What's Normal?

It is hard to go through one day in the U.S. without hearing someone talk about fat grams, working out, or comparing body types. With almost 50% of American women and 25% of American men on diets, how can one tell what's normal and what's cause for concern? Here are some distinctions between normal and problematic concerns.

The continuum below represents the range of eating behaviors and attitudes towards food and body image. The majority of people try to function in the “Concerned Well” and “Not An Issue” categories, which reflect high self-esteem and physical health. Note that a person can move from one category to another depending on changes that occur in their self-esteem and attitudes towards food and body image. Also, people can be in one category for food and another category for body image.

Where do YOU fit on this continuum?

Food is not an issue

Concerned Well

Food Preoccupied/Obsessed

Disruptive eating patterns

Eating Disordered

I am not concerned about what others think regarding what and how much I eat.

When I am upset or depressed I eat whatever I am hungry for without any guilt or shame.

I feel no guilt or shame no matter how much I eat or what I eat.

Food is an important part of my life, but only occupies a small part of my time.

I trust my body to tell me what and how much to eat.

I pay attention to what I eat to maintain a healthy body.

I may weigh more than I like, but I enjoy eating and balance my pleasure with eating with my concern for a healthy body.

I am moderate and flexible in goals for eating well.

I try to follow dietary guidelines for healthy eating.

I think about food a lot.

I feel I don’t eat well most of the time.

I feel ashamed when I eat more than others or more than what I feel I should be eating.

I am afraid of getting fat.

I wish I could change how much I want to eat and what I am hungry for.

I have tried diet pills, laxatives, vomiting or extra time exercising in order to lose or maintain my weight.

I have fasted or avoided eating for long periods of time in order to lose or maintain my weight. I feel strong when I can restrict how much I eat.

Eating more than I wanted to makes me feel out of control.

I regularly stuff myself and then exercise, vomit, use diet pills or laxatives to get rid of the food or calories.

My friends/family tell me I am too thin.

I am afraid of eating fat.

When I let myself eat, I have a hard time controlling the amount of food I eat.

I am afraid to eat in front of others.

Body Ownership

Body Acceptance

Body Preoccupied/Obsessed

Distorted Body Image

Body Hate - Disassociation

Body image is not an issue for me.

My body is beautiful to me.

My feelings about my body are not influenced by society’s concept of an ‘ideal’ body shape.

I know significant others in my life will always find me attractive.

I trust my body to find the weight it needs to be at so I can move and feel confident of my physical body.

I base my body image equally on social norms and my own self-concept.

I pay attention to my body and my appearance because it is important to me, but it only occupies a small part of my day.

I nourish my body so it has the strength and energy to achieve my physical goals.

I am able to assert myself and maintain a healthy body without losing my self-esteem.

I spend a significant amount of time viewing my body in the mirror.

I spend a significant amount of time comparing my body to others.

I have days when I feel fat.

I am preoccupied with my body.

I accept society’s ‘ideal’ body shape and size as the best body shape and size.

I’d be more attractive if I was thinner, more muscular, etc.

I spend a significant amount of time exercising, and dieting to change my body.

My body shape and size keeps me from dating or finding someone who will treat me the way I want to be treated.

I have considered changing, or have changed, my body shape and size through surgery.

I wish I could change the way I look in the mirror.

I often feel separated and distant from my body – as if it belonged to someone else.

I hate my body and I often isolate myself from others.

I don’t see anything positive or even neutral about my body size.

I don’t believe others when they tell me I look OK.

I hate the way I look in the mirror.