my eating style

Posted on November 25, 2006


Tckle eating style quiz

My Eating Style Report
My Eating Style
Emotional Triggers
Dissecting the Diet
History Behind the Test
Reading List

David, you’re a Relaxed Eater

You understand that food is more than just about sustenance. Overall, you treat yourself well. Even if you are not always successful at it, having sit-down meals three times a day is your ideal. You also try to be regular with your portions and the times that you eat on a day-to-day basis. At first, this may sound like you have a common pattern. Your pattern is, in fact, extremely sensible, but unfortunately, not that common these days. You may find that you are one of the few people in your work place or community that actually sits down for three square meals. But when it comes to food, your priorities seem to be in order. You avoid eating as if it’s a competitive race to the finish; rather you savor your meals and allow yourself the lost art of enjoying the eating experience itself. Taking the time to sit down and share a meal and conversation with family and friends signals that you do understand that it is important to have balance in your life. One of the key benefits to having this type of pattern is that it allows you to examine your habits more closely and accurately compared to others with erratic or less healthy eating patterns.

Your Eating Style
Emotional Triggers
Dissecting the Diet
History Behind the Test
Reading List

What Emotional Triggers Affect Your Relationship to Food

Food, like man, has evolved, and is much more than just a tool for survival. These days, food is associated with all aspects of life, be it celebration, business, tradition, or pure health and nutrition. Because of that, most of us have deep and symbolic relationships to food. For example, some people still buy the same breakfast cereals from their childhoods. Or they pine every year on their birthday for that same birthday meal they used to have as a kid. Or they find holidays just aren’t the same unless the foods they remember as part of their traditions are there and prepared the same way they remember them.

When it comes to our emotional associations with food, it’s not just the taste that is important, so much as how much comfort food provides you. On the other hand, certain foods might remind you of a terrible event and therefore your associations with them are negative. Think about it, have you ever eaten something just before discovering you have the stomach flu? If a food makes you feel sick — whether it’s the food that got you sick or not — you might have avoided that particular taste for quite some time. In fact, if a food made you sick when you were just a child, you still might avoid that food. Similarly if chicken soup makes you feel better during a cold, you might crave that food, and that sense of comfort, still. That’s how powerful your emotional connection to food can be.

One way to think about food and emotions is to examine our relationship to food in general. All of us know that we are unique individuals with a rich history and experiences. Our personalities don’t just influence our relationships with people; they also influence our relationship with food.

It is important to determine what drives you to eat-is it guilt, happiness, or anger? Do you eat to cope or to celebrate-or both? At first this idea may seem strange to you, but think about it: Have you noticed from your own behavior, or in observing others, that moods influence how you feel about eating and how much you eat? For example, some people respond to stress by overeating. We’ve even come to accept the cliché of someone who is upset finding comfort in eating a box of chocolate or a pint of ice cream. The reality is, some people really do do that. Of course, some people do the exact opposite, and don’t eat at all. And still others fall somewhere in between on that spectrum. The point is, understanding your relationship with food is a vital part to understanding key aspects of yourself.

The problem is, it can be hard to identify these patterns on your own since they’re a part of your daily life. This test, however can help you break down your relationship to food by examining the main emotional ties people have to it.

To do this, we assessed your scores on 6 scales that measure your emotional ties to food. The six scales determine the extent to which your eating pattern is affected by:

1. Eating when feeling positive emotions like joy and happiness.
2. Eating when feeling negative emotions like anxiety, hurt or depression.
3. Feeling indifferent towards food and food preparation.
4. Feeling self-conscious when around food and others.
5. Feeling possessive about food.
6. Wanting to experience new tastes and sensations with food.

All of us experience these emotional connections to food over the course of our lives — some even experience them on a daily basis. Your scores on these scales will help you better understand the extent to which food is wrapped up in our experience with these emotions. You may score consistently, or level, on all of these scales, but most people score high on some and moderately or low on others. Look at your scores carefully. Then, examine them to see the pattern of your emotional relationship to food.

Now, take a look at what’s behind each of these emotional triggers, and how you scored compared to others.

Food as Enemy: Eating when you’re sad, mad or upset

The first thing this test measured was the extent to which food is tied to your negative emotions or bad feelings. In plain English, it measured whether you have a tendency to feel bad about yourself because of your eating habits or if certain foods remind you of a bad event when you eat them.

