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What Kind of Eater Are You?

7 habits of highly unsuccessful dieters, and how to break them.

Finding Your Eating Style

While eating styles are as individual as we are, some researchers believe they can be grouped into just a handful of behavior patterns.

After analyzing surveys from more than 5,000 men and women, researchers Larry Scherwitz, PhD, and Deborah Kesten, MPH, identified seven common patterns.

"Each of the newly identified eating styles was independently related to self-reports of overeating frequency; five of the seven were significantly related to overweight and obesity," the authors wrote in Explore: The Journal of Science of Healing, which published their findings.

Some of the unhealthy patterns identified by the study include:

  • Food Fretting: You're overly concerned with what you eat, and have a negative relationship with food.

     

  • Task Snacking: You almost always eat while doing something else -- like watching TV, answering email or even cooking -- which can lead to overeating.

     

  • Emotional Eating: You turn to food not only during life's traumatic moments, but anytime you feel stressed, anxious, or a little upset.

     

  • Fast Foodism: Simply put, you're "hooked" on processed and convenience foods, and you gulp them down fast!

     

  • Solo Dining: You use food to fill a social void – and the more often you eat alone, the more you eat.

     

  • Unappetizing Atmosphere: You eat behind the wheel, at your desk, or standing up in front of the refrigerator. This keeps you from concentrating on what you're eating, and makes it more likely you'll overeat.

     

  • Sensory Disregard: Mealtime is hectic, and you disconnect entirely from the eating experience. This leads to eating without thinking, and that usually means overeating.

While you may not see your own exact situation in these categories, Taylor says the bigger picture here is that all seven behaviors serve a single purpose: They take the focus off appetite and provide another reason for eating.

"Whether it's a distraction, an amusement, a comfort, a consolation -- if you are not eating mindfully, and you are not one with your food, chances are you are going to overeat," says Taylor, creator of the "Kick in the Tush Club" weight loss newsletter.

Solving the Problem

So what can you do to home in on your bad eating habits – and change them?

First, says, psychologist Abby Aronowitz, PhD, spend about a week writing down everything in your life that's connected to food.

"This is not just about keeping a 'food diary' – it's really a lifestyle diary, one in which you record everything that has to do with eating," says Aronowitz, author of Your Final Diet.

This includes not only writing down what you ate, but how much you ate, where you were when you ate it, the time of day it was, why you ate it, if you were alone or with someone else, and, most importantly, what else you were doing while you were eating, she says.

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