The four paths of eating

On some level, I wonder if most of us struggle with our relationship to food. We all may not have a significant weight problem, binge, or struggle with an eating disorder, but may more commonly feel like we are at war with a source designed to provide nourishment. I don’t think our struggle with food needs to be so complicated, and I believe that many of you would probably wish the same. As I was conducting some research, I found these four different types of eating conceptualized by Dr. Linda Craighead. I thought I would share, as if you find yourself with a difficult relationship with food, I think you probably will find yourself within one of the categories.

The Normalized Overeating Path
Within our culture, it is quite common to continue to eat although are no physical sensations of hunger. For people who are on this path, you’re eating is characterized by often continuing to eat past fullness, eating just because food is present, and making food choices based upon some of the emotional benefit perceived to come. Often, this type of eating is usually not noticeable to others, and is often promoted by loving family members and friends who wonder “why you not finishing your meal.” Unfortunately, the consequences to this path are often increased likelihood of developing a weight problem, feelings of insecurity or “fat”, a lack of awareness of moderate fullness, and increased chances of continuing to use food inappropriately and being susceptible to overeating.

The Restricted Eating Path

Surprisingly, this path is quite common as well, as we are surrounded by a culture who has plenty of resources to help you begin to try to lose weight by dieting. For restricted eaters, you often refuse to eat when you are hungry and/or you want a certain “forbidden” food.   Your refusal to eat is centered around the fact that you believe that eating certain foods will allow you to gain weight.   Or, your food choices are dictated by the requirements of your diet, rather than what you naturally would enjoy it eating. As a result of your deprivation, you are often preoccupied with food and  increase your chances of binge eating. In the beginning, you might notice that “not eating” might immediately make you feel in control or good. Sadly, restriction usually leads to binge eating and the “forget it” response, usually characterized by temporarily quitting your diet and indulging in all the foods that you enjoy because you have “failed.” The restricted eating path promises quick weight loss and to lead you to the thin “ideal” our culture espouses. This way of eating is not biologically normal, so as a result, your body is constantly fighting against this and seems to sabotage your lack of food intake to lose weight.

The Binge Eating/Getting Stuffed Path

This type of eating is characterized by a “sense of feeling out of control.” While binge eating and getting stuffed are in the same category, they can be characterized as different approaches to eating. Those who “get stuffed” usually often eat past “full,” feel like the food is more in control, may characterize themselves as “pigging out,” and usually have no awareness of fullness cues that body provides. Binge eating is similar, but different in the sense that the eater usually cannot stop consuming food until he/she’d are stuffed, or some external reason stops you (food is gone, someone interrupts you, you fall asleep). Binge eaters also eat large amounts of food, and eat foods they do not enjoy, or feel hurried or rushed consuming food. Additionally, both types of eaters use food for emotional reasons, and it is not unlikely that binge eaters, and those who get stuffed will become numb or “tuned out” to environment while they are consuming food.

When I was struggling with my weight, I often found myself as a normalized overeater and someone who consistently got stuffed while eating. I had no idea of what it meant to be hungry, and had even less of a idea of how to stop when I felt like my “body had enough food.” While I know many would not agree with me, ideally, I believe it is important for all of us to learn how to become a Normal Eater. This type of eating is characterized by the following: Ability to regulate amount, and not type of food you are eating, stopping at the satisfied food level, avoidance of getting too hungry before you eat, as this can lead to overeating when you start out famished, and feeling in control about your eating choices and not being preoccupied with food.

What type of eater are you?

2 thoughts on “The four paths of eating

  1. Jerry Corey says:

    Hi this Jerry and wanted to just say this post is truly good. In my quest to loose stomach fat I searched for loads of inforamation to help me, this is one gold nugget that will help.

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