Your low score indicates that you don’t really have a problem when it comes to your attitudes toward yourself when it comes to your eating habits. You probably have the grounded and positive view that eating food is a way to nourish and care for your body. Because you probably haven’t formed a strong link between your sense of self-esteem and eating, you likely aren’t in the habit of making value-judgments about yourself based on how well you perceive yourself doing with your diet. Count yourself lucky! Many people do have eating problems that are based in their negative emotions. If you find yourself in a relationship with someone who has these kinds of issues with food, be gentle and realize that they will most likely need to address their emotional issues around food as well as their actual eating behavior should they desire a change.

Take Action: Fighting the Blues Without Food

If you run to the fridge every time you’re upset, or are concerned that you might start to, don’t worry. The urge to turn to comfort food to make yourself feel better can be quelled. Here are some tips to keep the refrigerator door closed, and your healthy eating patterns intact.

Turn to tunes: The next time you have the urge to splurge, listen to music for a few minutes instead. Research has shown that listening to your favorite tunes can help regulate mood.

Look inside yourself: Next time you go for food, stop and ask yourself why you are eating and if you are setting yourself up for guilty feelings later.

Write it down: Keep a journal of how you are feeling and what you eat. See if you can track the relationship between mood and your cravings.

Binge-proof your home: It’s a lot harder to load up on unhealthy food if you have to get out of the house to find it.

Happy Meals: Eating when you’re happy or to maintain your positive outlook

This dimension assesses the extent to which you use foods to maintain or increase your positive, or happy, emotions and moods. Another way to think about it is when you feel good, do you want to eat?

You scored about average on this scale. But what does that mean? Eating has the power to feed your heart and soul. When something good happens, a common reaction is, “let’s go out and celebrate!” For you, savoring the moment sometimes involves having a good meal. After all, life’s most joyous occasions and holidays are centered on having a feast with friends and family. Given your moderate score, there are times you see food as a reward for a job well done or just as a way to unwind from your hectic day. Either way, eating a delicious meal provides you a sense of fulfillment. You understand that food is not just tied to positive emotions, though. You also associate it with having positive properties. Many people believe that foods can heal the soul and the body. For example, when they’re not feeling well, they make changes to their diet. Although you may not immediately leap to this conclusion, you do have some sense of power that foods can make a far-reaching impact on our lives.

Take Action: Ways to Use Food in Healthy and Happy Ways

Too many people lose sight of the joys food can offer — why restrict the fun? Here are some ways food and fun can be had together.

Center your parties on a theme menu: If you want to be known for your parties go beyond the veggie dip and cheese plate (boring!). Pick a theme and extend it to the menu choices as well. There are plenty of magazines and web sites to help you with throwing an unforgettable party. Magazines like Cooking Light and Gourmet often feature themed dinner or brunch ideas, and has thousands of recipes available at the click of a mouse.

Get loose with food: Feel free to deviate from recipes. Add more spice or tone down the ingredients to suit your palate. Once you see how creative you can be with food, you will never see it as humdrum again. Don’t freelance on baking recipes, though. Baking is all about precise chemistry, and you wouldn’t want to open the oven to find something that looks like a lab experiment.

Make food for others: We live in a time where people are always on the rush. Making something and giving it as a gift will stop people in their tracks because you are giving something of your own creation. Even a box of slice and bake cookies is meaningful. The effort speaks volumes.

Food, Shmood: When eating doesn’t seem to matter much to you

This scale measures the extent to which you feel indifferent when thinking about food and how you eat. Indifference has more to do with the extent to which you plan on what you eat or not.

Your low score indicates that you actually do pay much attention to food and you rarely neglect food as a priority in your life. Given your low score on this scale, you realize how necessary it is for your survival and are apt to think about what to eat in advance of your hunger. In addition, you most likely try to consciously modify your diet on a regular basis. For example, reading the ingredients of the foods you eat or looking at the nutritional content is probably something you do. Hopefully, this type of mindfulness has led to positive eating habits. Unlike you, some people who score high on this dimension don’t watch what they eat and just follow their gut, so to speak, each time they go to the grocery store or restaurant. This can be a problem because they may not be getting all the nutrition they need. However, your mindful eating has most likely led you to really monitor how much you consume so that you rarely eat more than you think you do. If you pay attention to what you eat, then you most likely are paying attention to how much you eat as well.

People like you who score low when it comes to indifference and their eating patterns often wonder why. Here we measured more carefully the degree of indifference as it relates to food. Given your low score here, it seems that you are very conscientious of your eating habits. You are most likely very mindful in other aspects of your life as well. In general, this is the healthy way to be.
However, keep in mind that all things are usually good in moderation. So, examine your attitudes and behavior and make sure you’re not limiting your choices too narrowly. Allow yourself the space to go off the beaten path and try things off your grocery list. Food can be fun, and part of that comes from experiencing new sensations and, yes, even occasionally being spontaneous, too.

