What is Normal Eating?

(The following information has been gathered from personal experience, recovery literature, research studies, and other sources.)


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 in 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, most of the time, but it can also be choosing to munch along. 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 when they are fresh. Normal eating is overeating at time: feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. It is also undereating at time and wishing you had more. 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 emotions, your schedule, your hunger, and your proximity to food.

From “Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family” (Kelcy Press, 1999)


Hunger and Satiety Scale (PDF)

One major difficulty that many eating disordered people have is that they have lost touch with what it feels like to be hungry and what it feels like to be full or satisfied after eating. The Hunger and Satiety Scale can be a useful tool for re-learning how to listen to your body’s normal hunger/fullness cues. Click Here to View Scale (PDF).



What are they and why?

Experts will tell you that a good balanced meal usually consists of roughly 60 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein, and 15 percent fat. A common example of this would be a serving of meat (chicken, fish, tofu if you’re a vegetarian), a serving of vegetables, two other higher-carb side dishes (dinner roll and potato, maybe), a glass of milk, and some butter.

Why is this a GOOD thing?

Your body digests different foods at different times. First, your body relies mainly on the fuel it gets from digesting carbohydrates. When the carbohydrates supply runs out, that is about when the protein is available for use as fuel. When the protein runs out, that is when the fat kicks in. If your diet consists of mainly carbohydrates, and little or no fat, you will experience a major drop in blood sugar an hour or two later; this will stimulate your body to produce more insulin, which stimulates your appetite. Since your blood sugar can dip so low following a high-carb meal, the insulin response is even greater, which means that your hunger will be greater. So, what does that translate into? You guessed it! = BINGE-O-RAMA! Now, if you eat only protein, your body won’t be able to use it for hours. You’ll be starving. Your blood sugar will be low. Which means, again- bingeing!



From the American Dietetic Association’s Complete Food and Nutrition Guide (recommended if you’re looking for resources regarding healthy eating). Please note that these serving sizes may differ slightly between treatment programs and dietitians. However, this list gives a pretty good idea of what is considered “normal.” Amounts listed are equal to one serving from the group they are listed under:


1 slice bread, 1 pancake, or 1 waffle = stack of 3 computer disks 1 cup dry cereal = baseball 1/2 COOKED pasta or rice = small computer mouse OR a deck of cards 1/2 cup cooked oatmeal, grits, farina, or Cream of Wheat cereal 1/2 cup cooked barley 1/2 cup cooked quinoa, bulgur, millet, or other whole grains 3/4 small crackers 2 medium cookies 1 bagel = hockey puck 1 tortilla = 7 in. plate 4 small cookies (vanilla wafers) = 4 casino chips


1 cup raw, leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach) = baseball 1/2 cup chopped raw, NON-leafy vegetables 1/2 cup cooked vegetables = small computer mouse 1/2 cup cooked legumes (beans, peas, or lentils) 10 French Fries = deck of cards 1 small potato = small computer mouse 3/4 cup vegetable juice.


1/2 cup sliced fruit = small computer mouse 1 medium fruit (apple, orange, banana, or peach) = baseball 1/2 grapefruit, mange, or papaya 3/4 cup juice = 6 oz. can 1/2 cup berries or cut-up fruit 1/2 cup canned, frozen, or cooked fruit 1/4 cup raisins or other dried fruit = large egg.


8 oz. glass of milk = small (8 oz.) carton 8 oz. yogurt = baseball 1/2 cup evaporated milk 1/3 cup dry milk 1 cup calcium-fortified soy beverage 1/2 cup ricotta cheese 2 oz. cheese (sticks) = two Magic Markers 1-1/2 oz. hard cheese (Cheddar) = two 9-volt batteries or a C battery 1/2 cup premium ice cream (i.e. Ben & Jerry’s) 1 cup regular ice cream (i.e. Kemps, Dairy Queen) The following count as a HALF milk group serving: 1/2 cup frozen yogurt 1 cup cottage cheese.


2 to 3 oz. meat, poultry, or fish = deck of cards or cassette tape 2 to 3 oz. canned tuna or salmon 2 tbsp. peanut butter = roll of film of ping pong ball or size of two thumbs 1/2 cup beans = small computer mouse or your fist The following count as ONE OUNCE of meat (so you’ll need twice or three times the amount to make ONE serving) 1 egg 1/4 cup egg substitute 1/3 cup nuts 1/2 cup tofu 2-1/2 ounce soy burger.


Remember: fats are ESSENTIAL for enabling your body to function properly, AND they promote satiety; they are very important especially if you’re trying to avoid bingeing! Salad dressing = 1 or 2 tablespoons Cream cheese, mayonnaise, oils= 1 tablespoon Also, foods including higher amounts of fat, such as brownies, cookies, or high-fat entrees are often counted as including a serving of fat 1 carbohydrate serving is also roughly equal to 15g of carbohydrate, if you’re judging from the nutritional information on a package.



If you’re like most people, here’s how your body uses the energy it “burns” all day:

  • Basic energy needs (basal metabolism): 60 percent
  • Physical activity: 30 percent
  • Digestion of food and absorption of nutrients: 10 percent




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