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What is Normal Eating?

When they get frustrated, many people on a weight loss journey will say “I just want to eat normally!”

In today's podcast, Marchelle and I ask the question: what exactly do we mean when we say we want to eat normally? What exactly is normal eating, anyway? It's a fascinating question and one each of us needs to seriously think about!

Episode Highlights:

5:44 So here's the interesting thing about normal. We're hardwired to conform to whatever our society tells us is normal. So when we do what everybody else does, we are part of that group. And when we're part of a group, we survive, we have a primal instinct to survive and to conform, to group standards of behavior.

13:19 The corporate food giants are out there trying to get us to desire their products so that we'll purchase and consume them. They study our brains very carefully so they know just how to trigger that desire by putting just the right amount of sugar in their food to trigger a dopamine release. And they call this the bliss point, and they put chemicals in the food to give it the right mouth feel. They've basically hacked our primitive brains by engineering their foods to create as much desire as possible so that they can reap the profit.

24:06 How would you define normal? If you took back control of that word for yourself and found it for yourself, what would you be eating in your new normal? How would you be managing your emotions without food or alcohol?

--- Full Raw Transcription Below ---

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:00):

You are listening to the Keep The Weight Off podcast with Dr. Angela, episode number 50. Woohoo!

Introduction (00:07):

Welcome to The Keep The Weight Off podcast, where we bust all the dieting myths and discover not just how to lose weight, but more importantly, how to keep it off. We go way beyond the food and we use science and psychology to give you strategies that work. And now your host, Dr. Angela Zechmann.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:27):

Hey everyone. Welcome. Hey Marchelle, can you believe that we are actually recording our 50th episode of this podcast? I cannot believe it.

Marchelle (00:38):

Well, yeah. Fifty been coming up a lot for me because i just turned 50 as well. So …

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:45):

That's right. well, time is just flying by. I just can't even believe it. I mean, that's, that's almost a year,

Marchelle (00:54):

You know? I know it doesn't seem like it.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (00:57):


Marchelle (00:58):

Wow. Okay. I'm excited. I'm glad that we're on number 50. It means I know good information to tell everyone. Yeah.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (01:04):

well, all right. So, so today I wanted to talk about normal eating because we hear this a lot. Like so many people are gonna come in, they'll come in and they'll say, I just wanna be able to eat whatever I want and be at a normal weight. How many people think that? Right.

Marchelle (01:22):

I feel that.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (01:24):

I do too - it's like, can I just eat whatever I want and be normal? It's like, you know, there was, there is a period of time where you could get by with that, you know, when you were younger, maybe, although not so much these days. So, and sometimes people will say I don't wanna have to restrict myself. Right. So I just, yeah, I just wanna eat what I want. So I really wanna…

Marchelle (01:48):

Talk that's that's where those cheat days come in, when people do cheat days, it's because they gotta hold these resentments for not being able to eat whatever they want. So they do, you know, they mm-hmm , they they're dead fast in until Friday and after cheat day.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (02:05):

So yeah. You know, what's interesting. I did, I did this I did this body for life program when I was in my younger years and they let you eat what? Well, you had a, you had a free day on Sundays every week. It was like a, yeah, I dunno. It was a 90 day program, or something every day on Sunday you had a, a free day and what he meant was free not to exercise, but he also allowed you to have a cheat meal. And so it was just like, ah, there's all that diet mentality thinking going on. So definitely like well, I wanna discuss this because the thing, so everybody knows that I've been in coach certification. I'm now certified as a life coach. And one of the things that I learn in coach certification is to actually write down the thoughts that I'm thinking, and then take each word and tease that out and ask myself, what do I actually mean by this word? So in this case, I think it's valuable to tease out exactly what do we mean when we say that we wanna eat normally? So like, what exactly is normal eating, right? What outward mean to us? And so I went, I looked it up in the dictionary. The definition for normal is conforming to a standard. It is usual, typical or expected. So I think that's a pretty good definition. Would you agree? Like what's normal eating would be it's usual or typical or expected. Okay. Makes sense.

Marchelle (03:44):

Does make sense!

Dr. Angela Zechmann (03:45):

Yeah. So if you think about it, there are a lot of things that used to be normal that are no longer normal . So some of these things that used to be normal…

Marchelle (03:57):

For me, (inaudible - 2020?) Not normal now.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:00):

right, exactly. But some of the things that used to be normal, we are now horrified by. So for example, smoking, smoking is like that when I was growing up in the sixties and seventies, everyone smoked and smoking was normal. And, you know, we already talked about how we used to make Ash trays for our relatives, for Christmas gifts. Right. yeah.

