How to Embrace Mindful Eating. What Kind of Eater Are You?

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • I was perusing Facebook postings this morning and came across an interesting “exam” that was uploaded by the Cleveland Clinic. It was designed to help participants determine what type of eater you are. It’s worth spending 30 seconds to take the test.

    The Cleveland Clinic folks have identified five types of eaters:

    • Restraint/Overeater, who tend to “fluctuate from being overly controlling with your diet to overindulging,” the website notes. This type of eater tends to skip meals, eats small lunches, and doesn’t snack.
    • Stress/Emotional Eater, who base their food intake on how they feel and can get into an unhealthy cycle of eating.  “When you feel good, you can control your eating and make healthy choices,” the website reports. “But when you feel stress, angry or sad, you tend to splurge to feel better.”
    • The Portion Distortion Eater, who often opt for healthy foods, but don’t understand what a healthy portion is.
    • The Convenience Eater, who often eat on the run and opt for fast food, frozen foods, and vending machines to get their meals and snacks.
    • The Healthy Eater, who eats well, has a healthy attitude toward food, and practices moderation. “A little ‘unhealthy’ indulgence every now and again can keep you from overindulging regularly,” the Cleveland Clinic website explained. “When you do make healthy food choices, which should be 80 percent of the time or more, you choose a good mix of proteins, carbohydrates and low-fat or good-fat foods.”

    In taking the Cleveland Clinic test, I realized that I was a Convenience Eater during my earlier days when I was working in newspapers and always on deadline or waiting for the big story to break. However, now I’m a split between the Healthy Eater and the Portion Distortion Eater. I started taking control of the foods that I eat about a decade ago, but have taken a more conscientious approach now that I’m cooking for Dad, who has high blood pressure. Now I need to focus on the correct portions.

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    So once you identify the type of eater you are, what can you do to make sound choices? The Cleveland Clinic website provides suggestions under each of the different types.

    One way that any of these eating types can really get a handle on the food consumed is through mindful eating. According to Stephanie Vangsness, R.D., L.D.N., C.N.S.D. of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, mindful eating “enhances the experience of eating and keeps us aware of how much we take in.” She notes that researchers have found that the digestive process can be up to 40% less effective when you’re not paying attention to what you’re eating and can result in digestive distress from gas, bloating and bowel irregularities, as well as obesity.

    Vangsness said multi-tasking (such as watching TV while eating) is detrimental to mindful eating. “Once eating is under way, the brain has a key role to send out a signal when fullness is approaching,” she said. “If the mind is ‘multi-tasking’ during eating, critical signals that regulate food intake may not be received by the brain. If the brain does not receive certain messages that occur during eating, such as sensation of taste and satisfaction, it may fail to register the event as "eating". This scenario can lead to the brain's continuing to send out additional signals of hunger, increasing the risk of overeating.”

  • To become more mindful while eating, Vangsness recommends that you try:

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    • Eating with chopsticks.
    • Eating with your non-dominant hand.
    • Chewing food 30-50 times per bite.
    • Eat sitting down.
    • Turn off the TV and computer.
    • Don’t read while eating.
    • Using the correct portions of food, try to make the meal last at least 20 minutes.

    Eating healthily means not only making good food choices, but also thinking about how you eat that food. Go on and turn off the TV so you can give your digestive tract a treat by savoring your food.


    What kind of eater are you?

Published On: July 18, 2011