Tuesday, June 9, 2015

What Kind of Eater Are You?

Adam and I watched a fascinating British documentary a few months back, and the content has stuck with me. It was a first-of-its-kind scientific study done with 75 obese participants, trying to understand exactly how they over-ate, and why they ate as they did.
For breakfast pAdam made chocolate biscotti with white chocolate and pistachios. 
Here's a link to the BBC page about the study that was done. And here's a link to a Daily Mail article about it, if you'd like further reading. I tried to find the documentary itself on Netflix and Youtube, without success. But if you can find it ... watch it!

Basically, they discovered three kinds of over-eaters: Feasters, Constant Cravers, and Emotional Eaters. They even have a quick online quiz you can take to help you find out what kind of over-eater you are. If you're not obese, and not over-eating, don't bother. Here's the quiz.

What they discovered made so much sense to me, and it continues to inform how I understand my own eating patterns. I'm a Constant Craver. Basically, if there is food around, there's a little part of my brain that stays fixated on the food and wants to go fiddle with it. I'm not actually hungry. I don't really want to eat the food that much (although since that's what you do with food, of course I do eat it). I like to fiddle with food. Here's their description of my eating type:

"And the third group, the constant cravers, were those whose genes drive them to eat. They are more grazers, they don't eat huge amounts in one sitting."

I'd always claimed that my obesity wasn't my fault because I don't overeat -- in other words, I don't sit down and eat like a Feaster. You know Feasters, those people who can sit down at a buffet and eat three times as much as other people. And apparently they don't even feel very full. The scientists in this study found out why. Feasters have a gut hormone that doesn't function well, a hormone that tells the brain, "I'm full. Stop eating now." They also found a biological reason for why Constant Cravers eat as we do.

I'm not a Feaster. Adam is a Feaster. I'm a grazer. I like food to be around. If I never ate another full sit-down meal again, I wouldn't miss it. I'd much rather eat my meals in little bits, all day long. I find that kind of eating to be comforting, satisfying, enjoyable. I like to nibble off of little plates. I like to make pots of tea and fiddle with them. I like food that's in little bites. I like to eat with my fingers. I like to be involved with my food. I like to eat while I'm doing other things (like movie-watching, knitting, reading, facebooking ... even if it's inconvenient and I spill on myself). 

After I eat a meal at the table -- all the calories I'm supposed to have for the next five hours, sadly -- I'm in a stuck spot. What I really want is to have eaten only half the meal, and have the other half to nibble on later, over a course of hours. I realize that now. What made me fat is that for years I'd eat that whole meal, and when the Constant Craver gene kicked in two hours later, I'd go get something else to eat, just a little, even though I was not hungry. Doing that for 25 years can put some weight on you.

So this morning I left a few bites of biscotti on my breakfast plate, for later. Because I know myself. And as soon as the early bites of biscotti weren't giving me the same satisfying feeling as the very first bite did, I knew it was time to stop and save some for later. And because I'm no Feaster, not only was that easy to do, it was pleasant. I had something to look forward to.
Yummy biscotti for later
I'm not a Feaster. I'm most certainly not an Emotional Eater. When I'm highly stressed, I can't eat at all, thankfully. But I nibbled my way to obesity. If you're overweight and you'd like to understand why, and perhaps begin to do something about it, take the little quiz above. Find the 3-part documentary and watch it. And knowing yourself and your tendencies, begin a new eating plan that works with your tendencies, instead of fighting against them. Some diets work best for Feasters (like, eat a big meal at noon, and try to cut back in the evening; or eat three solid meals each day but don't snack!) and some diets work best for Constant Cravers (like, it's best to eat six small meals each day -- have you heard that one?). As a Constant Craver, I have to be careful what I nibble on: low calorie, healthy, tasty, food that is satisfying to the palate and takes time to eat. 

Perhaps this will be helpful to one or two folks out there. I hope so.
(I'll ask Adam where he found the videos, and post that information here if you can watch them on line.)


  1. Interesting! I found myself ten pounds overweight several months ago and lost them by eating smaller portions. I get a great deal of exercise: low-impact aerobics, distance walking, pasture and barn raking and shoveling, other farm chores. But the food caught up with me. Now I keep those pounds off by continuing to eat really little portions. I don't feel deprived. And, yes, I still eat sweets and breads. I just eat less. It's all about the calories. It all balances out.

  2. Oh yeah! I'm a grazer! But I could stand to make those little meals a little smaller. I continue eating even when I feel full. I have to start paying attention! :)

  3. Oh this is an easy one. Emotional eater, hands down. Didn't even need to take the quiz. When my spirit is at ease, I eat like a normal person. Get me ruffled and it's like a drug. :( At least I know that. Btw, great post. Makes a person think.

  4. Well, this was very interesting. I took the quiz twice, remembering how I used to eat, and how I'm eating now. Both results showed I'm a constant craver. I'm not sure I could follow that intermittent dieting program they recommend though -- 600 to 800 calories two days a week, then healthy eating the rest of the time? Have you tried this M.K.?
    I am eating three meals a day, no snacks at all, but I am hungry a lot. I'm afraid to introduce snacks because it's so easy to let portions get out of control. But your idea of saving some of your meal for later is an idea.
    Thanks for sharing. It's given me food for the brain -- haha


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