Marchelle (04:22):

The clay ash trays, I remember

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:24):

Uhhuh. Yeah. And in the early eighties, there were smoking sections in restaurants and even on planes, there were vending machines in restaurants and malls that sold cigarettes. Smoking was absolutely normal and many people smoked because they felt awkward, not smoking. So that's interesting to think about that.

Marchelle (04:45):

Yeah. I remember like that's so I smoked Uhhuh and I remember why I started smoking is I wanted to fit in and be cool.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:52):

Yeah. So cool.

Marchelle (04:55):

Now smoking is not cool.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (04:55):

Right? another thing that used to be norm. It was slavery, you know, think about that up until 1865 and…

Marchelle (05:06):

That's way before me .

Dr. Angela Zechmann (05:07):

Well, yeah, me too, up until 1865 in the United States, many people owned other people as slaves and the slaves did the work while their owners re the benefits and that was accepted as completely normal. And in the past even well, respected presidents owned slaves. Now that's horrifying to me now. Right? Right. So that was normal in many parts of the world, even still today, suppressing women's rights is normal. And I honestly can't believe how any society would think that's, but it is in different parts of the world. So here's the interesting thing about normal. We're hardwired to conform to whatever our society tells us is normal. So when we do what everybody else does, we are part of that group. And when we're part of a group, we survive, we have a primal instinct to survive and to conform, to group standards of behavior. And I've talked about this before, and that's probably what was going on for you when you were younger and decided to take up smoking in order to fit in - like your brain was saying, you gotta do this or you're not gonna survive. So if we just…

Marchelle (06:22):

Well's really sad. I think that fast food eating is normal in our society. I mean, they're,

Dr. Angela Zechmann (06:28):

That's true.

Marchelle (06:29):

You know, they're getting richer and richer and richer. So obviously people are going for it and eating it. And it's, it's very normal. And mm-hmm yeah. We gotta break that break that cycle. Yeah.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (06:40):

So when we decide to go against what's normal, we feel really stressed out because as far as our brain is concerned, we might die. So keep that in mind, as we're talking about what normal eating is super important. So let's ask what is normal eating, what's normal in our society? What do people conform to and what do people feel pressured to do? So that's a really interesting thing to think about. So for example, cereal for breakfast, if you even eat breakfast, is normal. Well, think about how did that happen? It happened because cereal makers decided, sugary cereal would be a good breakfast and they advertised to children during Saturday morning cartoons. So children would ask for their favorite cereal when they went shopping with mom at the grocery store. Stopping at Starbucks for a latte. And AONE in the morning is normal heading there mid afternoon for a frappuccino pick me up is normal, a subway sandwich with chips, a cookie, and a soda for lunch is normal packing. A kid's lunch with Lunchables is normal, or maybe it's a sandwich, peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chips and Capri Sun juice and Oreos is normal.

Marchelle (08:05):

Okay, wait a minute. That's what I used to pack my son's lunch with!

Dr. Angela Zechmann (08:09):

Me too. That's what I that's exactly right. That's

Dr. Angela Zechmann (08:11):

Exactly what I packed my kids' lunch with too. Yeah. Going to McDonald's or burger king or taco bell for dinner is normal and like what other places?

Marchelle (08:22):

Yeah. so Taco Time,

Dr. Angela Zechmann (08:25):

Taco Time, favorite Uhhuh. Yeah.

Marchelle (08:27):

And Uhhuh God, that's just really sad. I mean, yeah. It is normal.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (08:32):

And nowadays, you know, doing the door dash thing or the Uber eats thing is normal, especially since the pandemic, not

Marchelle (08:39):

Especially since yeah. That's my son, Jordan right now. He just eats pretty much every meal through door dash. Yeah.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (08:48):

Yeah. So to my kids. So yeah. Eating out at Red Robin or Olive Garden for a family meal or a celebration is normal drinking alcohol, maybe having a cocktail before dinner and then wine with dinner. And maybe some after, after dinner too, that's all normal eating. Chips and salsa or popcorn or cream in front of the TV to relax at night is normal. Eating things out of that. Mm-Hmm, eating things out of bags and packages is perfectly normal. Eating foods that are filled with preservatives and chemicals, all perfectly normal. Eating dessert is normal. Just imagine that you're at a party or a conference, and there's a dessert table. I've been to these conferences. This is normal to have a dessert table. Me too. It's expected that you'll go up to that dessert table and sample a few things. If you don't, it would be really normal for someone to say, Hey, aren't you gonna have some dessert or this is so good. You should try it. And if you were to say, no, not today, that person might say, well, why not? Are you on some sort of low carb diet? Like really? You only live once this is worth it. It's really good. That's normal. Right.

