Eat Better, Step 6 – Eating styles

Eating styles

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Eating styles

Having done your food diary and looked over it, now you can figure out what kind of eater you are…

Various eating styles have been classified. Have a look through these and see if you can recognise any in yourself or your friends and family…

Unconscious eating

This is where you are eating while doing something else at the same time.

Characterised by…

You are unaware of eating. Sitting down and eating is often viewed as a waste of time. Eating is usually paired with another activity to be productive. For example, an office worker eating at the desk while continuing to work at the computer.

Or at the cinema and munching your way through a gallon of sugary drink and a bucket of popcorn.

Chaotic eating

Where you are too busy to stop to eat.

Characterised by…

Eating style is haphazard – “gulp’n go” when food is available. This eating is often associated with stress and tension. Picture a stressed out parent trying to keep the family organised and only managing to grab a quick bite here and there.

“Can’t say no” eating

When you can hear the food calling to you…

Characterised by…

When chocolate or sweets or junk food is sitting out in the open, in plain sight. Every time your eyes glance at it, you can’t say no, so take a quick nibble.

“I don’t want it going to waste” eating

When the food is cheap/free, so you may as well have it.

Characterised by…

Eating is often influenced by monetary value or cost of food. This eating is promoted by all-you-can-eat buffets, buy-one-get-one-free and cheap food. Imagine only going in to buy 1 thing, but there is a special offer on donuts, so you can’t pass up on the bargain.

Emotional eating

When you are feeling emotional and food comforts you.

Characterised by…

Stress or uncomfortable feelings trigger eating – especially when alone. This is eating in response to an emotion rather than physical hunger. Imagine being dumped by your other half, so you polish off a whole tub of ice cream and beer.

Careful eating

When you want to get fit/healthy, so must…not…be…bad!

Characterised by…

Superficially appears to be perfect eating, yet anguishing over each food morsel and its effect on the body. On the surface, this eating seems health and fitness driven. But in reality you lose all perspective when you agonize over each leaf of lettuce or what colour pepper has the fewer calories.

Professional dieting

When you have tried every diet book in the library.

Characterised by…

You have spent your entire life on diet or another. Your bookshelf is groaning under the weight of all the diet books and you jump on the next diet in the next glossy magazine you read…And you still don’t lose the weight!

Intuitive eating

When you eat when you are hungry and you stop when you are full.

Characterised by…

Making food choices without experiencing guilt or an ethical dilemma. Honouring hunger, respecting fullness, and enjoying the pleasure of eating.

This is the kind of eating we are aiming for in our lives. We want a healthy relationship with our food.

Adapted from: Intuitive Eating, by E. Tribole and E. Resch, 1995. Nancy Bayne, PO Box 36, Nunn, CO 80648.

In conclusion…

An interesting question to ask yourself is what kind of relationship you want to have with food? It might sound obvious, but enjoying our food, feeling good about eating and eating the stuff that our body needs, is what we are aiming for.

  • When you eat, make sure you put time aside and dedicate it to having a nice, enjoyable meal. Trust me, it will be worth it.
  • Avoid letting negative emotions (anxiety, fear, nervousness, depression etc) and bad habits (I’ve always done it like this, this is what we always do on a Friday night etc) decide when, what and how you should eat.
  • Prioritise quality, health and enjoyment over just quickly shoving food down our pie hole.


Read again all the eating styles above. Then by reading your food diary or by simply remembering, identify occasions if/when you have found yourself or a friend/family member to be eating in one of the above styles.

Write a couple of sentences describing each occasion. Then write a sentence or 2 suggesting how you could avoid it happening again in the future. Feel free to discuss your answers with family/friends. Get some feedback to help you improve your plans.

You can use the template below to get you started.

You can either:

The next step…

Once you have thought about what kind of eater you are, take a look at the next page to get an idea of what food/drink we want to be having more/less of.