50 TIPS TO HELP YOU SUCCEED AT “NORMAL” EATING
from psychology of eating expert Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, M.Ed.
Nice Girls Finish Fat, the Rules of “Normal” Eating, the Food and Feelings Workbook,
and What Every Therapist Needs to Know About Treating Eating and Weight Issues
No matter how many years or decades you’ve been overeating or how many
diets have failed you (notice I didn’t say that you failed on the diets but that they failed
you!), you can learn how to become a “normal” eater—eating when you’re hungry,
choosing satisfying foods, remaining aware and enjoying food, and stopping when
you’re full or satisfied. To do so, you will have to be focused like a laser and persistent
like a dog digging for a bone, not expect overnight success, switch your attention from
the scale to your appetite, and learn effective life skills to manage stress and distress.
I’ve taught hundreds of disregulated eaters how to eat “normally” and I can teach
you! Here are 50 tips to speed you on your way…
1. Look in the mirror daily and tell yourself you can learn the skills of “normal” eating.
2. Instead of thinking there are “good” and “bad” foods, consider them as nutritional
or non-nutritional (“good” and “bad” are moral terms that are best avoided in the
3. Don’t put yourself down for the mistakes you make with food. Rather, lavishly
praise yourself for all your successes, even the tiniest ones.
4. If experience tells you that diets don’t keep your weight off, don’t try to convince
yourself you should be dieting. Instead, give yourself points for trying a different
5. Never say anything to yourself you wouldn’t say to a young child you love,
including calling yourself stupid, hopeless, bad, a failure, worthless. Be your own
cheerleader by generating positive thoughts about your progress.
6. Avoid all-or-nothing thinking and using words like never and always. Remind
yourself that most of life is not black and white, but gray.
7. Detoxify negative things people say about you that are untrue rather than repeating
them to yourself. Remember that what people say belongs to them, not to you,
even if your name is attached to their words.
8. Ask yourself often how you are feeling so you can become connected to your
emotions, but ask only with curiosity not condemnation.
9. Stop judging yourself harshly and start developing self-compassion. Treat yourself
lovingly and practice speaking to yourself with extreme esteem.
10. Do not keep telling yourself that learning to be a “normal” eater is hard because
saying so only programs you to find the work difficult. Instead, substitute the words
challenging or doable.
11. Check in with yourself often to see how hungry you are using descriptions such as
not hungry, moderate, very, famished or a 1-10 scale.
12. Every time you think about food, ask yourself if you’re really hungry enough to eat.
13. Experiment with eating smaller meals more frequently.
14. Consider your hunger as a signal that you need fuel, not that you have to go out
and seek the most fantastic eating experience of your life.
15. Practice believing that hunger is for fuel and pleasure, not for meeting emotional
Choosing Satisfying Foods
16. Don’t get hung up on what other people are eating, but ask yourself what you
would like to eat.
17. Remind yourself that foods fall on a nutritional continuum (high value/low value),
not on a moral continuum (good/bad).
18. Never eat without stopping to consider what you want first. Spend time making a
19. Refrain from allowing guilt or shame to contaminate your eating decisions.
20. Don’t eat foods you don’t find satisfying because they’ll remind you of being on a
Eating with Awareness and Enjoyment
21. Before you eat, look at your food, the portion size, its presentation. Breathe
22. Chew every mouthful thoroughly to release flavor.
23. Let food sit on your tongue to let your taste buds absorb flavor.
24. When you’re talking, stop eating and when you’re eating, stop talking.
25. Stay connected to your body’s appetite signals while you’re eating.
26. Push away guilt and shame while you’re eating and focus on sensory pleasure.
27. Pause while you’re eating to see how you’re feeling about your food in terms of
quality and quantity.
28. Stop eating when flavor pleasure declines as it will after a while.
29. Rather than being determined to polish off all of the food in front of you, seek the
moment when flavor peaks and you feel an internal “Ah” of satisfaction—and stop.
30. Keep asking yourself while you’re eating, “Am I full?” and “Am I satisfied?”
Stopping When You’re Full or Satisfied
31. Think of full as being enough food (fuel) in your belly and satisfied as being the
high point of pleasure.
32. Quantify fullness and satisfaction with numbers or words such as nearly, too, just
or a 1-10 scale.
33. When you feel full or satisfied, focus on that sensation and broadcast it to your
34. When you’re done eating, put down utensils, push away your plate, get up—do
whatever you need to do to disconnect yourself from the food.
35. Make sure you’re not focusing on the food that’s left and believing you have to
finish it or clean your plate. You decide when enough is enough.
Beliefs to Change
36. From “I need to diet to lose weight” to “Diets don’t work long term.”
37. From “This is too hard” to “I can learn to do this over time.”
38. From “This will take too long” to “If I don’t change now, I’ll only be back in this
same place again so I might as well get going on it.”
39. From “Losing weight is the most important thing” to “I will lose weight if I honor my
appetite and learn to eat ‘normally.’”
40. From “I am bad/worthless/ugly if I’m overweight,” to “I accept my body as it is and
will still try to improve it.”
Stopping Emotional Eating
41. When you have the urge to eat when you’re not hungry, ask yourself what you
might be feeling.
42. Remind yourself that feelings need a different response than food.
43. Get to know what emotions trigger unwanted eating—boredom, loneliness, anxiety,
shame, guilt, disappointment, helplessness—and then learn better ways of dealing
44. Keep a feelings log so you know what’s going on inside of yourself all day long.
45. Reduce stress which will lessen frustration, helplessness, and feeling
46. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself as least as well as you take care of
47. If you find yourself eating when you’re upset, don’t be hard on yourself. Be
compassionate and curious and consider your behavior a learning experience.
48. Get help through therapy if you have a history of trauma or abuse, as there is a
strong correlation between such a history and emotional eating.
49. Be responsible for yourself and don’t blame others for your emotional eating.
50. Tell yourself that you can bear any emotion, practice doing so, and you’ll be
amazed at the emotional muscle you’ll build.
“SUCCESS IS A LIFESTYLE, NOT A DIET”
Believe In Yourself,
Cathy, PCC-ICF, CLC
Professional Certified Coach, Certified Life Coach
Certified Back On Track Facilitator