An Approach To Food Focusing On Body Wisdom And Joy

Registered dietitian, researcher, and family therapist Ellyn Satter believes people should cease striving to eat healthier and lose weight, and instead focus on become competent eaters.

Competent eaters are, according to Satter, flexible, positive, and comfortable with food. They count on themselves to get enough to eat of foods they enjoy.

Creating Eating Competence

Eating competency is not about losing weight, but about tuning into the body’s wisdom, and experiencing the joy of eating. To feel good about food and develop eating competency, Satter suggests the following:

  • Celebrate Eating. To celebrate eating involves a big attitude adjustment for many of us. It means embracing the idea that it’s okay to enjoy eating, to like what we eat, and to take time to eat. Our current attitude of avoiding disease and fat takes the joy out of eating, and when food is consumed without joy Satter finds that nutrition and health suffer. Feeding ourself does require discipline, but the discipline must be positive.
  • Enjoy Food. We may think that if we give ourself permission to enjoy food we will lose all control, and consume everything in sight. However, although appetite compels us to seek food, appetites can be satisfied. It is normal to eat until comfortably full, and then to stop—even if what we are consuming is extremely tasty. Satter points out that if people pay attention while eating, they will notice at some point they have had enough.
  • Permission and Discipline. Satter believes people should eat as much as they want because she has faith in the body’s wisdom, and that wisdom can effectively keep us from going overboard. Yet, many of us are out of touch with this wisdom and need to reconnect with the internal regulators of hunger, appetite, and satiety. We can relearn how to work with our body instead of against it, and this involves finding a balance between permission and discipline.
  • Permission allows us to choose foods we enjoy, and eat them in satisfying amounts. Discipline is giving ourself the structure of regular, reliable meals, and sit-down snacks—and being attentive to our food, and ourself, while eating.
  • Faithful Feeding. It’s vital to feed ourself reliably by having predictable mealtimes, making the effort to prepare food that tastes good, and then taking time to enjoy the eating experience. Grabbing food whenever we think of it, absent-mindedly snacking, or constantly restricting food intake undermines the internal support created by faithfully feeding ourself well.

If Satter’s approach appeals to you, and you’re working with a doctor or dietitian on eating issues, be sure to discuss Satter’s concepts with your healthcare professional before making any dietary or lifestyle changes.

To learn more about Satter’s approach to eating, go to the Ellyn Satter Institute website (link below). There’s a wealth of information there, plus links to many relevant articles, and books.

Source: Ellyn Satter Institute
Photo credit: Britt Selvitelle

Eating Disorder Self Test. Take the EAT-26 self test to see if you might have eating disorder symptoms that might require professional evaluation. All answers are confidential.

Find a Treatment Facility Near You

Click on a state below to find eating disorder treatment options that could be right for you.

The information provided on is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between a patient/site visitor and his/her health professional. This information is solely for informational and educational purposes and we encourage all visitors to see a licensed physician if they believe that they have an eating disorder. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Neither the owners or employees of nor the author(s) of site content take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading this site. Always speak with your primary health care provider before engaging in any form of self treatment. Please see our Legal Statement for further information.

Copyright © 2008-2017
Company Information

© 2017 All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of's terms of service and privacy policy. The material on this site is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified health care provider.