I spend a lot of time discussing eating with clients as it is central to most goals, especially any around body composition. In general, I find people are too harsh on themselves around the errors they make and as a result do not investigate the patterns they are unhappy with. I have found it is helpful to specifically identify what you mean when judging your own eating. The following classifications may be of help in that process:

Healthy Eating Adherence – This is linked to how well you can stick to your healthy eating plan. It is about the level of adherence you show over the weeks and months. Many factors influence what you define as healthy eating, such as how much food you eat, the quality of the food, how it is prepared and so forth. While debate exists of what defines healthy eating, this area is often about how well you are sticking to your own rules (regardless of what those rules may be). For most people this is about how much bad stuff you do, e.g. how often you eat out, eat a chocolate bar, drink alcohol etc.

Binge Eating – This refers to binges where you eat large amounts of food in either one sitting e.g. 3000 calories late at night, or too much food over a period of time, e.g. 10 000 calories over a weekend. It is usually accompanied by negative emotions from doing the behaviours (guilt/shame) and often linked to purging type reactive behaviours such as excessive exercise or harsh food restriction afterwards.

Acceptable Overeating – Many overeating periods are not deemed bad but rather normal social endeavours. Perhaps the most acceptable are over eating on your birthday, Christmas day or when on holiday. Others include celebrating events, going to restaurants or getting drunk with your friends. This is fairly normal in society terms. The main factor to consider is when do these normal behaviours violate your own personal rules and boundaries to become too much.

Specific Food Addiction – This refers to not being able to stop consuming one food item or group (e.g. alcohol, chocolate etc). This food may or may not be consumed in excess during one sitting like in binge eating, but you are having more than you would like and have great difficulty stopping or cutting it out.

Intuitive Eating – This refers to how you eat naturally when not expending much mental energy to direct your behaviours. When done well, you will be consuming only what you need (food quantity / calories) as well as getting the necessary vitamins & minerals from your meals. It is perhaps more commonly referenced to losing your obsessions, fears and pressures around food, especially when you eat ‘badly’. The important factor when eating intuitively is that your mind and body’s natural eating patterns are at a level you are happy with. However, many people find their natural patterns are not where they would like them to be.

Sticking To A Fat Loss Plan – This refers to your ability to stick to a plan and lose body fat. Very often you are more forgiving to nutrition errors if they are done against a backdrop of losing weight. One problem from this process is that eating less food than you need (e.g. fat loss) greatly increases the likelihood of ‘bad’ eating periods or habits.

What Does This Mean For Me?

The end goal around food should be to naturally be able to eat with a level of healthy behaviours that you are happy with while not using too much mental energy to do it. You should be guilt free when mistakes happen yet generally good enough that you do not undermine the health of your body. if you need to lose body fat then you should have the skills to be able to stick to it for long enough to get the results you desire.

Take some time to think about how the different elements above apply to you. There are different solutions to each of the individual aspects. A big problem around these classifications is that most people have no context to judge or evaluate their own ‘bad’ behaviours. I had one client who felt guilty around eating any nice tasting food, another client was crying to me because she ate a chocolate bar then the next guy I trained was joking about getting drunk and taking drugs at a party.

For me, the biggest difficulty around food is that almost everyone tries to eat better while trying to get in shape. This means they are trying to implement new good eating behaviours while usually eating way too little food. This makes it many times harder and for most people,  simply too hard to do.

The key take away from this email is that you can improve your eating behaviours in both an objective sense and an emotional sense. You will probably need a slightly different protocol to what most people do when trying to get in shape but with the right strategy anything is possible, however ‘bad’ you have been up to now.

In this day and age, I think it is common for people to be good around food for a period but then naturally develop some bad aspects from the influence of the modern world and living. I know personally, the influence of bodybuilding shows and the heavy emphasis around food intake amounts has worsened my overall eating patterns. This just means I need to reset the patterns to get back to previous better habits. You can also do the same!

Photo –  Some birthday cake photos from over the years, which is a form of acceptable overeating most people partake in –


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