What’s Meant By Regular Eating?

What is regular eating and how does impact recovery?

Dieting has become such a big part of our culture. Even children are  prodding their tummy’s and telling us ‘I’m fat.’ It’s impossible to get away from and as someone who’s in recovery from Anorexia Nervosa, I find it difficult to engage with people once they start diet talk. I know I can’t get away from it indefinitely. Dieting has become so tightly intertwined with our society that it would be nearly impossible without shutting myself indoors and staying away from all forms of media.

Every day I come across people watching their weight and displaying signs of unhealthy eating habits. I can count on one hand the number of people I’ve met who have the balance just right

What is “normal” eating?

Before looking into adopting regular eating habits, I wanted to take a brief look into what is considered to be ‘normal‘. Surely dieting can’t be standard by which all people are held?

Recovery Warriors describe ‘normal eating‘ as the following;

Many people consider it “normal” behavior to anxiously monitor their weight every day, to worry about their amount of exercise, to obsess about whether to eat dessert. But is a lifetime of guilt about food and weight really normal? Is this how we want to live our lives? Is our physical appearance the only way we measure our success in the world?

Mary Anne Cohen, Recovery Warriors.
There are considered to be six aspects to “normal” eating;
  • Eat when hungry.
  • Only eat what will satisfy.
  • Stop eating when full.
  • Face feelings directly rather than over or under eating.
  • Express emotions directly rather than stuffing down on food.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you overeat, under-eat, or gain a couple of pounds.

What does ‘regular eating‘ mean?

As part of treatment, adapting a regular eating schedule is considered one of the key components for recovery from an eating disorder. It can be very daunting, and with so much conflicting advice can seem nearly impossible. If you’re not working with a treatment team this is made even harder because you lack the guidance from a trained, medical professional.

Once a meal plan is in place, you can begin to gradually make positive changes to other eating habits.

Regular Eating is described as; 

  • Eat at regular times throughout the day. 
  • Avoiding long periods of time without food. It’s usually suggested to eat roughly every three hours. 
  • Routinely eat at the same time every day. 
  • Eat breakfast, lunch and an evening meal, with three snacks included in between. 

My personal meal plan currently means that I eat every three hours, and must ensure that I eat six times a day. This would mean three hearty meals, followed by three snacks spread throughout the day.

It’s difficult, I’m not going to lie about that. I’ve suddenly had to go from skipping every meal to eating six times daily, and my brain is still struggling to process this. The reality is that the majority of people who eat regularly aren’t overweight. They’re also less likely to become overweight because they aren’t binging due to ongoing restriction.

You may be interested in: What recovery will bring to my life.

How to adapt your meal plan;

Make regular eating a priority:

Mealtimes need to become an important part of your day. In the beginning, this may mean compromising other areas or activities in your life, but after a while, you should be adjusted to your new schedule.

Create an effective meal plan can only begin with your full commitment.

Plan your meals and snacks:

Know when your next meal is and what you’re having. It’s always useful to bring snacks with you if you’re going out anywhere. When in treatment the ‘I was out and didn’t have food’ excuse doesn’t sit well, so it’s always best to carry a cereal bar or piece of fruit with you at all times.

When I first entered treatment I went around my local store and made a list of things I could easily carry with me in my handbag or pocket.

Eat what you want:

I know it sounds daunting if you’re coming from a place with Anorexia Nervosa. The concept that I can eat whatever I want scares me because Anorexia has never let it be that way. But in recovery, it’s paramount that you start off eating what you want, be it a chocolate bar or a banana.

In the initial stages of recovery, it doesn’t much matter what you eat, as long as you eat regularly and a substantial amount. The rest will come later.

DON’T Purge:

This one should be self-explanatory. If you suffer from Bulimia or bulimic tendencies, then the urge to purge will be ever-present. Resist the urge to take part in purging i.e vomiting or laxative use.

This will only counter the effects of a regular eating schedule.

Do not skip meals;

Being busy or forgetting snacks doesn’t cut it.

Stick to eating every 3-4 hours:

Aim to eat every 3-4 hours. Going long periods without food can lead us to feel several negative side effects such as irritability, light-headed, trouble concentrating and weakness.

If you have trouble remembering when to eat try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you.

Don’t eat between meals and snacks:

This is known as grazing and I’ve been warned against by my therapist. Grazing is counterproductive. It’s unstructured and ultimately confuses your body about when it should and shouldn’t be hungry.

If we stick to eating at set times each day and don’t stray from it, then our bodies naturally adapt to being hungry at those specific times. This would ultimately eliminate the bodies need to ‘graze.

However, if you find yourself persistently hungry try and stand against it. Drink some water or distract yourself in another way. If it continues despite this, it could be time to consider leaving smaller gaps between your meals or upping what your intake at mealtimes.

DO NOT give up!

Whether you’re in recovery or you just want to adjust your eating schedule remember; Never give up! Practice makes perfect and over time it will get easier to eat regularly, and you’ll feel so much better for it!

