Weekend Eating Reading: Ellyn Satter

…the Saturday post!

Weekend Eating Reading briefly discusses at least one good book that’s somehow related to ‘joyful eating,’ and is, throughout the weekend, updated with links to notable or newsworthy articles on topics relevant (I hope!) to readers of Eat With Joy. Feel free to point out (and link to) others in the comments!

This week I’d like to highlight the work of Ellyn Satter, a dietician and counselor who’s a recognized authority on the issue of “feeding,” particularly when it comes to feeding children and families. However, her model of “eating competence” is also highly relevant to adults. It is based on the twin concepts of permission and discipline–in her words–

“The permission to choose enjoyable food and eat it in satisfying amounts.”

and

“The discipline to have regular and reliable meals and snacks and to pay attention when eating them.”

(Bet that’s not the kind of “discipline” you expected…)

Weight, for Ellyn Satter, is not the big issue: comfort with eating is.

Her diet plan–which is no diet plan at all–looks like this:

  • Context: Take time to eat, and provide yourself with rewarding meals and snacks at regular and reliable times.
  • Attitude: Cultivate positive attitudes about eating and about food. Emphasize providing rather than depriving; seeking food rather than avoiding it.
  • Food acceptance: Enjoy your eating, eat foods you like, and let yourself be comfortable with and relaxed about what you eat. Enjoying eating supports the natural inclination to seek variety, the keystone of healthful food selection.
  • Internal regulation: Pay attention to your sensations of hunger and fullness to determine how much to eat. Go to the table hungry, eat until you feel satisfied, and then stop, knowing another meal or snack is coming soon when you can do it again.

[from Ellyn Satter’s website]

Remarkably, people who follow Ellyn Satter’s “eating competence model”–whether intentionally or by natural inclination–are happier and healthier, according to published research. Her therapeutic model–which is easily accessed in her clear, easy to read books, is as relevant to those who overeat and binge as it is to those who diet and otherwise restrict.

Much of Ellyn Satter’s work focuses on feeding children, and, in particular, on the feeding relationship between parents and children–parents, she says, get to decide the when and what of eating; children, the whether and how much.

My impression from reading Ellyn Satter’s books is that her approach aims to return people to the instinctive joy that most of us have in food. Food is good! Most cultures appreciate that and nurture joyful trust in eating, but ours–for reasons too complicated for this post–doesn’t. However, gratefully and joyfully accepting and enjoying food is, to me, what people are created by God to do. Eating is pleasurable–one of the great pleasures of life “under the sun,” as the writer of Ecclesiastes put it.

In fact, that’s why this site is called “eat with joy”–it takes its name from Ecclesiastes 9:7-10. Life’s hard–and one of the delights God has given to us is eating. Our right response, then, is joyful gratitude!

my competent eater

I don’t know if Ellyn Satter is a person of faith or not, but I think her work does a great job of helping us get to that place of joyful gratitude. To my mind, it is a ‘Biblical’ diet.

{You can see Ellyn Satter’s full catalog of books here; you may also be able to find them at your local library.}

4 thoughts on “Weekend Eating Reading: Ellyn Satter

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