We make over 200 food-related decisions a day, most of which are unrelated to a grumbling stomach. So, What’s your eating style? Answer these 5 questions to find out and see how it affects your relationship with food. Note: If you are unsure, go with what you usually do.
When it comes to eating, I eat:
- Until the food on my plate is gone. I feel “stuffed” after meals.
- Based on what I’m feeling or to change how I’m feeling, often past the point of fullness.
- At designated meal times or places that typically involve food.
- When something sounds good or is available.
- On a restricted basis.
- Typically when I feel hungry.
When I’m eating, I’m most likely focused on:
- Thinking about what I’m going to have for my next meal!
- Emotional thoughts like, “I deserve a treat after the day I’ve had,” or “I shouldn’t be eating this.” I often feel guilty when I eat, or shortly thereafter.
- Eating my meal. I’m a creature of habit.
- My computer or tv with little attention to the meal in front of me. I am often surprised when my food is gone!
- Making sure I’ve got my food just right. I always weigh and measure my foods based on a meal plan and stress out if things go awry.
- The food in front of me. I really try to limit other distractions.
If 1 is STUFFED and 10 is STARVING, I normally eat when I’m at a:
- 8-9 and stop when I’m at a 2-3
- Eat when I need a distraction, paying less attention to a physical “hunger scale.”
- I don’t notice extremes because I typically just follow my routine.
- I eat at various places on the scale. Sometimes I’m famished and looking for the first available and convenient option that “sounds good.”
- Hunger has little influence over my eating habits. Having control over when and what I eat is most important.
- A 6-7 and stop around a 3-4
I see my relationship with food as:
- Mixed. I enjoy good food but often find myself eating more than I initially intended.
- My best friend and my worst enemy. It makes me feel good in the short run, but guilty and judgmental of myself in the long run.
- I don’t really think about my relationship with food much. It’s kind of a non-event in my life.
- It’s about convenience and often eating on the go.
- Either a source of anxiety or empowerment, depending on whether I’m strictly following my desired habits.
- Pretty good. I get a lot of pleasure from noticing the complex flavors and textures in the food I eat.
My go-to foods include:
- A variety of foods that usually include more sugars and salts than what is likely recommended per day.
- I often make “healthy choices,” but I also revert to salty or sugary options when I’m feeling overwhelmed or emotional.
- foods based on the place I’m at or the activity I’m doing.
- options of convenience and palatability. Fruits and veggies are unintentionally limited in my diet.
- What I have specifically pre-planned with no room for deviation.
- A variety of foods. I make “healthy” choices, but also include “treats” on a regular basis.
Now look at your answers and read the food styles you identified most with below
Over-Eater: All of us over-eat on occasion. Thanksgiving meals, a family celebration with your favorite homecooked lasagna, or the buffet on a cruise can leave even the most conscious eater feeling stuffed. This often happens because of the abundance of choice that tantalizes your taste-buds. Having moments of overeating may be considered a fine pleasure in life. It’s important to remember that one meal a day of eating does not cure or kill you.
Like most things, the danger comes in the extremes. When over-eating becomes the rule rather than the exception, further exploration into these patterns is warranted and may be evidence of binge eating.
Signs Of Binge Eating:
- Overeating and restricting food with regularity
- Feeling guilty following an eating event
- Categorizing foods as “good” or “bad”
- Avoiding food-related events in deference to food rituals
- Worries over food are impacting work, school, and/or social relationships
- Irritability and over-rumination on food
- Feeling out of control with food
- Using food to escape or distract from emotions or stress
Emotional Eater: Emotional eating is eating in an attempt to avoid unpleasant emotions or make yourself feel better. You are feeding a psychological need rather than a grumbling stomach. Food choices tend to be comfort foods which are high in sugar, fat, and/or salt. That’s because this combination of ingredients causes the release of certain “feel-good” chemicals in the brain. Although they can make you feel better in the short-term, emotionally eating on a regular basis can derail your health goals in the long term. If this is you, identify the situations that trigger emotional eating and find other ways to cope with emotions that don’t involve food.
Habitual Eater: A habitual eater eats out of habit or associated events. These eating patterns are learned over time and are often passed down from generation to generation. This can lead to weight gain when a person associates foods with routine or common activities such as watching tv, hanging out with friends or being in the car. Our family took trips to Lake Powell each summer and those trips often involved multiple Costco-sized bags of peanut M&M’s. It was tradition. Do you have several traditions during the course of a year that involve excessive or unhealthy foods? If so, it might be time to identify some of them and replace them with healthier food options. Be mindful of where, when and how often you eat out of habit rather than hunger and find new habits to replace problematic ones.
American Eater: American eaters follow the typical eating patterns of most Americans, as well as many parts of the industrialized world. This is an “unconscious” or path-of-least-resistance eating. At least 1 out of 4 Americans eat out daily and over 20% of meals are reported to be eaten in a car. Unfortunately, our society is set up to make “American” eating patterns, our default.
The American food industry sets us up to fail. It leads to worse mental health, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and increased risk of heart disease, to mention a few. According to the USDA, we consume about 24% more today than we did 50 years ago. Of those calories, the majority come from processed foods. Most of our grains are coming in the refined form of breads, pastries, and other baked goods. Only 7.9% come from fruits and vegetables. Can you believe that? Only 7.9%.
One of the first suggestions I give to clients who ask for advice about food intake is to focus on getting two cups of fruits and two and a half cups of vegetables each day. Make it a priority over everything else. Over time, you will find the fruits and veggies will replace unhealthy food choices while giving your body the vital nutrients and vitamins it needs.
Obsessively “Pure” Eater: As the saying goes, “The path to hell is paved with good intentions.” Obsessively Pure eaters may begin by making healthy changes to their diets, but it is possible to take a “healthy diet” too far. Due to a mix of personality characteristics, environment, and genetics, for some people, these “healthy changes” are taken to risky extremes.
An overly rigid adherence to this eating style can lead to Orthorexia, a lesser known eating disorder characterized by anxiety around eating. Friends and family may be unaware that a person is suffering from Orthorexia because their eating looks “healthy.” However, sufferers find thoughts of food and meal preparation interfering with life balance on a day-to-day basis, feel like prisoners to their diet.
Ironically, in an effort to improve health, Orthorexia compromises and potentially jeopardizes a person’s physical health and mental well-being because they are deprived of specific nutrients. If you suffer from Orthorexia, support is available to help you learn to shift your focus and gain a healthy relationship with food.
Signs Of Orthorexia
- A preoccupation with food and how it’s prepared
- Guilt or Anxiety when unable to adhere to “healthy” food choices
- Refusal to eat a broad range of foods due to “health” concerns
- Feeling “virtuous” when eating “on plan”
- Devoting large amounts of time to food/diet research
- Losing interest in previously enjoyed activities
Mindful Eater: When a person eats mindfully, they limit distractions and focus on the food that’s in front of them. They may describe themselves as a “foodie” and find real enjoyment from the eating experience. A mindful eater pays attention to their body cues for signals of hunger and fullness and stops eating before feeling stuffed.
Most of us will find ourselves falling into different eating patterns at different points in our lives, but developing a practice of eating mindfully more often is the goal. When developing a mindful eating practice, eat slowly and chew completely. Notice the flavors and textures of the food that you eat.
Mindful eating is usually associated with healthier eating because it allows us to get more enjoyment out of less food. It also allows our bodies to communicate with our brain about when we have eaten sufficiently. It takes an average of 20 minutes for our body to release the pertinent chemicals that signal we are full. If we eat too quickly we will get that message after we have already eaten too much!
So there you have it. Take note of your eating style and enjoy your food!