What kind of eater are you?

What kind of eater are you?

Kelly Kapoor Cupcake

This may seem like a weird question – to wonder what kind of eater someone is. And I’m not talking about the vegetarian, vegan, or meat eater debate. I’m talking about exactly how we eat the foods we choose, the relationship a person has with food.

There are so many different kinds, and one person can be one of them, all of them, maybe even none of them. I know that for me, recognizing the eater I am at any given moment has been instrumental in getting a hold on overeating.

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Guilty Gorger – You have “good” foods and you have “bad” foods. So long as you don’t stray off the “good” list, eating is fine, no big deal. One slip onto the “bad” side of the list, one too many cupcakes or a few too many chips, and all hell breaks loose. Because of the connotations of food being either “good” or “bad,” there’s a lot of remorse and guilt tied up with eating certain foods. These feelings of guilt often lead to a downward spiral of overeating.

How to combat it: Assigning the labels of “good” and “bad” to food is never a good idea, it will only lead to problems. Rename foods, if you must, as healthy or nutritious or indulgent and think about what they do for your body. Remember the old adage of enjoying everything in moderation. One cupcake is not going to make you gain weight, just like one salad won’t miraculously make you skinnier.

Stress Snacker – You’ve got three deadlines to meet, midterms are coming up and you’re behind on reading, rent is due next week and you’re more than a little bit short. This is all incredibly stressful – on mind and body. And the only way to alleviate that stress is by eating. And eating. And eating. The eating is distracting, an escape. You turn to food when you have to make difficult decisions because food is always there, it understands.

How to combat it: Look for something else to alleviate your stress, seek another outlet. Walking, reading, writing, even talking on the phone are all good distractions from stress and will often do a far better job of clearing your head than eating an entire pizza could. If the stress is really pressing, try talking to a professional – there’s no harm in getting help if it will make you feel better in every area of your life.

Emotional Eater – Happy? Sad? Melancholy? Overjoyed? Eat! E-A-T! You use food to celebrate, to mourn, to comfort, to remember. Food is a reward for a job well done, or a shoulder to cry on when you fail. Food is playing a staring role in your life, as well it should, but to the point where it’s starting to overshadow some other important characters – like family and friends.

How to combat it: There’s a saying “you’re not a dog, you do not reward yourself with food.” It’s painfully true but, as a culture we gauge our emotions and eat accordingly. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating with a big slice of birthday cake and yes, sometimes the soul does need that piece of chocolate, but know when food is becoming a crutch and when the “celebrating” needs to stop.

Mindless Muncher – The TV is on so you might as well snack, right? Go ahead, grab those chips. And when a commercial comes back on grab the dip. Wait, you’re halfway through this season of New Girl and the chips are already gone? But how? You don’t remember eating them all. You’re still hungry though, maybe some ice cream will do the trick…

How to combat it: Focus, focus, focus. Get rid of distractions when eating. No TV, laptop, or cell phone. Think about what you’re doing in the moment. Pay attention to the flavors, textures, and balance of a meal. If you’re watching TV, try drinking flavored tea instead of eating, that way your hands and mouth are busy and your brain registers flavors without all the extra calories.

Restrictive Rationer – After succumbing to one of the other types of eating, you feel so remorseful that you vow to do better next time. And by do better you mean eat less. To make up for a perceived “failure” you limit the foods you eat for the next day or even multiple days in order to offset the calories. This often leads to a cycle of restricting and then binge eating.

How to combat it: This is very similar to being a guilty gorger, so the thought process to stopping it is very similar. Just because you feel you over indulged for one meal or one day doesn’t mean you can make up for it right.that.second by refusing to eat again for the next 72 hours. That puts the body into starvation mode and it will actually store fat. The best thing to do after eating much too much is to simply begin eating a normal diet again. Easier said than done, but jumping right back on that bandwagon after falling off is the only way to make lifelong, sustainable habits.

Calorie Counter – Numbers count (no pun-intended) and nothing else. The focus is solely on the caloric value of a food, not the nutritional value or the ingredients. So long as you don’t exceed your allotted number of calories for the day, everything else will be fine.

How to combat it: Educate yourself. Many processed and packaged foods that are low in calories are also low in vitamins, minerals and nutrients – the important things our bodies need to be happy and healthy. Focus on nutrition and not numbers. Eating minimally processed foods will be the best way to get the most bang for your (caloric) buck. For example, avocados and nuts are highly caloric but also chalk full of heart healthy fat and minerals and do wonders for hair and skin to boot!

Absentminded Abstainer – You make a sandwich then get a call on your cellphone and before you know it two hours have gone by and the sandwich is still on the counter but your desire to eat it has long since dissipated. Three meals a day is unfathomable, two is maybe doable but you might be too busy or just accidentally forget and not eat at all.

How to combat it: Make a schedule. It sounds silly, to need to write down when you’ll eat meals, but it’s the best way to ensure meals won’t be missed or skipped. Pack a lunch the night before work so you’re not tempted to skip the next day. Always travel with snacks on hand, in your bag or car so when you actually do feel hungry there’s something available.

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I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been every single one of these “eaters” at one point or another. Sometimes it’s a combination of a few, sometimes I have no idea how I would classify my eating habits. What I was trying to show with this post is how important it is to be aware of when, how and why we turn to food. Figuring out my past and current relationship with food has been integral to forging a better, healthier, and happier one with food in my future. It has given me insight into my head and heart, even outside of food.

Comments

  1. Definitely all of the above depending on the day. Love those days when I don’t feel obsessed with food. They are rare. I wonder how far back in history psychological food/body issues go…

    • I’m sure they go back for as long as people have been studying psychology! I’ll best that as the “perfect body” changed throughout the centuries though, so did the body issues, ya know?

  2. I feel like I am a little bit of a lot of these kinds of eaters. Good solution suggestions to think about, though. 🙂

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