Don’t Watch Me Eat: How much do you worry about the appearance of your eating choices?

How many times before ordering have you asked your dining partner, “So, what are you getting?” This section of the test tries to show you the extent to which you feel self conscious about what you’re eating. In this case, self-consciousness refers to the extent you observe your own behavior and how it relates to others. This dimension has less to do with what you eat as opposed to how you see food related to your sense of who you are.

Given your low score, there are only a few times that you typically watch others as a guide for how to treat food. Unlike you, when highly self-conscious people are out to see a movie with a friend who buys a big box of candy, then they see it as a license to buy one for themselves. On the other hand, if their friend just buys bottled water, then they would refrain from buying the candy even if they really wanted it. When they’re feeling self-conscious, the way they interact with food says something about who they are in that moment. You, however, don’t often step outside of yourself in this way. Instead, you rely on your own feelings as a guide for what and how much you should eat. Your pattern denotes a certain amount of security in who you are and what you feel like doing in the moment without projecting how it will be perceived by others.

Whether you’ve finished your plate before everyone else, asked for seconds, or ordered the most at the table, everyone’s felt self-conscious at one point or another in their lives. And not just about food. Some of us call ahead before we go to parties to see what others are wearing so we don’t stand out. Being anxious about our image is not unheard of. However when you have this feeling, ask yourself, “What am I afraid of?” What people think of you is not nearly as important as what you think of yourself. Being comfortable with who you are is far more impressive than joining the crowd.

Possessive Eating: Eating as an extension of your relationships to others

Some people treat their possessions in the same way as they treat their food. After all, how many times have you heard a little kid scream, “Mine!” when another person goes after his stash of Halloween candy or the last cookie even when he didn’t really want it? Here we measured just how much predictability and control people feel when they are eating their food. Some people share their food very freely and feel no tie to it except as a means of connecting with others. Other people feel tied to what they have and desire controlling it.

Given your low score, you see how food can be used as a means of connecting to others. You tend to be generous with your possessions and even though you may have ordered a dish to consume on your own, you typically decide that it is better to share it so that you create an inclusive atmosphere. After all, sharing food is an intimate act because eating is so vital to our lives and in the old days breaking bread was one way of establishing trust with others. We only share meals with friends and family or with people with whom we try to gain trust. You understand the value of this act and are typically laid back when it comes to keeping account of who does what in close relationships.

Adventurous Eating: Eating as a vehicle to explore new experiences and tastes

Most people have fairly predictable routines like the person who can eat the same turkey sandwich every day at lunch. But others need more adventure in their lives. Maybe it’s turkey one day, tuna salad the next, a plate of Buffalo Wings the next. Those with a need for both stimulation and variety often rely on food as one way to fulfill this need.

Based on your moderate score on the stimulation dimension food is an adventure for you. Different foods stimulate your imagination and senses. When you’re deciding where to go to eat or what to pick on a menu, it is most likely that you’ll choose the unusual and exotic. At the same though, you draw the line and would not try a dish that borders on the repulsive. You don’t want to miss out on anything and although there are times you like to pick the reliable favorites, eating the same old thing every day is not for you. This is why you have a hard time understanding why someone would go to the same restaurant every day and eat the same dish every single time-isn’t variety the spice of life? In this way you appreciate the finer aspects of food. The sensuality of food is apparent to you as you take note of the visual and textural differences in food. You may not even be aware of it but food and its presentation make up an important part of the overall experience.

Your Eating Style
Emotional Triggers
Dissecting the Diet
History Behind the Test
Reading List

Dissecting the Diet

Who has not at one point or another considered going on a diet? Even if you have not considered a diet per se, chances are that you have thought of how you can improve your eating habits. Very few people consider how their eating pattern fits with all the different diets out there. Unfortunately, not considering who you are as a person can be a recipe for a disaster. If we consider our personality for the kinds of clothes we wear, then why should we not also take into account who we are for how we eat? Considering your eating personality can potentially save you from the frustrating failure many people experience when they embark on a new eating plan. In the report below, we introduce four basic types of eating plans and tell you which of today’s most popular diets fall under these categories.

Information to ask your physician about
We are not advocating or recommending a specific diet for you. You should consult with your physician before making any changes to your diet. However, the following information may help you in asking your doctor any questions you may have in terms of altering your diet for a healthier lifestyle.

