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Biting the Habit: What's your eating style?
Snacker, picker, or guilty eater; the way you eat affects your weight
Eating styles contribute to weight problems more than most people realise, which is why standardised weight-loss plans often fail: they only target what people eat, ignoring how they eat – and we’re not talking about whether you slurp or sip your soup!
Eating styles have to do with when, where, and how you eat – and if you’re like most people, your eating style can really get in the way of your weight-loss goals. While you may not need to totally change your eating habits, adjusting them can help you reach your weight-loss or maintenance goals more effectively.
Read on and learn how to identify your eating style and change it for the better.
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Snacker and picker
Approximately 60% of overweight people fall into this category. Snackers and pickers rarely sit down to a proper meal, and if they do, they usually pick at it! They eat a little bit of this and a little bit of that constantly throughout the day. They frequently eat while engaged in other activities. You can sometimes spot a snacker or picker by the number of times they open the fridge during a day. Snackers and pickers also love finger foods: cocktail parties are heaven for a snacker or picker! Overweight snackers and pickers can often be heard saying, "I don't know why I have a weight problem, I hardly eat anything."
The major problem with this kind of eating is that because snackers consume hundreds of empty and excess calories a day, they drastically underestimate how much they actually eat. And due to the fact that snacks don't really pack in enough “oomph” to meet basic nutritional needs and satiety (fullness and satisfaction of appetite), snackers and pickers are always foraging for something more to eat.
The snacker’s fix-it plan
Saver, skipper, and compensator
Not eating for long periods of time makes people hungry and hungry people do not make wise food choices.
This eating style is characterised by erratic eating patterns. Savers, skippers, and compensators seesaw between eating too much and too little. They often skip meals because they are too busy to take the time to eat, or in order to save calories for a big occasion. When they do eat too much – which is usually a result of missing meals – skippers try to compensate by missing more meals or fasting. They often say things like: "I usually don’t eat breakfast or lunch," or "I am going to a party tonight, so I won't eat all day," or "I can't eat breakfast or lunch because I ate too much last night."
The negative aspect of this style is that it promotes overeating. Not eating for long periods of time makes people hungry and hungry people do not make wise food choices. Saving calories by skipping meals can be compared to putting money in the bank, receiving $10.00 in interest, but paying $12.00 in service charges. It just doesn't make sense.
Erratic eating habits also disrupt normal metabolic functions. When you don't eat for a long period (this can be hours, not days) your body thinks it is starving and begins to slow down to storage mode, conserving calories for future use. It's taken by surprise when you suddenly overload it and so can't metabolise efficiently. This is exactly the opposite of what happens to people who eat small meals and snacks. Their bodies are accustomed to working with the right amount of food most of the time and are constantly metabolising; when excess food is encountered, metabolising continues as usual. Savers, skippers, and compensators impede the efficiency of their natural processes. The end result is that they become fat-storing machines. In order to lose weight and keep it off, you need to be a fat-burning machine.
The skipper's fix-it plan
Guilty eaters and "Bigger is Better"
Guilty eaters were often told to "clean the plate" even if they were no longer hungry.
People with a guilty or "bigger is better" eating style can usually find the root of it in their childhood and the attitudes toward food that developed when they were young. In childhood, guilty eaters often heard messages like "You have to eat everything on your plate because children in some countries are starving." This attempt at magical thinking is based on an illogical conclusion that somehow what you don’t eat affects people thousands of kilometres away. Guilty eaters were often told to "clean the plate" because it was a sin to waste food, or that they had to eat Grandma's favourite steak and kidney pie because "she spent a lot of time preparing it". They were also told to eat more because it would make them 'healthy and strong'. In any of these situations, it didn't matter if the eater was hungry or not, she had to eat what she was given.
The problem with this style of eating is that guilty eaters don't really know when they are hungry. They eat everything on their plates whether they feel hungry or not. They never learned to pay attention to satiety as a signal to stop eating. This inability to recognise fullness usually leads to eating larger and larger portions, and a "bigger is better" style of eating.
The "Bigger is Better" fix-it plan
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Last updated: November 14th, 2007
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