Have you ever given much thought to what type of eater you are? Well, much like fashion, everyone has his or her own personal style when it comes to eating habits. Diet, frequency, and feelings of fullness and starvation alike all manifest differently in people. And while determining your personal eating type may sound self-explanatory, it’s actually more complex than you might think.
It’s not what we eat, but why we eat, Brad Lamm, interventionist, founder and CEO of Change Inc., and founder of Breathe Life Healing Centers, told The Cheat Sheet over email. Author, teacher, and interventionist, Lamm overcame his own personal battles before dedicating his professional life to helping people make life-enhancing changes. His expertise has been featured on Dr. Phil, The Doctors, and TODAY, and he created and produced an eight-part documentary series, Addicted to Food, for Oprah Winfrey. And now, Lamm is once again reaching the masses with a helpful test that can determine, what he calls, an individual’s Food IQ.
According to Lamm, there are six different types of eating styles, each with their own set of behaviors and tendencies. Here, Lamm delivers his insight, along with tips on how you can combat each one.
1. Emotional eater
If you’re a person who grabs a pint of Ben & Jerry’s every time you’ve had a bad day at work, it’s likely you’re an emotional eater. This type of eater describes a person who consumes calories to celebrate when they’re happy, or sulk when they’re sad. Essentially, what, how, and when you eat all goes back to how you feel. There’s no thinking about how what you’re eating will make you feel in the near future; an emotional eater simply looks to satisfy an emotion with food based on a given moment.
Lamm’s tip: Keep a food journal. List what you eat and how you were feeling when you ate it. This way, you’ll be able to identify what feelings trigger you to eat, and which need you actually should be dealing with, instead of just “eating your feelings.”
2. Habitual eater
Someone who often indulges in bad food under the “just this once” excuse is a habitual eater. Although they like routine and structure, and they know how to eat right and exercise regularly, habitual eaters are often derailed by time constraints and responsibilities. Additionally, these types of people often eat even when they’re not hungry, simply because they are used to doing it. The problem with habitual eating is that it keeps you from working up a normal appetite and eating on schedule.
Lamm’s tip: Take an organized approach to healthy eating. Give pre-measured portions and predefined mealtimes a try.
3. External eater
External eaters are a marketer’s dream: Food advertising, the sight of a birthday cake in the office, and the like serve as external cues that trigger a person to eat. Seeing cupcakes in a display window or appealing restaurant offerings can easily spark your brain into thinking you need to eat, even when you don’t. All the external factors that speak to you personally add up to the pressure or desire to overeat.
Lamm’s tip: Create a distraction to interrupt yourself and allow the craving to pass. And don’t bring the treats that make you binge into your home — you can’t eat what’s not there.
4. Critical eater
This is the “all or nothing” type of person. A critical eater knows the importance of nutrition, but their dedication to dieting is obsessive. However, a critical eater can also have a hard time sticking to a consistently healthy diet. They’re either on the rails or they’re off. When on a diet, critical eaters consider themselves “good,” but when off, they’re “bad.” They can easily bounce from eating an entire box of low-fat cookies, to quick-fix diets like juicing.
Lamm’s tip: Ease up on rigid food rules. Don’t concentrate so much on the bad foods you shouldn’t be eating; instead, switch your focus to consuming foods with enough nutritional value, like fruits and veggies. And don’t beat yourself up, either. If you slip up, restart your day at any time, rather than wasting the rest of it wallowing in a defeatist attitude.
5. Sensual eater
If you’re someone who truly appreciates food and enjoys every last bite, you can put yourself into the sensual eater category. You’re not one to rush through a meal, and why should you? You much prefer to relish in the deliciousness and exploration of new food than abide by the restrictions of a picky eater. You’ll try anything once, and you likely have a few extra pounds to carry around because you find more pleasure in eating than you do in responsible, food-related decision-making.
Lamm’s tip: Don’t deny yourself a particular item when dining out, but be mindful of your portions. Eat slowly, as it takes your brain at least 20 minutes to signal that your stomach is full.
6. Energy eater
You’d probably assume this one has a great deal to do with those looking for a quick energy fix, and you’d be right. Energy eaters focus on healthy, on-the-go snacks, but to the extreme, often eating too many of them. While healthy snacking is great, relying too heavily on it can be counterproductive for your overall health goals. While it’s important to listen to your hunger and eat fast-acting carbohydrates, like bread, crackers, and granola bars, when you need to, you could be consuming more calories than your body requires, while also increasing your insulin production. Ultimately, this can cause more hunger.
Lamm’s tip: If cravings strike only occasionally, eat a small portion of the real thing to satisfy your hunger. If you typically experience more frequent cravings, though, you could benefit from changing your eating habits. Spread out your eating into three meals, with low-fat vegetable or fruit snacks as needed.
[Editor’s note: This story was originally published November 2016]