Quiz: What kind of eater are you?

Take our quiz to determine why you eat the way you do. Then find out how to develop more good-for-you eating habits

Quiz: What kind of eater are you?

Source: Best Health Magazine, March/April 2009

Whether or not you are able to meet your weight-loss goals, or maintain a healthy weight, depends largely on your eating habits and attitude toward food. For each question in this quiz, note the answer that most often depicts you. That will tell you what your eating style is. Then read our tips for getting—or staying—on the right track.

1. You’ve just had a lousy day. Do you:
a) Graze on whatever you find, without thinking about what you’re eating.
b) Find comfort in a tub of ice cream.
c) Grab a few low-carb snacks to ease your stress.
d) Cheer up by calling a friend or curling up with a movie.

2. While preparing dinner for your family, do you:
a) Nibble on the ingredients for the meal as you cook.
b) Plan to eat just what’s on your plate, but often end up grabbing seconds.
c) Make your own special low-carb meal.
d) Hold off eating until you sit down at the table.

3. At a restaurant with friends, do you:
a) Gobble up your meal and some of the breadbasket.
b) Order whatever your heart desires; you’re just happy to be with friends.
c) Stick to your low-carb regimen, even if your choice is higher in fat.
d) Skip the appetizer or share your dessert.

4. You’re under the gun to meet a deadline at work. Do you:
a) Eat whatever you have time to grab and have it while sitting at your desk.
b) Munch on fast food and treats to combat the stress.
c) Eat your usual chicken breast and salad.
d) Keep up your energy with a healthy lunch and a short exercise break.

5. At a cocktail party, do you:
a) Sample whatever passes your way and park yourself by the bowl of munchies.
b) Not worry about overindulging in food and alcohol; you’re having fun.
c) Eat only those foods allowed in your eating plan, such as nuts or shrimp.
d) Enjoy the hors d’oeuvres but avoid high-fat choices.

Which letter did you choose the most?

Mostly As: You munch mindlessly

Without realizing it, you’re nibbling extra calories all day, perhaps having a few candies at work or a bowl of popcorn while watching TV. In one study, people underestimated more than 200 decisions they made about food in a day. “People eat when they’re distracted, so they have no idea how much they’re eating unless they run out of food or feel too full,” says Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating.

Next steps

  • “Pay attention to taste, chewing and swallowing,” suggests dietitian Alexia Trail of Port Coquitlam, B.C. “And put the fork down between bites.”
  • Wear snug-fitting pants or a belt to the table; when they start to feel tight, you’ve had your fill.
  • Munch on a low-calorie snack, such as carrots, while watching TV. Or keep your hands occupied by painting your nails.
  • At restaurants, decide what to order before you arrive, suggests Calgary dietitian Stefanie Copple. Consider having part of your meal put into a takeout box before it gets to the table.

Mostly Bs: You’re an emotional eater

Like many people, you eat to take your mind off of sadness or stress, or as a reward when you are happy. But a study from Brown University found that when people ate in response to emotions, they were less likely to lose weight and more likely to regain it than when they ate in response to external factors.

From birth, food is a source of comfort. “Emotional eating is normal for many people but if you want to be healthy, you have to take some responsibility for overcoming it,” says Michael Vallis, a health psychologist at Dalhousie University.

Next steps

  • Tune in to the emotions that make you overeat by writing down what you have through the day. Note your mood and location, suggests Copple. You can then thwart the triggers. (Try our Best Health printable food journal templates to get started.)
  • Instead of a celebratory dinner, treat yourself to a massage.
  • Weight-loss plans that are too ambitious can lead to emotional overeating. Instead, opt for small changes, and build from there.

Mostly Cs: You restrict healthy carbs

You view carbs as the enemy, so you’re missing out on foods that are important for energy and health. “People on low-carb diets showed no significant weight-loss difference after a year than those watching their calories,” says Donald Hensrud, a nutrition specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

Next steps

  • Restricting refined carbs is wise; we do eat too many, says Trail. But carbs such as whole grains, fruits and vegetables are loaded with fibre, vitamins and minerals, and are key for digestion and helping you feel full.
  • The higher fat content in low-carb diets may put dieters at risk for reduced blood flow through the arteries, which may increase heart attack risk, according to a study at the Medical College of Wisconsin.
  • Restricting carbs may lead to overeating at night because you’ve under-eaten all day, so you should shift more of your calorie intake to breakfast and lunch, Vallis suggests. “You expend the most calories during those hours.”

Mostly Ds: You have healthy eating habits

You’ve got a good attitude, choosing mostly nutritious foods and occasionally indulging without guilt. You eat with awareness, enjoying food and listening to your body’s hunger and fullness signals.

Next steps

  • Even healthy eaters may overindulge. Studies show adults have about 115 calories more per day from Friday to Sunday; this can mean an extra five to seven pounds a year.
  • Exercise more on weekends, suggests Barry Popkin, director of the Obesity Center at the University of North Carolina, and watch beverages: “Those liquid calories lead to weight gain.”

This article was originally titled "What’s Driving Your Eating Habits?" in the March/April 2009 issue of Best Health Magazine. Subscribe today and never miss an issue!