Low-Carb diets
Unless you’ve been living without television, Internet, or newspapers, you have already heard of the low carbohydrate diet plans. The latest diet trend centers on limiting the amount of carbohydrates we consume on a daily basis. And food producers have caught on. Walk down the aisle in the grocery store and you’ll see “Low-Carb!” or “Carb Free!” emblazoned on packaging. Even hard alcohol has joined the fray and has recently been approved to put its low-carb contents on its labeling. These tactics cater to two of the most popular low-carb diets:the Atkins diet and the South Beach Diet. The Atkins diet maintains that far too many people rely on refined and processed high carbohydrate foods such as breads and pasta, which then convert into body fat. The goal of this diet is to increase protein and fat while reducing the carbohydrates in your diet. There are four phases to the plan starting with a two week regimented induction phase to the lifelong weight maintenance phase. The South Beach Diet is an alternative to Atkins. While some supporters refrain from calling it a low-carb diet, it does involve a reduction in carbohydrates and reallocation in your diet to more protein and fat. This diet also has a 14-day induction phase that severely restricts carbohydrates, including fruits. In general though, it is regarded as less restrictive than the Atkins diet and consists of 2 additional phases to the regimen.

Given that you are a Relaxed Eater here are the following strengths and challenges you should consider if you wanted to follow this type of diet.

Given your preference to taking the time out to enjoy your meals, you may not mind the low-carb diets because you can still go out with friends and family. Granted, you may have to avoid the breadsticks and not order the pasta meal, but restaurants are now adapting to the low-carb trend so that you should not feel too left out. Also, restricting your fruit intake may be a big challenge for you since most people with normal eating habits are accustomed to seeing fruits as healthy snacks.

Meal Replacement Diets
Walking down the grocery aisle, you may have noticed new and old brands of food being touted as part of a meal replacement system. These diets typically involve eating a special meal for breakfast and lunch and then a healthy dinner of your choice. Popular versions of this type of diet include: Slimfast, the Kashi Go-Lean plan, the Special K diet, and the Subway diet. Some of these diets such as the Special K and Kashi Go-Lean diet are not meant to be practiced on a long-term basis but rather as a quick way to lose weight without thinking too much about it. These diets center around portion control and types of food you eat for at least two of your meals. They also make you buy twice as much of the cereal as you normally would, as you’re eating it for more than just breakfast, so if such capitalism gets stuck in your craw, think twice about the cereal versions. Depending on which program you choose, some foods are based on high protein and low fat, while others contain low fat but fiber rich foods. Most of these programs also have an initial phase with restrictions on how much and what types of food to eat and then relax their requirements once you are in the weight maintenance phase.

The nice thing for your type is that this type of meal plan ensures that you will eat three square meals. So, Relaxed Eaters can rejoice in being able to still lead a fairly normal life with these types of programs. The major drawback for your type will be that many people complain that boredom can set in quickly when you eat the same foods over and over again. You might consider interchanging several of these meal plans so that you are still exercising portion control and eating healthy foods but just not the same foods day in and day out.

Point System/Exchange Plan Diets
These diets operate on letting the person eat what they want as long as they do not exceed the points allocated each day, or stray from the allotted foods they are allowed. Weight Watchers is one of the most popular versions of this kind of plan. Here counselors point out the different categories of foods, such as starch, dairy, protein, and grains. You are then given suggestions of how many of each kind of food you can consume at each meal. So, for example, when it comes to breakfast, you may be advised to have 2 grains, 1 dairy, and 1 protein. You choose the foods that fall into each category. Each food is additionally given a points value. For example, a slice of wheat bread is usually 2 points. The amount of points you can eat in a day is determined by your weight before beginning the program, and your goal weight. By using points, you control the portions and are ensured of eating the proper amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This diet makes you very aware of which foods you are choosing, and you may find, long after returning to a less rigid diet plan, that you still are very points-conscious. As an aside, many people like to try to do the Weight Watchers programs by themselves, without ever attending an actual Weight Watchers meeting. While joining Weight Watchers does cost a nominal fee, it’s not that pricey, and it is highly recommended to attend the meetings as there are weekly weighings on a consistent medical scale, and feedback between dieters and counselors.

