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The 4 Eating Archetypes + Why Knowing Yours Is So Essential

Lisa Moskovitz, RD
Registered Dietitian
By Lisa Moskovitz, RD
Registered Dietitian
Lisa Moskovitz, RD, is a registered dietitian, the CEO of NY Nutrition Group, a large group nutrition practice, and the author of "The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan," a personalized, science-based guide to finding your healthiest, happiest weight. She received a BS in nutrition from Syracuse University and then went on to complete an intensive dietetic internship at NYPresbyterian Hospital. Since then, she has accumulated over a decade of experience in private practice, providing nutrition workshops and working with the media.
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Image by Ivan Gener / Stocksy
November 9, 2022
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Like any solid relationship, a healthy relationship with food takes work, respect, appreciation, and trust. If you're struggling to eat healthily, consider that it's not about what foods you're eating but why you're eating these foods. There is a strong mental health and attitude component.

The thoughts that many of us have around food can often be broken down into what I call in my book, The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan, "Distorted Eating Archetypes." (Note that I say distorted, not disordered; If you suspect you have an eating disorder or disordered eating, please consult with a trained specialist such as an eating disorder therapist, doctor, or dietitian. For more immediate resources, visit the National Eating Disorders Association.)

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Each one of these archetypes comes with distinct characteristics, pitfalls, and key solutions to help you eat more instinctively and confidently. You may identify with only one archetype or a few of them, and they could change over time.

I believe that understanding your archetype(s) is an important first step in forging a healthier relationship with food. So without further ado, here are the four archetypes.

The Erratic Eater.

The erratic eater typically has no structure with meals throughout the day. Food is often an afterthought and when stress levels are higher, meals are often skipped. You may find that you lose your appetite under stress. In some cases, there may be only one sit-down meal per day.

The pitfall of the Erratic Eater is that your body might not be getting enough consistent nutrients or fuel throughout the day. You may feel like you overeat at the end of the day1, and as a result, you struggle with digestion issues, poor energy and sleep, fatigue, and frequent weight fluctuations.

Action step:

Work on planning ahead more. Even if you can never commit to eating three square meals, you can at least plan for small, frequent snacks that include some source of protein, fiber, and fat: This combo will keep energy and blood sugar as stable as possible.

Work on more mindful eating. Be present with meals and try to carve at least three or four breaks in the day when you can focus on food.

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The Dependent Eater.

The dependent eater often makes food the focal point of each day: thinking about what you're eating for dinner before you finished breakfast.

Now, there is nothing wrong with enjoying your food, and a delicious meal can and should be a source of celebration. The pitfalls of this eating type are that you may be using food to cope with strong emotions or stress often. As a result, you may not actually be dealing with these uncomfortable emotions or chronic stressors.

Further, the type of comforting foods you seek out may be less nutrient-dense, which can lead to health complications down the road such as high blood sugar,2 high blood pressure3, high cholesterol4, and hormonal imbalances5.

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Action step:

Find non-food-related coping mechanisms and activities, and practice facing strong emotions and feelings head-on. Instead of only seeking out the foods you crave, combine them with nutrient-rich ingredients such as veggies, fruit, protein, and nuts.

The Judgmental Eater.

The judgmental eater often has a long track record of dieting or actively trying to lose weight.

You may often label foods as "good" versus "bad" and feel like you constantly need to eat as "clean" as possible. You may also have a lot of food rules that you try to live by such as not eating after a certain time of day and/or avoiding certain food groups.

The pitfall of this eater archetype is that you likely never feel in control around food and may often cycle on and off diets. You may struggle with the proverbial "all-or-nothing" mentality around food. If you eat one meal, snack, or treat that is not "on the plan," you might find yourself unraveling by continuing to eat "bad" or "unhealthy" foods. There may be a lot of guilt, anger, frustration, and shame around food. This can lead to drastic weight fluctuations, poor self-esteem and body image, and frequent stress around food and eating.

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Challenge some of the food rules that you have internalized, and ask yourself if these rules are evidence-based—or just based on other people’s opinions.

Action step:

Work on recognizing that all foods can fit into a healthy diet. Understand the importance of finding a variety of foods that are nutritious but that also taste good to you. Challenge some of the food rules that you have internalized, and ask yourself if these rules are evidence-based—or just based on other people's opinions.

Work on body image, and redefine what your healthiest weight may be. You might be at your healthiest, happiest weight now. Either way, it's best to focus on habits and behaviors instead of numbers on the scale or clothing sizes.

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The Obsessive Eater.

The final eater archetype is an obsessive eater. This type of eater is typically the most disordered and dysfunctional and may be at risk for a serious eating disorder. They may have a lot of fears about weight gain and eating certain foods that could cause weight gain.

The pitfalls of this eater archetype are that it can start to become a serious mental health issue and coincide with depression and/or anxiety. It will be nearly impossible to feel happy and fulfilled and focus on more important aspects of life like your family, friendships, and career, when food thoughts are so all-consuming. You may also struggle with electrolyte imbalances6, hormonal imbalances and irregular periods7, fertility issues8, bone density loss9, and digestion issues10.

Action step:

It is not recommended to self-treat if you suspect you may have an eating disorder. Instead, seek immediate help from a therapist, dietitian, or doctor who specializes in eating disorder treatment. For help finding resources, visit the National Eating Disorders Association website.

The takeaway.

Any healthy diet is built on a healthy relationship with food. Your mentality and thoughts around food have a major impact on how, what, and why you eat. Anyone can go on a diet, but fostering a healthy relationship with food is a skill that transcends any eating plan.

To truly feel good, you must learn to trust food and your body above all else.

Lisa Moskovitz, RD
Lisa Moskovitz, RD
Registered Dietitian

Lisa Moskovitz, RD, is a registered dietitian, the CEO of NY Nutrition Group, a large group nutrition practice, and the author of The Core 3 Healthy Eating Plan, a personalized, science-based guide to finding your healthiest, happiest weight. She received a BS in nutrition from Syracuse University and then went on to complete an intensive dietetic internship at NYPresbyterian Hospital. Since then, she has accumulated over a decade of experience in private practice, providing nutrition workshops, and working with the media.

Lisa is a diet-neutral dietitian: she believes weight loss diets can be helpful for some and harmful for others. Her approach is not diet-centered, it’s client-centered. She believes that when it comes to nutrition, there is no one-size-fits-all method and that personalization is paramount for sustainability and success.