THE STRESS SNACKER
You eat in response to how you feel--tired, sad, angry, happy, or upset. Your emotions--rather than your hunger--dictate your food choices.
* SHANNON SAYS: I used to be in great shape, but since my son was born two years ago, my body just hasn't bounced back. I exercise just as much as before--about three to four days of cardio and strength training--but my diet has suffered. I work from home so I can also take care of my son, but the stress of balancing both is sometimes overwhelming; and I turn to food for comfort. I grew up in a house that defined food as love: If I was upset, my mother would feed me ice cream. If I got a good report card, we'd celebrate with cookies or cake. Even today, I eat in response to how I feel. If things are going well, it's easy for me to eat healthfully. But when stress hits, I eat anything that will make me feel better: candy bars, cookies, doughnuts. I promise myself just one treat, but after I eat it, I figure I may as well eat more, since I already blew my diet. Then I feel guilty and beat myself up over it later.
* EXPERT'S ADVICE:
Shannon is typical of an emotional eater, says Joy Bauer, MS., R.D., author of The 90/10 Weight-Loss P/an. If she's happy, she celebrates with ice cream; if she's stressed, she comforts herself with a cookie. She uses food to numb any emotion she can't handle. This type of eating can really damage the psyche and trigger all sorts of feelings of guilt and failure. It can also turn into compulsive binge eating and lead to weight gain.
FIND OTHER WAYS TO SOOTHE YOUR MOOD
Shannon needs to learn how to soothe her moods with something other than food, says Bauer. For instance, she can call a friend, go for a walk, or polish her nails. She also needs to remember that there are no "bad" foods, so she shouldn't feel compelled to sneak-eat. Once day, she should allow herself a treat--a cookie, a small frozen yogurt, or a fun-size candy bar. If she feels like having chocolate, she should eat it out in the open. She'll feel less guilty about it when she realizes there is nothing wrong with eating chocolate--as long as she does it in moderation.
* THE NIGHTTIME NOSHER
You're so busy during the day that you eat almost nothing for breakfast or lunch. Then, at night, you're so hungry that you overeat or can't stop snacking.
* KETURAH SAYS: I don't eat much during the day. I try to grab a bagel for breakfast, but then I get so busy that I forget to eat lunch until I get a headache. And, since I work for a gym, I use my lunch hour to exercise. I sometimes get a vegetable burrito and take a few bites between running errands and answering phones, but it usually sits on my desk for so long that I end up throwing the rest away. When I get home, I cook dinner, but my husband wants only meat and potatoes, which I don't like at all. I'm usually too exhausted to make myself anything else, so I snack on cereal right out of the box or have a Pop Tart. Then, I climb into bed and watch TV.
By 9 p.m., I'm usually famished. I bring in a tray heaping with food--dried fruit, jelly beans, cookies, cake. Or I down an entire pint of ice cream. I always go to sleep with a full stomach. I guess I'm a creature of habit, because I eat the same way on the weekends.
* EXPERT'S ADVICE:
SIT DOWN FOR A HEALTHY MEAL
Keturah is starving her body during the day and missing out on important nutrients, like protein, says Slayton. That's why she gets headaches at work and binges on starchy sweets at night: Her blood sugar is too low. Keturah has a great figure now, but eventually, her metabolism will slow down and her late-night snacking could catch up with her. I wouldn't be surprised if she starts to put on weight in the next few years.
Keturah has to set aside at least 10 minutes every day at around noon to eat lunch, says Slayton. A peanut-butter or turkey sandwich and a banana will give her the protein and fiber she needs to keep her energy levels up. She could also try bringing healthy snacks to work--such as soy nuts or protein bars--to nibble on throughout the day. And she definitely needs to plan her dinners better. If her husband likes only meat and potatoes, she could ask him to help out so she doesn't have to cook two different meals. Keturah could also cook on the weekends, stocking her fridge with easy-to-reheat foods, like veggie chili. Prewashed salads are easy to toss with canned tuna or grilled chicken. If she still can't control her snacking at night, she could buy snacks in individual packs--this way, when she wants a cookie, she'll be less likely to eat the entire box.
* THE SOCIAL EATER
You look at food as a chance to bond with others, so your eating habits vary depending on where you are and who you're with.
* MEREDITH SAYS: My food choices really fluctuate. If I'm alone, I sometimes go for hours without eating. When I'm on a date, I often eat beforehand to avoid pigging out in front of the guy; when I'm out with coworkers, I order last and get what everyone else is having to feel like part of the team. When I'm out with my friends, I order hot dogs and beer. if we're at a baseball game, or a plate of nachos at a bar. But, with my doctor friend, I order steamed vegetables even if I really want eggs benedict; then I go home and down a pint of ice cream once she's not around.
* EXPERT'S ADVICE:
LISTEN TO YOUR OWN HUNGER CUES
Meredith likes to mirror other people's eating habits, which is why she doesn't eat much when she's alone, says Bauer. Because she doesn't take care of her nutrient needs, she is more likely to feel tired or run-down. Meredith needs to start eating at more regular intervals--breakfast no later than 9 am.; a mid-morning snack; lunch by 1; a mid-day snack; and dinner by 7:30.
She also needs to become more confident in her food choices, says Bauer. She can project the image she wants and still order foods she actually likes and wants to eat. For instance, on a date, she can order a light dinner of sushi or soup and a mixed-green salad. With her fun-loving friends, she can order a slice of vegetable pizza or a low-fat finger food, like grilled-chicken skewers. And with her healthy doctor friend, she can have the eggs benedict she loves--with the hollandaise sauce on the side.
Marie Claire by Pepper, Leslie