If you want to lose weight, change your eating habits, or just learn to eat more mindfully, it helps to know what kind of eater you are. Naturopath and nutritionist Cassie Mendoza-Jones breaks down each “type” and offers expert advice for eating better. The question is: Which group are you in?
The emotional eater
The emotional eater eats for comfort and consolation. She eats when she’s celebrating, stressed or depressed. Food has become a treat or reward for positive and negative behaviour. She’s not fully in touch with her emotions and so food becomes a crutch, something to prop her up in order to help her deal.
Because the emotional eater associates food with emotion or stress, she is often out of touch with her hunger signals. She’s formed negative habits around food and can find it really hard to tune into her body’s signals. She finds it hard to put an end to the emotional eating rollercoaster.
The first step is learning the difference between emotional and physical hunger. The simplest way to do this is to ask yourself “am I really hungry?” before you eat. Even if you have spent years not listening to your body’s real hunger signals and just eating to fill a void, the answer will come to you. If you’re not hungry for food, what are you hungry for? Is it love or a sense of belonging ? Spend some time on your own, meditating or journalling, and tap into what you’re truly craving when you reach for the chocolate bar.
The binge eater is also an emotional eater, although binge eating is a psychological illness. She eats excessive amounts of food, followed by periods of starvation or purging. She’s very secretive about her eating and may find it hard to eat in public.
Binge eaters suffer from shame and low self-esteem after they have had a bingeing episode. This can quickly become a vicious cycle where they eat to ease the guilt, but eating only reinforces the feelings of worthlessness.
The first step is admitting you have unhealthy eating habits and seeking treatment. It’s important to explore the reasons why you feel the need to binge and to let go of shame. Therapy is crucial and activities like meditation and yoga may help too.
The distracted eater
The distracted eater literally forgets to eat. She rarely eats breakfast and picks at food throughout the day. She doesn’t sit down to full, nutritious meals as she thinks she’s too busy to eat and she can end up overeating. She frequently eats high-calorie foods because she doesn’t place an importance on a healthy diet.
She’s not getting adequate nutrients and this can lead to blood sugar irregularities and fatigue. By not sitting down to a good breakfast, she often overeats late at night. This slows down digestion and can impact sleep, which is a crucial time for the body to rest and repair. The result is a wired, tired and nutrient-depleted body.
Make sure you don’t skip breakfast as this will set you up for a good day of eating. If you need to set an alarm to remind yourself of when to eat, then do it; it won’t take long to reinforce new healthy habits. Make sure you don’t eat in front of any electronic screens — sit down and eat from a plate, not in front of a computer and from a box. Your health is more important than a deadline!
The lazy eater
The lazy eater can’t be bothered to go grocery shopping or prepare proper meals or snacks, so she eats out most of the time and heads to the vending machine when she’s peckish. Her “go-to” dinner is cheese on toast. If she even has cheese in the fridge.
She’s not prioritising her health and wellbeing. She thinks shopping for healthy food and cooking is just too difficult. She’s filling up on foods which don’t support her in any way and they’re causing fatigue, depression, stress and anxiety.
Start slowly and get into the habit of going grocery shopping at least once a week. If that’s too much effort, organise for a box of fruit and vegies to be delivered to your work or home. Fill your work fridge with healthy snacks like hummus, carrot sticks, nuts and fruit, and find a few simple recipes you can master.
The nibbler never sits down to a full meal. She picks at her meal and the meals of others and then wanders off for another hour or so before coming back for another bite. Her body is in a constant state of digestion and she is always slightly hungry.
The nibbler may have never been educated on healthy eating. Because she never sits down to eat off a plate, she can’t be sure of how much food she’s actually eaten in a day.
Sit down to eat and make sure you have three meals per day. Stop picking and snacking between meals unless you are hungry, and become more mindful of when and why you’re nibbling at food all day long. Are you sad, lonely or bored? If you find yourself constantly heading to the kitchen, make a cup of tea instead of grabbing food.
The dieter has read every diet book out there. She can tell you exactly how many calories are in a banana and how much sugar is in a Mars Bar. She punishes herself for eating “forbidden” food and rewards herself with food if she’s had a “good” week — and then feels guilty straight after. She is constantly berating herself for not being skinny enough and can’t see how beautiful she is.
She doesn’t feel “in control” of her body. She is a perfectionist and never feels as if she’s good enough and so she tries another diet. The more weight she loses, the more she wants to lose, but she also thinks she puts weight on very quickly so can never feel relaxed around food or about her body and envies girls thinner than her.
You need to realise you are gorgeous as you are! Stop punishing yourself. When you can come off your constant dieting rollercoaster, you’ll find you’re able to listen to your body, accept yourself and find comfort in making healthy food choices that nourish your body and soul.
The expert eater
The expert eater is obsessed with eating the “perfect” diet of green smoothies and superfoods. She preaches to anyone who will listen about the benefits of goji berries, how to make almond milk and the best way to eat kale. She is highly conscious of what goes in her mouth and is not afraid to comment on others’ diets as well.
She has taken “being healthy” to a whole new level. No longer is it about eating greens for magnesium and meat for muscle-building, it’s just about eating the hottest superfoods. She looks down on anyone who doesn’t eat like her and is completely rigid in her thinking.
Relax a little! Educate yourself on how to eat a balanced diet and don’t get sucked into the media hype. Learn to listen to your body and feed it what is nourishing today.
Cassie Mendoza-Jones is a naturopath, nutritionist and herbalist who believes in the healing power of nature. Mendoza-Jones is the founder of Elevate Vitality, author of Cleansed, and co-creator of the Self Love & Nourishment e-course. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram.