Eats anytime and anywhere — while driving, working, reading, watching TV or surfing the Internet. Usually chooses foods that are convenient and readily accessible. Frequently eats past the point of fullness. Make a commitment to eat three meals a day. Midmorning and late-afternoon snacks may help ward off hunger. Don't do anything else while eating, and try to slow down and enjoy food.
Often goes all day without eating much — or anything. May consume far more calories than intended at night because of ravenous hunger. Dinner often blends into continual trips to the kitchen for snacks. Plan to eat lunch and a midafternoon snack. Lunch might be a sandwich, yogurt or soup. The snack might be an apple and peanut butter or low-fat string cheese and crackers. Calorie-proof the house, getting rid of favorite nighttime munchies. Plan on one nightly snack that's satisfying. Eat it slowly and enjoy.
Eats mostly convenience, packaged, frozen and fast foods that are often high in fat and calories and low in fiber. Has few fresh foods or home-cooked meals. Downsize fast-food meals and convenience foods. Buy single servings. Look for healthful alternatives whenever possible. Get baked chips instead of regular ones, broiled chicken instead of fried. Avoid creamy sauces. To add flavor to foods, experiment with spices such as fresh rosemary and tarragon and sauces such as teriyaki or spicy barbecue.
Eats a plain meat-and-potatoes menu, except for an occasional glass of orange juice, a banana or apple. Consumes few fruits and vegetables, thus missing out on the vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients these foods contain. Add blueberries, strawberries or bananas to cereal. Add mushrooms, spinach and green peppers to omelets. Put baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, apple and orange slices in lunch. Add baby spinach, arugula and tomatoes to sandwiches.
Snacks throughout the day and night whether hungry or not — sometimes out of boredom or to take a break in the middle of the day. Doesn't pass up a plate of food, vending machine or snack shop. The sight or smell of food triggers the compulsion to eat. Keep a food diary for only two days, which will help convert mindless eating to conscious consumption. Read food labels to figure out quantities. Try healthful alternatives such as cherrytomatoes dipped in light ranch dressing, baked chips and vegetarian bean dip or whole-wheat pita with hummus dip.
Overindulges on unhealthful foods or even healthful ones. May consume three to five times the norm. Picture a picnic plate with dividers, and portion your plate so that three-quarters is covered with fruits, vegetables and salad, and the meat and starch are in the smaller compartments. Overcome portion traps at restaurants by splitting entrees and ordering extra salad or vegetables. Scan food labels for calories per serving.
May eat a strict diet of "good" foods one day, then overeat on "bad" foods on another. Instead of eating a small slice of chocolate cake, may choose fat-free cookies, but after eating eight of them, feels deprived. Drop the dieting mind-set along with the long lists of forbidden foods. Choose flavorful foods that contain healthful oils and fiber. For instance, add nuts and avocado to salads, use olive oil in stir-frys. Follow the 80/20 rule — if 80% of your diet is healthful, the other 20% can be less so.