A recent article in the The Journal of Nutrition (Eating competence of elderly Spanish adults is associated with a healthy diet and a favorable cardiovascular disease risk profile. May 2010) is another glimpse into the HOW of eating and the effect on health. This study on Eating Competence included almost 700 people who already had risk factors for heart disease including high blood pressure and diabetes. (Earlier studies showing EC folks have lower BMI, diet less, have a more balanced intake, less disordered eating, and better nutrition were on healthy young adults.)
What was so exciting was the those who were ‘eating competent’ had better blood sugar measures, better levels of “good cholesterol” tended to have a lower BMI (in spite of higher energy intake– again, it’s NOT just calories in calories out) and higher adherence to the Mediterannean diet and higher fruit intake. Note, the Eating Competence (ecSatter) validated measuring tool says nothing about calorie counts or food guides. It’s essentially about HOW you eat.
I am thrilled that we are beginning to look more at the HOW in good, randomized controlled study kinds of ways. Alas, there isn’t much money to be made on helping people be competent with their eating so we don’t have hoards of Universities and researchers lined up… In fact, there is a helluva lot of money to be made off incompetent eating, from diet pills to cholesterol meds and bariatric surgery.
But, you may ask, what is “eating competence? (following is from ellynsatter.com)
Eating is supposed to be enjoyable. For too many of us, eating represents trouble. We feel guilty if we eat what we ”shouldn’t” and deprived if we eat what we ”should.” We eat more than we think we should, and we worry about weight. Surveys show that when the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers. Roughly half of today’s consumers who know about MyPyramid, the official dietary guide, say they ”don’t really follow it.” Only 20% of consumers get their five-a-day of fruits and vegetables, and more and more people are overweight. What we are doing isn’t working. But what do we do instead? Consider the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter).
ecSatter encourages you to feel positive about your eating, to be reliable about feeding yourself, to eat food you enjoy, to eat enough to feel satisfied, and to let your body weigh what it will in accordance with your lifestyle and genetic endowment. Rather than expecting you to manage your eating by the rules, ecSatter encourages you to base your eating on your body’s natural processes: hunger and the drive to survive, appetite and the need for pleasure, the social reward of sharing food and the tendency to maintain preferred and stable body weight.
You may worry that being so positive and relaxed will send your eating out of control. Not so. Being able to eat the foods you like in satisfying amounts gives your eating order and stability. Foods you no longer have to eat become enjoyable foods that you can eat for pleasure. Foods that are no longer forbidden became ordinary foods that you can eat in ordinary ways. Large portion sizes become unappealing when you know that you don’t have to try to make yourself go hungry in the name of weight control. What about your health indicators and your weight? According to research published in the fall 2007 Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior and since, people who are eating competent do better nutritionally, have healthier body weights, and have higher HDLs and lower triglycerides and blood pressures. Remarkably, they are also healthier emotionally and socially. People with high eating competence feel more effective, are more self-aware and are more trusting and comfortable both with themselves and with other people.
To become competent with your eating, emphasize permission and discipline:
The permission to choose enjoyable food and eat it in satisfying amounts.
For more eating competently (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter’s Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see www.EllynSatter.com to purchase books and to review other resources.
Copyright © 2010 by Ellyn Satter. Published at www.EllynSatter.com.
ARE YOU EATING COMPETENT? Are you teaching your child to become a competent eater? That process of learning starts at birth, and what a gift to give a child!