Ellyn Satter has already written a lot about it the Satter Eating Competence Model (ecSatter), and much of what she has written is available on her website http://www.ellynsatter.com. I love browsing on her site, and I think you will, too, if you check it out. I’ll give you some tips about where to find the helpful materials about eating competence there. First, though, let me quote something from Satter’s writing that sort of sums it all up.
“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.”
On the Website
So, when you go to the site, you will see tabs at the top of the home page. There is a tab called “How to Eat.” How convenient! Click on that tab, and you will find that “Adult’s Eating and Weight” is the first category listed, and “Eating Competence” listed as the first topic in that category.
Of course, ALL of the topics listed under that category are interesting, and I recommend reading them all, as each is very brief and easy to read quickly. To learn more about what “Eating Competency” means, as defined by Satter, click on that topic and go from there. There are links within that reading that lead you to issues of “Family Meals Focus” that elaborate more on the concepts. I especially like Family Meals Focus #21, because it summarizes the components of competent eating. Those four components are context, attitude, food acceptance, and internal regulation. A brief explanation of each of these components is provided, and there are also links to other issues of Family Meals Focus (FMF) which discuss each component in more depth.
I’ll quote a bit more about each of the four components of competent eating.
From FMF#22 about attitude: “Competent eaters…enjoy food and eating and they are comfortable with their enjoyment. They feel it is ok to eat food they like in amounts they find satisfying.”
From FMF#23 about food acceptance: “Being able to be calm and relaxed in the presence of unfamiliar food: to experiment with it; to pick and choose from what’s available, and to say yes, please, and no, thank you.”
About the relationship between appetite and satisfaction: “Being an epicure, valuing and experiencing sensual pleasure, is a critical factor in becoming satisfied.” “As one of my patients put it, ‘I am ready to stop when my mouth is finished as well as my stomach.’ ”
From FMF#24 about internal regulation: “Your body knows how much you need to eat. Essential to eating’s rich reward is having enough to eat. Being hungry and eager to eat can feel positive and exciting on the one hand or negative and distressing on the other. The difference lies in whether or not you are confident that your hunger and appetite will be satisfied, that you can look forward to getting enough of the food that you find rewarding.” “After people learn to trust and honor their true and legitimate needs, they find that rather than periodically cutting loose and eating a great deal of high-calorie food, they eat moderately and consistently of all food, all the time, and find it genuinely satisfying.”
Ok, I want to interject my own comment here. When you see the words “true and legitimate needs,” you may be thinking about vegetables and high fiber cereals. That is NOT what this statement is about. The statement is about recognizing that you need to satisfy your hunger, and not restrict your eating to the point that you stop before your body tells you that your hunger is sated. This requires paying close attention to how you are feeling as you eat, of course. That leads into the final component, which is context management.
From FMF#25 about eating competance: “To reap the rewards of trustworthy, satisfying, internally regulated eating, you must provide yourself with regular, reliable, rewarding meals as well as sit-down snacks if you need them. You will do a good job with eating as much as you need of a variety of food if you reliably feed yourself, go to some trouble to make food taste good, and take the time to tune in and enjoy your food.”
So context management is about structure of meals and mealtimes, not really about rules of what to eat, what to avoid, and how much to eat. It’s about having family meals, if you are in a family situation, rather than the approach of each family member doing their own thing about when and what they eat. It’s about planning ahead for when you will eat and what you will eat, whether you are in a family situation or living alone. That doesn’t mean you can’t get takeout sometimes, it just means it should be fit into an overall plan of structured meals based on some forethought.
How It Works for Me
Personally, I have chosen the convenience of healthy meals prepared for me, for now. I am beginning to tire a little of not having the option of choosing what is on the menu, though. Sometimes I look at the provided meal and say to myself, “Hmmm, that is not all that appealing to me right now. I’ll see what the next meal is and maybe have that instead.” So, I end up saving the less favored meal for when I have no other choice. There have been some changes made in the menus recently, and while some of them are very positive changes (more fresh fruit variety), others are not as appealing (no more crepes or french toast dipping sticks for breakfast, more oatmeal, and the substitution of seemingly unsweetened greek yogurt for the sweeter variety that I prefer). BUT, I still like the convenience of having meals waiting for me in the refrigerator! I may soon have a roommate who likes to cook, and then hopefully the two of us can do some meal planning together.
I hope this information about competent eating will be helpful to you, and inspire you to delve into the subject more by reading more on Satter’s website, and perhaps even in her books. Her writing is easy and entertaining to read, and there is also a lot on the website about raising children to be competent eaters. I especially relate to the practicality of Satter’s approach. I think you will see what I mean if you read some of her writing yourself. I recognize that several others have written about the concept of internally regulated eating, but I have been a devout follower of Satter for many years, and have always found her work to be very helpful and inspiring. While you are at the Satter website, check out “Using Forbidden Foods” under the topic of “Family Meals and Snacks,” the second category under the “How to Eat” tab. I think it gives some wise guidance for how “treats” can fit into a plan for competent eating and raising competent eaters.
Ellyn Satter is both a registered dietitian and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, with 40 years of professional experience in counseling clients. If you want to know more about her, check out the “about us” tab on her website, and also, if you want more details, click on the “Curriculum Vitae” link under that tab.
My interest in nutrition developed from the weight issues I had in my youth. My sister and I always tended to be heavier than other kids, and we were teased about it, so naturally I wanted to "fix" myself by dieting. That worked pretty well in my teenage years, but adulthood was much more challenging. I started out as a dietitian who advocated dieting, but due to my own experience with my weight and dieting, as well as my extensive study of the subject of weight management, I have become an advocate of Health at Every Size. The first fellow professional who influenced my "conversion" was Ellyn Satter, who is also a dietitian. I got my Bachelor's Degree in Dietetics in 1975, (LSU) followed by a Master's in 1981(Univ of TN), and a PhD in 1997 (Univ of TN). I have worked in longterm care, public health, and one hospital. For the last 8 years, I have been teaching at the college level. I am the proud mother of a 24 year old son, and have been single since my divorce in 1993. That is when I moved to Atlanta from Cookeville, Tennessee. I moved around a lot in my childhood due to my father's job, but my parents grew up in Texas, and that is where my roots are. I lived in Brazil for 3 years as a teenager, and one of my sisters still lives there.