Exact Meal Plans
An extension of the Point System and Exchange Plans are the Exact Meal Plans. With exact meal plans, everything is done for you. All you have to do is open the box and follow the instructions. Popular exact meal plans include The Zone and Jenny Craig. For both plans, you purchase pre-made food from the company. The foods for each meal are planned carefully so that you are eating a low-fat, but nutritious meal. The Zone is specifically customized for you based on gender, weight, and activity level. The goal is to have your daily menu consist of foods comprised of a certain distribution of carbohydrates (40%), fat (30%) and protein (30%). The Jenny Craig plan has the option of sending you frozen meals to your door and they also provide social support counselors while you are on the plan. Given that Point and Exact Meal plans are similar in structure, the advantages and drawbacks are highly similar for eating types.

One of the big advantages of following these types of point/exchange plans is that you can follow these plans indefinitely as most of them are designed to help you achieve a healthy eating lifestyle. They are flexible enough so that you can still go out to eat and enjoy a nice meal. All you have to do is calculate the points involved with each part of your meal so that you don’t exceed your limit. With the exact meal plans, however, going out to eat can be difficult. Also, some Relaxed Eaters will feel bogged down by having to do these calculations when they just want to go out and have a nice time. You may ask yourself, “Do I really want to know the point values to everything I put in my mouth?” For some, it will be as appealing as doing a homework assignment.

Food for Thought

Want to get a jump-start on knowing more about food and eating patterns in general? Take a look at Tickle’s 14-point tip sheet.

Most fruit juices contain more sugar than actual fruit. So don’t fool yourself. While drinking juice in moderation is a great way to meet some of your recommended daily requirements for vitamins, some juices are better than others. Things to watch out for? Be leery of juices that list high fructose corn syrup high on their nutritional labels.

# 2
Fiber expands in your stomach and leaves you satisfied long after eating. Look at food labels and compare them – try to pick items that have higher amounts of fiber.

# 3
Next time you’re feeling like you want to eat something, drink a glass of water and see if you’re still hungry. We often mistake being thirsty for being hungry.

Having trouble drinking enough water during the day? A tall glass of lukewarm water is easier to drink than a tall glass of ice-cold water.

Most restaurant portions of food are actually appropriate for two people. Consider ordering appetizers as main dishes, or sharing a single portion with a fellow diner.

Buying individually sized snacks or treats reduces your chances of bingeing.

Slow Down: It takes 15-20 minutes for your mind and body to register how full you really are.

Stress can make you fat! Research has shown that cortisol, a stress hormone, leads to cravings for carbohydrates and overeating.

Not a license to binge: Low-fat or reduced-fat foods often contain a lot of sugar and calories.

Increase your calcium by eating dark green leafy vegetables.

Couch Potato Syndrome: Never take a bag of food with you while sitting on the couch. Pour out a single serving size in a bowl instead.

People who skip breakfast typically end up consuming more calories by the end of the day.

Get some ZZZs: Lack of sleep leads to a slowed down metabolism.

Are you drinking your calories? Cocktails, soft drinks, smoothies and special coffee drinks are the new high calorie culprits.

Your Eating Style
Emotional Triggers
Dissecting the Diet
History Behind the Test
Reading List

History Behind the Test

Tickle’s Eating Pattern Test tapped into which type of eating pattern best describes you and the extent to which different emotions influence your relationship with food. In addition, we also examined some of today’s most popular diets and discussed some of the strengths and challenges your type would face with each plan. Although health psychologists have long known that personality plays a critical role in how we treat food, it is only recently that popular eating experts have taken these factors into account. Understanding our psychological relationship with food should ideally help us maintain or develop positive and healthy eating habits. No one is perfect and the old maxim, “everything in moderation,” still applies. Food is more than just nutrition and exercising control over what we eat is only part of it. Food can enrich people’s lives by bringing us new sensations and allowing us to socially bond with others.

This test was created using findings obtained by health and personality psychologist as well as nutrition and eating experts. Furthermore, Tickle researchers conducted studies to assess the validity of the typologies used in the report.

For those of you interested in this topic as well as related topics, we suggest the following references for future reading.

Your Eating Style
Emotional Triggers
Dissecting the Diet
History Behind the Test
Reading List

Reading List

Kushner, R.F. & Kushner, N. (2003). Dr. Kushner’s Personality Type Diet, New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Mehrabian, A., & Riccioni, M. (1986). Measures of eating-related characteristics for the general population: Relationships with temperament, Journal of Personality Assessment, 50, 4, 610-629.

Wiatt, C. L. (1995). Eating by Design, New York: Pocket Books.

Williams, S.S., Michela, J.L., Contento, I.R., Gladis, M.M., & Pierce, N.T. (1996). Restrained eating among adolescents: Dieters are not always bingers and bingers are not always dieters, Health Psychology, 15, 3, pp. 176-184.

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