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How to Know Which Kind of Overeater You Are

By The LIVESTRONG.COM Team ; Updated November 25, 2016

Food is such a huge part of our lives. We not only need it to fuel our daily activities, but it’s also a part of our celebrations and can even be a coping mechanism. But how do you keep yourself from going overboard? After all, too much of a good thing (like food) can be unhealthy.

Start by identifying your Food IQ. Think of it as your eating personality. Do you eat every time you’re depressed? Or do you eat at the same time every day regardless of whether you’re hungry or not? Or maybe your diet goes out the window every time a co-worker brings in doughnuts. Here are six types of eating styles you might identify with and how to prevent overeating.

1. Emotional Eater

This is you if…

You feed so much more than your hunger — you feed your triumphs, loneliness, frustrations and more. For emotional eaters, food is closely linked to how you feel.

Happiness is celebrated with food. When things are going wrong, you console yourself with food. The problem here is that emotional eating never solves your problems; it just creates another one. But this new problem is with food.

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So what should you do?

Keep a food journal. List what you eat and how you felt right before and right after you ate it. This will identify what feelings trigger you to eat and whether you’re really feeding your hunger or your emotional state.

Read more: 10 Ways to Break Up With Emotional Eating for Good

2. Habitual Eater

This is you if…

You like routine and structure and know how to eat right and exercise regularly. However, despite all your planning and good intentions, you’re often derailed by time constraints and responsibilities.

Some habitual eaters also eat when they aren’t actually hungry because it’s what they’re used to doing. Your eating style might be keeping you from working up a normal appetite.

So what should you do?

Take an organized approach to healthy eating. This might involve premeasured portions, predefined meal times or even preset menus. But also expect the unexpected. Don’t throw in the towel just because your lunch meeting gets pushed back. Learn to be flexible and have healthy snacks on hand.

Read more: 13 Meal-Prep Hacks to Save Time in the Kitchen

3. External Eater

This is you if…

External eaters tend to overeat when they’re triggered by external cues: cupcakes in the display window, food advertising, restaurant offerings, etc. All of this adds to the pressure or desire to overeat. “I see, therefore I eat” is the mantra of an external eater.

So what should you do?

Create a distraction that will interrupt you and allow the craving to pass. You might take a walk, strike up a conversation with a friend or chug a big glass of water. If the craving doesn’t pass, have a small, healthy snack. A small portion of healthy food will often quell the pangs. And keep treats that inspire bingeing out of your house. You can’t eat what’s not there.

4. Critical Eater

This is you if…

You tend to be obsessive about diets and dieting. You’re among those for whom dieting (to at least some degree) has become a religion. When dieting you’re considered “good,” but when you fall off the wagon you’re “bad.” This can be a destructive form of all-or-nothing thinking.

So what should you do?

Ease up on rigid food rules. Concentrate less on what “bad” foods not to eat and more on getting enough fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and healthful carbs. And give yourself a break! If you temporarily falter in your efforts, just “restart” your day. Don’t allow an entire day to be lost to defeatist thinking.

Read more: 9 Strategies to Make Your Diet Resolutions Stick

5. Sensual Eater

This is you if…

You appreciate and relish every bite. Foods talk to your tongue, nose and ears. The crack of a lobster shell, the aroma of a fresh baguette, the mouthfeel of butter. You’re a bit of a thrill-seeker who’s always on the lookout for meals more complex and intriguing than the one that came before.

You love and appreciate food to the point that you’ll try anything, and you wouldn’t dare turn away a good brown butter sauce on your chicken. This might lead to excess weight if the pleasure you find in eating overrides what you know is responsible and safe decision-making.

So what should you do?

When you dine out, don’t deny yourself a particular item — just mind your portions. Eat slowly. It takes your brain at least 20 minutes to signal that your stomach is full.

6. Energy Eater

This is you if…

You do something most people don’t: You listen to your hunger. But if you’re reaching for more fast-acting carbohydrates — bread, crackers, granola bars — you could be consuming far more calories than you need while simultaneously increasing your insulin production, which will, in turn, cause more hunger.

So what should you do?

If cravings strike, go ahead and eat a small portion without guilt. You’re more likely to be satisfied with a small amount of the real thing. Spread out your eating into three meals, with low-fat vegetables or fruit snacks as needed in between for hunger.

Read more: 10 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat on the Go

What Do YOU Think?

Which of these eating styles do you most identify with? Or do you think you’re a combination of a few of the above? Did you realize this before reading this article? Do you think you’ll put any of these tips into practice? Is there anything else you would add? Share your thoughts, suggestions and questions in the comments section below!

Read more: Find Your Food IQ With This Quiz

About the Author

Brad Lamm, CIP, relaunched Intervention.com and is the founder of Breathe Life Healing Centers. He’s also an author, teacher and interventionist best known for helping people make life-enhancing changes. He has appeared on “Dr. Phil,” “The Doctors,” “TODAY” and “The Dr. OZ Show.” He created and produced the eight-part documentary series “Addicted to Food” for Oprah Winfrey. Lamm began his own journey of recovery in 2003 after two decades of addiction to drugs, alcohol and nicotine as well as suffering from bulimia.

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