper2 — September 15, 2009 @ 11:54 pm

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