Marchelle (10:08):

Right. And I was just thinking of this one time I was at a buffet. Yeah. And there was this little boy that was sitting at a table next to me and they helped like the soft serve ice cream mm-hmm and he was throwing a fit. Cause he did not wanna eat dinner at all. He just wanted the soft serve ice cream. His parents gave in cuz they were embarrassed and just let him have this dessert because the dessert table, there was impressive. It was colorful and had all these, you know, plasticy looking, I don't know, plates of cakes and all this stuff. And then the, then the soft couldn't have had like all the toppings and this kid just zoned in on that. And he would not eat anything else. And I felt so bad for them because yeah. They didn't know what to do. And so they just gave in and yeah. Yeah. And I'm sure that happens

Dr. Angela Zechmann (10:57):

Yeah. More all the time. Mm-Hmm

Marchelle (10:59):

just with this kid. Yeah.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (11:00):

Yeah. They used to happen to me when my kids were little too, so. Wow. Right. It's it's really common. Now let's imagine that you were at a you were at like a buffet or something and you sampled a whole bunch of different things. So like, let's say you had like this little mini cupcake and the little tart and a brownie and a piece of candy and maybe you put some ice cream on the side. It's really not normal for someone to say, whoa, why are you eating all that sugar? Why are you eating so much? that would not be normal. In fact, that would be really rude, you know? So think about why, why is it okay to ask why someone isn't eating sugar and it's not okay to ask why someone is! Because it's normal to overeat sugar. And so we don't question the things that we conform to, even if they don't serve us.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (12:00):

So we've been socialized to believe that it's normal to have dessert. And it's fun to splurge. Birthday cakes are normal holiday treats for all different kinds of holidays are normal. It's very normal to eat sugar and flour in our society. Eating to soothe negative emotions is perfectly normal. Eating candy while we work on our computers is normal. If I'm feeling frustrated, a bag of chips helps. If I'm sad or lonely ice cream is a favorite at friend. Drinking wine or beer at night to relax is normal. Wine tasting and beer tasting is normal. So just think about all the things that you eat and drink because it's normal. And you've been socialized to believe that this is what you should do because everyone else does. And think about our children too. All of the things that they're socialized to eat and drink, because that's just what normal is for kids.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (13:01):

My kids would have birthday parties and you would, you know, you would arrange a birthday party at some venue and you'd have pizza and cake and soda. And you would send the kids home with a treat bag with a bunch of candy that's normal. Right. so, yeah. So just think about how, especially in the American culture, but in many other Western societies as well, we're constantly being exposed to food and snacking, the corporate food giants are out there trying to get us to desire their products so that we'll purchase and consume them. They've actually studied our brains. And I've talked about this in previous podcasts, they study our brains very carefully. So they know just how to trigger that desire by putting just the right amount of sugar in their food to trigger a dopamine release. And they call this the bliss point and they put chemicals in the food to give it the right mouth feel. They've basically hacked our primitive brains by engineering their foods to create as much desire as possible so that they can reap the profit.

Marchelle (14:15):

That scared me - that last sentence. When you, when you said 'engineering' their food. Oh yeah. You just hit me in the stomach. Yeah. Just because

Dr. Angela Zechmann (14:24):


Marchelle (14:25):

of how disgusting that that is.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (14:27):

Mm-Hmm yeah. Well these highly engineered foods eaten frequently have become perfectly normal. But of course, you know, it's not in our best in interest, right? cause think about what all what's are the results of all of this normal eating and drinking, being overweight is normal.

Marchelle (14:45):

Yeah. Being sick.

