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Karen Nimmo: Food Personality, part 1- 29 June

What's Your Food Personality?

Want to lose weight? Enjoy better health? Then understanding your food psychology - or how you think and behave around food - is a useful first step. It's also helpful to be able to diagnose the eating of other people in your world, including partners and children.

Although we all have different food histories, stories and influences, it's possible to identify "food personalities" by grouping some commonly seen traits together. Based on my work and research, here are ten categories that best explain patterns of eating which we'll look at over the next few weeks. There is considerable overlap between categories so while you may identify with one main personality type you may also see traces of yourself in others.

Emotional Eater

Common to many women! Eating is driven by moods, irritability, anxiety and stress levels. Food is used to comfort and to celebrate. You often binge eat, then feel guilty and ashamed. You may be a serial dieter and your weight may have fluctuated dramatically over time.

Personality Traits: Sensitive and often low on self-esteem, you may be easily affected by what others say and do - or events and situations. You can be upbeat and fun but hard work when feeling low or upset. Possibly anxiety prone, you may cover it up with false confidence.

Danger Spots: Stress, loss and change (at home, work or in relationships). 

Helpful Strategies: Identify which emotions are driving your problem eating - because it won't be all of them. Learn to comfort yourself and celebrate without food. Ask what is causing you stress, then work out tiny steps to reduce that stress. Breathe, relax and learn stress management techniques. Work on bolstering your self confidence. Good planning, routines and exercise will help.

Reclusive Eater 

You often prefer or choose to eat alone. This may because you are uncomfortable socially - or you are embarrassed about what you eat (for overweight people) or don't eat (underweight). Secretiveness around food intake is one of the most often seen difficulties and leads to guilt, shame, deception and social stress as well as weight problems.

Personality Traits: You may be reserved or outgoing but, either way, are often low on social confidence and vulnerable to anxiety and stress. Food difficulties can generally be tracked to adolescence.

Danger Spots: Being alone, or finding excuses to be alone with food, because it promotes unhealthy eating habits and encourages sneaky food behaviour.

Helpful Strategies: Be honest about how much you are eating when on your own. Take up non-threatening social invitations or create some. Seek help with boosting your confidence levels.