Whether you’re in recovery for an eating disorder or not, almost everyone could do with adopting a regular, scheduled meal plan. I hope this was both informative and useful for you no matter what you’re going through in regards to your diet.

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44 thoughts on “What’s Meant By Regular Eating?

  1. I agree with you, once you have gone through either an anorexic period or bulimic, like in my case, getting used to “normal eating” doesn’t come as easy. I loved how easy to read & understand your post was, thank you!

  2. This is great advice. Really helpful. My sister was anorexic and I was bulimic for years soI can relate from my past and my sisters to this post.
    Thank you for sharing and raising awareness.

  3. As someone who has went through an ED, I applaud you for speaking about it. Thank you for showing people the truth about this awful disease!

  4. I loved reading your post. I think you so perfectly touched on some of the challenging aspects of re-feeding and how our version of “normal” will take time to shift. As a nutritionist that specializes in ED I truly applaud you for sharing your experience here, I know how beneficial it is to find others that have had a shared experience. Keep doing what you are doing!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by and taking the time to read. It’s so validating that someone within the professional field has come across this blog and reassured me I’m doing something right. I often fear that I am putting out the wrong message or giving out bad advice, but you have made me feel 100 times better.

      Thank you so much 🙂

      1. I have a bad eating habit myself. Most of the time i only eat twice a day. Tho i try my best to eat snacks in between. I am trying to eat healthy, i go to the gym regularly but i end up losing weight. Which is not good for me because i am already small, but i am too scared to eat more because i dont want to gain weight. Thanks for the tips on eating properly, this would be a lot of help for me

  5. Sometimes normal can be so difficult. We have to be very intentional about our eating, at least until the the patterns become habits. Thank you for sharing!

  6. We had that discussion with our kids this morning. They are the skinniest kids but were sticking their bellies out, calling themselves fat… what kind of society do we live in?!

  7. Thanks for the reminder Nyx! I’ve been slipping with regular eating recently following that big mental health crash and I need to get myself back into the routine.
    Hopefully it will help me function better once I am regularly nourishing and hydrating myself! I’ll have to try the alarm reminders on my phone – especially for next week when I’m looking after myself XD

    1. I always have to set alarms to remind me to eat because I just forget. I’m so used to not eating and enjoying the feeling of hunger that I just don’t.

      1. It has really helped me today actually – I’m still fairly groggy from the dental sedation but eating something every three hours is helping me feel better and a bit more energetic and a little less walking dead. I definitely think my mood is more stable for it today.

        I’ll try and keep it going for a couple of weeks and see how my productivity and general feeling of “wellness” goes with it.

  8. This is terrific advice for those overcoming an eating disorder. It is very simple and structured, so easy to “control.” Prayers to those working to overcome – you are warriors!

  9. I’ve been body shamed all through high school for being too skinny, and then later was body shamed when I gained weight, I just thought to myself these people who tell me I’m too skinny or fat have problems that are totally not related to me, so I just ignored them and just ate when I felt like it and stopped when I was full. I don’t think I’m fat, I’m not particularly fit, but that’s okay, I can live with that. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing, I think I may be a regular eater. 🙂

    1. I’m hoping to eventually become a regular eater, but it’ll take a long time before I’ll ever achieve it. Thank you so much for not only reading but sharing your story with me.

  10. I think I can count even less people I know who have ‘normal’ or balanced eating habits than you do! That is such a tough thing to maintain especially with so much social pressure to be ‘skinny’ – whatever that even means. These are great tips – especially never giving up!

  11. You’re an amazing testimony! It’s so hard to find “balance” in life with all things. But, the media has placed a HUGE strain on our development trying to tell us what “healthy” should look like. I struggled with my image, and I still do to this day. My husband has to do a lot of reassurance for me. I have to remember that the number on the scale is just a number- it doesn’t mean anything else but that. Great tips and advice! Thank you! 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for reading and commenting. Body image is such a difficult thing to overcome. I’m new to this journey, although I’ve tried many times before, but now I’m trying to leave behind all my bad habits, and not just the one.

  12. My dietician told me to eat when I was hungry, not be dictated by traditional meal times. I do feel better/ eat more using this rule.

    1. I eat every 3-3 1/2 hours. I hate it, but i have to do it in order to recover. I now find my body becoming hungry when the 3 hours rolls around which I suppose is good as my body is learning it’s signals.

  13. I work with someone who eats every 3 hours or so. People laugh and joke with her about it, but she is super trim.

    1. I have to eat every 3 hours because it impacts my weight if I don’t. It could be because she is on a strict, recovery meal plan. You never know. And those people should really watch their mouths in case the young girl is. It could send her backward.

    1. It can be a problem which is caused by or is accompanying an eating disorder, it’s not in itself an eating disorder. IBS is based on bowel health and stimuli that impact that.

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