New Speaker (14:47):

As a matter of fact, in 2018, which is the most recent CDC data I could find, 73.6% of Americans were struggling with overweight or obesity. That's nearly three and four people who are struggling with excess weight. So think about that. Being tired and achy is normal. Having heartburn and bowel issues is normal. Having depression and anxiety is normal. Insomnia and poor sleep is normal. Needing joint replacements because of arthritis is normal. Having diabetes is becoming more and more normal all the time. These are all the direct results of all that sugar and flour and alcohol that we're constantly eating and drinking.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (15:38):

So people will often think it's not fair that I have to restrict my food. It's normal for people to be able to eat whatever they want. I shouldn't have to think about what I'm eating. I should be able to eat whatever I want. Just like everyone else. And I want you to know that's crazy to think like that. When you eat a food that reacts in your brain, the way it's supposed to react, the way it's been engineered to react and it creates cravings and desire, there's nothing wrong with you. That's normal when you eat a food that cause this huge insulin spikes, because of all the sugar and flour in it, it's normal to gain weight. There's nothing wrong with you. It's crazy to think that you are not normal when you put on weight eating highly processed chemical engineered food that's designed to cause cravings and weight gain.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (16:32):

So if you are eating like a normal person, you're gonna get sick and gain weight like a normal person. So the question then becomes, why do you think that the people that are normal are the people that can eat the normal processed, junk food and not gain weight. I want you to question that - because that's definitely not normal. And what we now know about obesity is that these people who eat this stuff and don't gain weight, have a more severe form of the disease of obesity. They're definitely not healthy. The truth is that you can't eat processed, junk food all the time and be healthy. It just doesn't work like that. So I want you to ask yourself whether it should be normal to celebrate reward, break, and escape, with food or sugary drinks. Do you want that to be normal in your life? Do you want the way that you celebrate to be, to eat food that doesn't serve your body?

Dr. Angela Zechmann (17:30):

Think about that. So also ask yourself, does eating normally get me the result that I want? So what results do I want for my food? Do I wanna feel vibrant and energized throughout the day? Does the food I'm eating do that? Am I at the body weight that I wanna be? Do I feel like I'm managing my emotions and not always eating all the time? So those are the questions that you really need to ask yourself. If you wanna understand what normal eating really is. So I would invite you to just look around you and notice what's happening. The obesity epidemic in this country and around the world just keeps getting worse. We're getting sicker and sicker. Why it's because of our modern food supply. It's totally toxic. And it's because we have no idea how to manage our emotional lives without food. And we've been socialized to use food and alcohol, to comfort ourselves and to relieve boredom.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (18:29):

And frankly, we're killing ourselves slowly in the process. I see it all day, every day in my practice. People actually have no idea how sick they really are. So when we're normally eating this much food and suffering such severe consequences for doing so, would it make makes sense that we might wanna teach ourselves a new normal? Does it make sense that we might wanna actually restrict our eating a little bit? So I'd encourage you to ask yourself what would a new normal look like? Is it possible to go against your socialization and think differently? So think about that. What do you think Marchelle?

Marchelle (19:14):

I, I don't know. I, I'm not sure if like, for me, I would use the word restrict at this point. I think at first that's how it felt, but mm-hmm, now you get to a point where you just see things differently. Like when you go into the grocery store, I used to see, you know, all of the pretty colors and packaging and you know, processed food, or what's gonna make me feel good. Feel good food, I guess mm-hmm yeah. And now I just see things differently. I like to get food that doesn't have labels on it.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (19:43):

yeah, exactly.  

Marchelle (19:44):

So I wouldn't, I mean, like, I first, I guess I would call it restrictive now I just call it healthy,

Dr. Angela Zechmann (19:50):

Right? Yeah. Yeah. Well, but the idea is people will just say, I just, you know, I just wanna eat whatever I want. Well, maybe that's not because when you're eating these highly engineered foods, what you want is gonna change. Right?

Marchelle (20:05):

Exactly. That's that's what exactly where I was going with. That is what you want is gonna change.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (20:09):

And when you stop eating high, highly engineered foods, what you want is gonna change. Yep. So that's how you wanna think about this. So I actually decided that I'm not gonna eat normal food anymore. I'm not gonna change what I think of as normal. So I decided that I, I would not feed my body constant doses of sugar and flour, and that I would eat mostly unprocessed whole food. That's what's normal for me now. And I look around and I see what's happening. And I'm like, no, thanks. I'm not going off the cliff with everybody else. There's no reason I shouldn't be able to sleep well. There's no reason I should feel anxious and depressed all the time. There's no reason I should feel tired and achy all the time. There's no need for hip and knee replacements. As I get older, there, no reason for a CPAP machine.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (21:09):

And if, if you don't know what that is, it's when you have sleep apnea, it helps you to sleep better. None of that is going to be normal for me. Right. I've just learned to eat, to fuel my body. And I've learned to manage and process my emotions without junk food. I've had to endure some strange looks, no question. And a lot of people who think I'm a fanatic and you know what, that's fine with me. I just envision I'm one of those pioneers in the 1960s who said, no, thanks to smoking. Or maybe I'm like a slave owner who suddenly realized what they were doing and set their slave free. I'm willing to endure a little social discomfort in order to define a new normal and create the life that I want. So how about you?

