Northwestern Medicine

Are You a Food Lover or a Couch Champion?

Northwestern Memorial Hospital February 01, 2012

Northwestern Medicine researcher develops lifestyle patterns study to help identify and combat weight gain habits

CHICAGO, IL – Once again, weight loss is topping the list of popular New Year’s resolutions. But before you take the same old approach and search for a quick fix to drop unwanted pounds, you may want to take a close look at how your Lifestyle Patterns may be causing you to gain weight. Northwestern Medicine researchers have found that there are six cluster behaviors people identify with which influence weight management. Are you a food lover or couch champion? Knowing the answer can be the key to accomplishing your weight loss goals.

“Once you are aware of the behavior patterns that influence your food choices, you can take steps to manage your weight successfully,” said Robert Kushner, MD, medical director of the Center for Lifestyle Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and professor of medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Kushner, who led the research, says people generally fall into one or more of the following categories.

• Accidental Diner – someone who doesn’t plan their meals and ends up eating whatever is most convenient and readily available
• Fast Pacer – someone who has other priorities and distractions making it difficult to eat healthier or exercise
• Food Lover – someone who eats out of emotion, eats whenever food is around regardless of hunger level or eats large portions of food because they don’t sense a stop signal
• Couch Champion – someone who leads a relatively sedentary lifestyle and may be inactive because they do not like to exercise, don’t know how to exercise or have a health condition that limits their ability to exercise
• Self Critic – someone who treats self poorly and tends to be shy and unwilling to participate in things because they are so self conscious of their body shape/image
• All-or-Nothing-Dieter – someone who is either on and off when it comes to losing weight and can’t find a happy medium

“Whether you identify with one or all six of the patterns, recognizing which behaviors you embody is an important piece of the puzzle,” said Kushner. “I often see patients who know there is a connection between diet, exercise, emotions and weight loss, but do not recognize how the behaviors they repeat stand in the way of their success.”

Kushner says it’s important for people to monitor and hold themselves accountable for their behaviors. “Practicing habits like eating regular meals and planned snacks allows you to keep hunger at bay which helps you make better food choices throughout the day,” said Kushner. “It’s also important to make small, practical goals that are sustainable and not drastic in order to achieve weight loss milestones.”

As part of his ongoing research, Kushner has developed a Lifestyle Patterns Survey. People can take the survey to help advance the study which is designed to identify habits that contribute to weight gain. Kushner hopes the data will ultimately lead to the creation of a questionnaire that patients can fill out prior to seeing their clinician.

“We hope to create a tool that patients and clinicians can use to work together on a tailored and manageable weight loss strategy,” said Kushner.

Learn more about the Center for Lifestyle Medicine.

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