Home => Newsletters => January 16, 2008 • Family Meals Focus #22 • Eating competence: Eating attitudes
January 16, 2008
Family Meals Focus #22
Interpreting the news and research about feeding and eating
FMF #21 introduced the concept of the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter). This newsletter and the next three address each of the four components of ecSatter: eating attitudes, food acceptance, internal regulation and management of the food context. A fifth newsletter in this ecSatter series puts it all together. The information is excerpted from Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family.
Your attitudes about eating can make or break you. Unlike what we think (our conscious judgment) attitudes are based on feelings and beliefs, both often unexamined. Attitudes are generally subtle and implied rather than spoken right out loud, and are, in fact, often hard to pin down. But they affect you nonetheless. They control your behavior, influence the way you feel, and dictate your priorities.
Competent eaters have positive attitudes about eating and therefore are relaxed about it. They enjoy food and eating and they are comfortable with their enjoyment. They feel it is okay to eat food they like in amounts they find satisfying. In contrast to these perfectly normal and highly desirable attitudes about eating, most people today feel more or less ambivalent and anxious about eating and doubt their ability to do a good job with food management. They carry around standards of what and how much they should eat, often ill-defined,and feel ashamed of themselves when they like,and eat,food that falls short of their standards.1
We become neurotic when we don't trust our feelings and inclinations, and as a result we don't feel comfortable acting on them. As a matter of fact, we suffer from a national neurosis about eating. Surveys find that we try not to eat the foods we enjoy in amounts that we find satisfying and instead feel obligated to eat ''nutritious food'' in amounts that leave us hungry,or at least unsatisfied.2 In the last 20 years, the percentage of people who acknowledged enjoying eating decreased from 48% to 39%.3 Eating ''enjoyably'' comes loaded with guilt and fear; eating ''properly'' comes loaded with control and dreariness. Many times we careen from one to the other, like the respondents to a 2005 Parade magazine survey who say they eat a healthy mix of foods, then reward themselves with ''pleasure foods.''4
ecSatter research findings show evidence that competent eaters do better with feeding themselves and have positive health indicators.5 None of that surprised me. What did surprise me, although it shouldn't have, is that competent eaters are emotionally and socially healthier than people with low levels of eating competence. They feel more effective, they are more self-aware, and they are more trusting and comfortable with themselves and with other people.6
Allow the psychotherapist in me to explain these findings. Consider that being emotionally and socially healthy,emotionally competent, if you will, depends on being sensitive to and comfortable with what goes on inside you,knowing what you feel, what you want, who you are,and being honest with yourself and with others about it. Your comfort and honesty with yourself allow you to act on your feelings in a rational and productive way. You can appreciate not only your own feelings and wishes but those of other people and, as a consequence, be reasonably adept at working things out.
Being competent with eating depends on exactly the same processes: being sensitive to and comfortable with what goes on inside you and being honest with yourself and others about it. In this case, of course, we are talking about your enjoyment of good food, your drive to get enough to eat, your excitement about eating,all of the natural and even laudable feelings and urges that surround your eating. We are also talking about the sensations that regulate your eating,your hunger, appetite, and satiety. Your comfort and honesty with yourself about your inner experience related to your eating allow you to be matter-of-fact about responding to that inner experience and manage your eating in a rational and productive way.
1. Satter EM. Eating Competence: definition and evidence for the Satter Eating Competence Model. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39 (suppl):S142-S153.
2. American Dietetic Association. Nutrition Trends 2002: Final Report of Findings. Chicago: The American Dietetic Association; 2002.
3. Taylor P, Funk C, Craighill P. Eating More, Enjoying Less. PEW Research Center Social Trends Report. Pew Research Center; 2006.
4. Hales D. What America really eats. Mark Clements Research; 2005.
5. Psota T, Lohse B, West S. Associations between eating competence and cardiovascular disease biomarkers . J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39 (suppl):S171-S178.
6. Lohse B, Satter E, Horacek T, Gebreselassie T, Oakland MJ. Measuring Eating Competence: psychometric properties and validity of the ecSatter Inventory. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2007;39 (suppl):S154-S166.
Copyright © 2008 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
Copyright © 2012 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
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