In their book, Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works, authors and registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, categorize four separate eating styles to distinguish between various eating behaviors. To dismantle diet culture, it can be very helpful to identify the type of eating (or dieting) personality that you feel is most relatable. This will increase your awareness of behaviors around eating and subsequently, dieting. Generally, the goal is to work towards being an intuitive eater, an approach you can learn more about here.
The Four Eating Personalities
THE INTUITIVE EATER
Intuitive eaters are incredibly attuned to their instinctual feelings of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. They prioritize biological hunger (eating when the hunger pangs strike) and are often able to honor a comfortable fullness. Intuitive eaters usually experience joy from food and fewer (if any) instances of food guilt. When it comes to planning their meals and snacks, intuitive eaters don’t rely on external cues, such as calorie counts or point tracking. Intuitive eaters are also able to utilize nutrition information for some decision-making around food, but the behavior doesn’t become obsessive. For dancers specifically, intuitive eating can be utilized with the integration of performance nutrition. This is exactly the work I do as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and counselor of intuitive eating for dancers.
THE PROFESSIONAL DIETER
Professional dieters are often most interested in weight loss. They are well-versed in common fad diets and can easily let you know about a food’s calorie count or macronutrient breakdown. Professional dieters commonly fluctuate in their weight as a result of yo-yo dieting, and generally, experience overall feelings of body dissatisfaction.
THE CAREFUL EATER
The most common dieting personality of today’s pursuit of wellness is the Careful Eater. These consumers are most interested in “health” and “wellness.” Though not outwardly admitting to a weight-loss agenda, Careful Eaters often partake in eating habits that are quite restrictive. “Clean eating” is a perfect example of a “lifestyle” that Careful Eaters strive to attain. Similar to the Professional Dieter, the Careful Eater exemplifies above-average interest in nutrition labels and desiring full control over what they eat, but in their words “it’s not for weight loss, it’s for health.”
THE UNCONSCIOUS EATER
With the exception of The Careful Eater, The Unconscious Eater is also most relatable in our constantly connected and busy world. For dancers, unconscious eating can be known as mindless eating. Whether it be eating while commuting, working, dancing, talking, or scrolling, unconscious eaters are usually multitasking around food. There are a few different types of unconscious eating and it’s common to identify with more than one type:
The Chaotic Unconscious Eater eats whatever, whenever. Food may not have been planned or prepared, so grabbing a convenient option is common. Chaotic eaters often go long stretches between meals solely because of busy schedules and missing snacks. The Emotional Unconscious Eater is another common type of eating personality. As you can guess, emotional eaters use food to cope with emotional triggers regardless of the presence of physical hunger cues. Examples include eating when stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, lonely, and sad. Emotional Eaters might also turn to food during times of joy and excitement. If you feel like an Emotional Eater, check out this article and online course ASAP. The Refuse-Not Unconscious Eater eats regardless of physical hunger simply because they do not want to turn down food. You may recognize this eating personality as someone who eats simply because food is present. The Waste-Not Unconscious Eater is familiar with the “clean your plate” mentality and struggles with eating past a comfortable fullness simply because they don’t want to be wasteful.
It’s important to realize that there is absolutely no shame in whichever eating personality you identify with. We can use these labels to better understand which behaviors might need support in bringing you closer to becoming your personal best Intuitive Eater.