Every day, people all over the world start a diet or healthy eating plan and the majority of those people fail. Perhaps the reason is because they are trying to adopt an eating pattern without understanding their natural tendencies towards food, in other words their eating personality. If you fit into one, or several, of the profiles below, some simple tweaks to the way you approach food can help you achieve freedom from your diet and open the door to a lifetime of healthy eating, naturally.
The Wagon Chaser.
You are usually on a diet, and probably the newest, most popular one. You are keenly aware of your weight and give yourself a daily “good” or “bad” rating. If you eat anything you consider bad in a day, you decide that you’ve already ruined the day anyway with food and eat poorly for the remainder of the day, or for several days. Then trying on clothes, seeing yourself in a mirror or thinking about swimsuit season spawns a new resolve to change your eating habits and you start the process all over again.
If this describes you, you are what I like to call a Wagon Chaser. This means that you want to be a healthy eater, and you stress yourself out over your food addictions. But you put so much pressure on yourself that if you slip even a tiny bit, feelings of hopelessness set in and you fall “off the wagon”. Tomorrow, or whenever the binge eating stops, you start a new diet.
This way of eating is dangerous for your body and for your mind. For starters, your metabolism will never stabilize without a consistent eating regimen. It’s nearly impossible to go through your life without ever eating anything “bad” for you so you need to make room in your eating plan for treats now and then. Over the long run allowing yourself to indulge here and there will keep you from having entire days or even weeks of poor eating.
If you find yourself munching on little amounts of food throughout the day but rarely sit down to a normal meal, you could change your name to Unconscious Jane. You see Jane eats without asking herself one vital question; “Am I hungry?” Jane eats in her car, standing in front of the fridge and definitely never throws food away and always gets her money out of the all-you-can-eat-buffet. She eats because she’s bored or when she’s on the run or just for recreation. She eats because food is available, whether she’s hungry or not.
What typically happens to people like Jane is that they are taking in a ton of calories, but because they aren’t eating at the table three times a day they don’t realize it. The best way to manage your weight if this is your personality type is to keep a food journal. Writing down what you are eating each day will help you become more aware of the amount of food that you are actually eating. From there you can start to make changes where needed. It’s also a good idea to have all of your meals at the table. Use your nice china, even light candles if you wish. The point of this exercise is for you to slow down long enough to realize that you are having a meal, enjoy it and walk away from it when you are done.
Think back to the last time you were in a restaurant. Did you ask that food be prepared without butter or with light sauce? Do you scan the nutritional labels of everything you eat and refuse to allow yourself a treat even on special occasions? Do you plan your meals in advance and get anxious if you have to deviate from your plan?
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If these food behaviors sound familiar, chances are you are an overachiever with your diet, and probably in other areas of your life as well. Your dedication and willpower are envious. You may or may not have a weight issue, but you struggle with your food choices as if you did.
Do you reward yourself with food when you’ve accomplished a goal, even if it’s not diet related? After a heavy day at the office do you crash out on the couch with boxes of Chinese food? Are your fondest memories those of family meals and large gatherings with fattening food?
While all of us occasionally eat out of emotion, for some people eating becomes their source of love and acceptance. For them every victory and failure is celebrated (or comforted) with food. Their brains translate stress or worry or even happiness into a desire for food.
If you struggle with emotional eating, keeping a journal will help you notice when you are eating for comfort and when you are eating from hunger. Simply jot down what you eat before eating it and note what your emotional state is at that moment. Are you happy because it’s Friday and you are ready to start your weekend? Are you upset because you’ve had an argument with your spouse? After a week, review your entries and see if you notice a pattern. If you tend to eat poorly when you are stressed for example, come up with other ways to deal with that emotion. Consider taking a walk or calling a friend.
All of us have eating personalities, and sometimes a combination of several. The first step in controlling our diets is to understand how we use food. As with anything else, knowledge is power.