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What is your food personality?

“Food, in one sense, is any material that an individual seriously regards as edible.” [1]

Food evokes a primitive response in human beings, for nourishment is one of our fundamental, most basic needs. That first suckle, once the umbilical cord is cut, connects neural pathways in the brain that equates food with nurture because at that moment we are at our most vulnerable. It takes many months and even years of development before we are able to forage for ourselves. Our food habits are learned and dependent on our environment during those formative years. How we see food may very well relate back to who taught us how to eat. Here is where we may acquire our food personality.

This article will take an unscientific look at just a few of the various food personalities that you may encounter, or even conform to, in your life.

Which food personality describes you?

Type 1: The Media Personality

1. When the media advertises a health food or supplement do you take note?
2. Have you been on a diet at some point in your life?
3. Does your kitchen house a juicer, a blender or a steamer?

If you answered yes to two or more questions, you are a classic media food personality. You find it difficult to resist the latest health craze or nifty time saving gadget that can help you follow the newest guaranteed diet or healthy eating regime. If the radio broadcasts that CoQ10 is the answer to all your energy requirements and additionally has powerful anti-oxidants, you source the nearest supplier to bulk buy your supply. Then you get the whole family to take some because you want them all to sample the goodness on offer. You believe that there is a magic bullet out there, which will fix all your health concerns, and you will not rest until you have found it.

Type 2: The Rebel Personality

1. Do you think all health freaks are nuts?
2. Do you proudly tell everyone how healthy you are despite eating and drinking to your heart’s content?
3. Do you make a point of leaving vegetables untouched on your plate?

Photo credit: Vanessa Lewis Photography

You are the classic rebel. The life of the party and every social occasion who will not be held hostage to rabbit food and all that green stuff grown with goats in mind. You cannot understand how these tree-hugging vegetarians can cope without a 1kg steak and second helping of roast potatoes. Why would you spoil a good meal by having to ‘chew the cud’? You never have a headache or hangover, and when you travel to Egypt your travel companions drop like flies while you can still enjoy a second helping at the buffet. Health guidelines do not apply to you, because you have a cast iron stomach.

Type 3: The Proactive Personality

1. Do you avoid gluten despite not being tested positive for coeliac?
2. Do you oscillate between being vegetarian or not, depending on what is on the menu?
3. Are you dairy free, except for a little milk in your tea?

At some point in your life you have probably experienced sub-optimal health and made a conscious decision to do something about it. If gluten can make some people seriously ill, then you want to ensure that you too avoid that risk. When the meat option is non-organic and looks just a little suspect, you prefer the vegetarian option as “many studies show that a vegetarian diet is better for you”. Your best friend has found that avoiding dairy has changed her life, so now you are following suit, stopping short at your daily cup of tea, as you want to ensure that you too get your daily calcium.

These personality types are an observation rather than scientific absolutes and ought to be taken with a pinch of salt, even if you are on a low sodium diet. You may find that more than one resonates with you or that you fall into different categories at different times in your life. What they do remind us of is that food and eating is very tightly entwined with emotion. If your early memories of feeding is coupled with love and nurturing you may be more comfortable at meal times as opposed to someone who was denied access to food or treats and now seem to be out of control. Whether you choose to be vegetarian for moral reasons or you see it as a way to assert your control in a world where so much is beyond your command, or whether you find that despite all your best efforts you have not yet strapped upon the holy health grail. Nutrition is a much debated topic sometimes enjoyed with a shared meal, and sometimes occurring in a hostile environment. The bottom line is that if your food personality works for you and does no harm to anyone else, then it is safe and agreeable to continue to express yourself.

1. Booth D.A. Psychology of Nutrition. Taylor & Francis, London. ISBN 0-7484-0159-8

This article was published in issue 185 of Positive Health On-Line Magazine in August 2011

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