What is normal eating, and what isn’t?
If ‘normal eating’ is eating when you get hungry, without giving it much thought, the vast majority of people probably don’t eat normally. We all have different eating habits. You may have one large meal a day or lots of small snacks. At times you may experiment with food, cutting out things you feel may be bad for you, trying out new foods or fasting.
While pressure or stress affects people in different ways, it is common for your eating habits to be affected when you feel stressed or under pressure. This may mean you crave a particular food (such as chocolate), lose your appetite, eat more for comfort, or even become unable to eat at all – feeling ill if you do. Most people get back into their usual eating habits once the difficulties have passed.
However if you do go on eating too much or too little over a period of time, you may be in danger of developing an ongoing problem with eating or an eating disorder. You may find food becoming increasingly important in your life until, in some cases, it becomes the most important thing. You may deny yourself anything to eat even when you are very hungry, you may eat constantly or binge. You may find that the subject of food or how much you weigh can be on your mind all the time. Food can become a sort of addiction affecting your life in a very negative way. Being ‘addicted’ to food presents huge problems because you need to eat to live – so if you have an eating problem you have no choice but to wrestle with this problem every day.
It’s important to understand that eating problems aren’t just about food and eating. They are about difficult problems and painful feelings which you may be finding hard to express, face or resolve. Focusing on food is a way of disguising these problems even from yourself.
“At first, it was such a relief not to worry about anything else. The eating disorder started as a coping mechanism to help me avoid my other problems. But in the end it became the biggest problem of all.”