Marchelle (21:59):

I just feel like we're, you know, right now we're slaves too, the food industry, you know, a lot of people yeah. And we just don't realize it. And, and so, you know, to free ourselves from that, we just have to look at things differently. I think that all this information is amazing. I love, I love the way this podcast is written because I, I just it's, I, I know this information, but to hear it again it just kind of brings it back up and gives me like a new, a new outlook on things. Yeah. Yeah. I pay more attention. Cause I started thinking of little ways that I've been slipping through the holidays. Uhhuh.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (22:35):

Yeah. That's normal too. yeah. So for all of our podcast listeners, I would invite you to question what is normal eating and decide what role you want food to play in your life. It's a new year. And I want you to think about this with much more care and concern than you may have thought about it in the past. Because if food is your best friend, your comfort, your relaxation, your celebration. If food is the way you escape your emotion, it's gonna be really difficult for you to be at a body size that you wanna be at. But even more importantly, if you keep buffering your emotions with food, you're never gonna feel like you have any authority over your life. You're gonna feel powerless. And at the mercy of food and your cravings, you're gonna have a really hard time generating the glorious life that you're meant to be living. You'll always feel like you're a slave to your cravings, your sicknesses and the food industry and who needs that. So I want you, nobody needs that. I want you to consider a life that is programmed by you, not programmed by our society and not programmed by the cravings of your primitive brain or by the food industry, but by you. So think about it. What would shift?

Dr. Angela Zechmann (24:06):

How would you define normal? If you took back control of that word for yourself and found it for yourself, what would you be eating in your new normal? How would you be managing your emotions without food or alcohol? Now, I fully recognize that what I'm asking you to do takes a lot of courage and I've had to be courageous myself. Remember your primitive brain is gonna think that you might die. so this choice to go against what's normal is a higher level evolved choice, but the fact that you're listening and you're interested in what normal eating is, makes me think that maybe you are ready to make this choice. So ask yourself, would you be willing to suffer through a few questions? And if you raise eyebrows and perhaps even some hurt feelings, as you define for yourself, what your new normal is, is is it time to stop letting corporate food and beverage giants define for you what normal is and begin to make your own decisions about what normal eating even actually means.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (25:19):

That's the question I'd like each of you to ask yourselves, as you're on this journey. We would have to manage the anxiety that our primitive brain puts in our way when we decide to go against group norms and reassure this primitive brain of ours, that we're not gonna perish alone for making choices that serve our health. It's not an easy choice. If you want help, we're here for you. So if you are wondering what you can do and how you can start defining a new normal for yourself, what I would recommend would be to download our Five Day Sugar Detox Menu. And we'll put a link to that in the show notes, that will be a good first step. And then, make sure that you join Sugar and Flour Buster Society because in Sugar and Flour Buster Society, it's normal for us to not eat sugar and flour!

Dr. Angela Zechmann (26:11):

And so you won't feel abnormal for not eating it. And then if you want an in depth understanding of what it is that you should be eating and how to manage your emotions and all kinds of other awesome and information, that's gonna help you on your journey, feel free to join us in the membership. In the membership, there is a 30 day 'Done With Dieting Bootcamp' to get you started. And then I also have all sorts of other mini courses to help you learn how to think differently to help you learn how to manage your emotions, to help you learn how to manage your time. There's so much there. And you will, it will really, really help you on your weight loss journey to be a part of our membership. And we would love to have you, and you'll have all the support that you need in the membership, including individual and group coaching. So I hope you'll join us there in the membership and start defining for yourself what a new normal is.

Dr. Angela Zechmann (27:12):

So that's all for today. Everybody. Thank you for listening and we will see you next week. Take care. Bye-Bye bye everybody.

Closing (27:31):

Hey, if you really want to lose weight and keep it off for good, your next step is to sign up for Dr. Angela's free weight loss course, where you're going to learn everything you need to get started on your weight loss journey, the right way. Just head over to to sign up. Also, it would be awesome if you could take a few moments and write a review on iTunes. Thanks! And we'll see you in Journey Beyond Weight Loss.

--- End of Transcription ---

Dr. Angela



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