What Kind of Eater Are You?
7 habits of highly unsuccessful dieters, and how to break them.
By Colette Bouchez
Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD
Do any of these situations sound familiar?
If you find yourself saying "That's me," you may have fallen prey to one or more unhealthy eating style, mealtime or lifestyle habits that can get in the way of weight control.
Sometimes, destructive eating patterns are easy to spot, such as when you turn to food every time you're facing a problem. But often, the cues are so subtle that these unhealthy habits go unnoticed.
"Because we have been living with these habits or 'eating styles' for so long, we often don't even realize we are doing them," says Linda Yerardi, RD, LD, a dietician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Md.
So while you might recognize that you overeat when you're very upset, Yerardi says, you're less likely to see how little, everyday stresses are also driving your eating habits, with nibbles and bites that add up by the end of the day.
Another example: Eating while watching television or reading may make us feel less lonely, says weight loss coach Janice Taylor, but it also causes a disconnect with the fact that it's mealtime. And that, she says, often means a disconnect with how much you are eating.
"Television puts in you a light trance, and to some extent, the Internet or even reading a magazine can do the same thing," says Taylor, author of Our Lady of Weight Loss: Miraculous and Motivational Musings from the Patron Saint of Permanent Fat Removal. "So you end up chewing one mouthful while already shoveling another one onto the fork, without even tasting what you're eating."
Finding Your Eating Style
While eating styles are as individual as we are, some researchers believe they can be grouped into just a handful of behavior patterns.
After analyzing surveys from more than 5,000 men and women, researchers Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and Deborah Kesten, MPH, identified seven common patterns.
"Each of the newly identified eating styles was independently related to self-reports of overeating frequency; five of the seven were significantly related to overweight and obesity," the authors wrote in Explore: The Journal of Science of Healing, which published their findings.
Some of the unhealthy patterns identified by the study include:
While you may not see your own exact situation in these categories, Taylor says the bigger picture here is that all seven behaviors serve a single purpose: They take the focus off appetite and provide another reason for eating.
"Whether it's a distraction, an amusement, a comfort, a consolation -- if you are not eating mindfully, and you are not one with your food, chances are you are going to overeat," says Taylor, creator of the "Kick in the Tush Club" weight loss newsletter.Solving the Problem
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