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What Kind of Eater Are You?

Know your type and gain control over your eating habits

With my 60th birthday approaching, I looked back with regret at four decades of repeated failures to lose weight and get fit. But in a flash of insight born of desperation, I changed my mind: I saw my former efforts not as failures but as necessary steps in a long-term learning process.

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As a by-product, I lost enough weight to trim down five dress sizes.

One key to my transformation was learning what type of eater I am. If you are ready to make changes, this is your first assignment, too. Here are the major types of eaters:

  • The Stress Eater eats to relieve or avoid uncomfortable feelings. Food functions as a self-medication to avoid unpleasant feelings and to lift the mood.
Woman reaching for donuts

Ken Reid/Getty Images

Identify triggers that lead to unhealthy eating habits.

  • The Emotional Eater eats whenever she or he experiences strong emotions of any kind — happiness, sadness, anger or frustration.
  • The Designated Eater is the family member to whom others pass their leftovers.
  • The Grazer eats throughout the day. It’s easy to underestimate the total calories consumed because each portion is small, and the grazer may feel as if she or he hasn’t eaten.
  • The Unconscious Eater eats while watching television or reading and is unaware of what and how much he or she consumes — whether the food is healthy and whether he or she is full.
  • The Orthorexic Eater requires that food be a certain kind, fixed in a particular way and environmentally correct. Orthorexia nervosa is a term coined by Steven Bratman, M.D. The requirements vary by the orthodoxy. The orthorexic eater is an obsessive perfectionist.
  • The Feast-or-Famine Eater fasts all day and eats everything in sight in the evening.
  • The Frugal Eater does not want to waste any food and forces himself or herself to overeat.
  • The I-Can't-Say-No Eater responds to pressure from others to consume more food than he or she would normally eat.
  • The Stealth Eater cleverly hides cookies, candies and other treats in pockets, drawers and the car so that others will not see the amount or kind of food consumed.
  • The Disordered Eater can be categorized by two clinically recognized eating disorders. The anorexic eater and bulimic eater may have life-threatening health issues and require medical intervention.
  • The Ideal Eater listens to his or her body's cues and eats to satisfy physical rather than emotional hunger. The ideal eater is flexible with food choices and enjoys a variety of seasonal produce.

The ideal eater, of course, exists only in the abstract. Yet the description can serve as a baseline against which we can measure our own eating habits. What kind of eater are you? Recognize your own tendencies so you can spot the traps before they snare you.

Carole Carson, author of From Fat to Fit: Turn Yourself into a Weapon of Mass Reduction, serves as the coach for the AARPFat to Fit online community.

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