We all have thought and behavior patterns that affect the way we live our lives—like what we pursue, how we have fun, and what we do when we’re stressed. We develop these patterns as a response to our experiences and our feelings about those experiences.
Most people never take the time to evaluate whether the patterns they’ve developed in different stages of life still serve them now. When we make the effort to understand our patterns, we get to understand ourselves in empowering ways. The things we do—and the things we don’t do!—start to make more sense to us. We stop berating ourselves with questions like why can’t I get it together.
In my coaching practice, I’ve started incorporating archetypes to help people better identify and understand their patterns. I have my clients take the Enneagram to better understand themselves, their coping mechanisms, the things that trigger those coping mechanisms, and the way this all affects their relationship with food.
While personality tests like Myers-Briggs and DISC can give people insight into their patterns, the Enneagram gives a more robust understanding of what each archetype is wants out of life and the specific ways we stand in our own way when it comes to reaching our goals.
The Enneagram answered my age-old question: why can’t I get it together? Now, I use it in conjunction with nutritional therapy and eating psychology to help my clients answer their age-old questions about their struggles with food.
The Enneagram explains the 9 different ways people move through life. Each of these 9 ways is a specific archetype or personality type. For each archetype, there is a wealth of knowledge about how the archetype sees the world—where she is strong, where she falls short, where she is lying to herself, and how she can grow.
There are two main ways to find out your archetype.
The first is to take a test and the second is to read through the descriptions of each archetype to see which you most identify with. I’ve found that a combination of both is the sweet spot that leads people to the correct archetype.
You can find Enneagram archetype descriptions all over the web and in dozens upon dozens of books that have been written about this ancient—and freakishly accurate—approach to personality. I encourage you to take a peek at what’s out there, but I can’t resist giving you a taste of the Enneagram in my own words, so here we go…
You might be a one if…
You can’t help but focus on the clutter—whether it’s physical or mental–and you compulsively want to tidy it. You want to be good, do the right thing, and follow the rules all the time. You are duty-bound to do what you believe you “should” do, and you don’t let your feelings get in the way of that duty. Responsibility outweighs fun, so it’s hard to find the time to have fun or relax. Being responsible, capable, and a perfectionist means you’re the one people come to when they want something done right. It also means you can end up overloaded and resentful.
When it comes to food, you are strict (maybe even morally strict) about your diet, but if you fail to restrain perfectly, you may find yourself bingeing. After the binge, comes even more intense self-discipline.
You might be a two if…
Relationships are everything to you—you can’t help but nurture others. You find your identity in being loving and caring. You are always the first one to reach out to your friends. You make the first call or send the first text. You always show up for people—you help your friends move, you deliver food to new moms, and send cards for every occasion. It’s about more than just a gesture, though. You crave genuine, heartfelt connection and you pursue that through serving others.
You make sure you show up to everything for everyone—this can leave you feeling unappreciated, unloved, or uncared for when they don’t show up for you.
If when you feel lonely, unappreciated, or uncared for food becomes your source of comfort.
You might be a 3 if…
You believe your potential is limitless. While you’re wildly effective and efficient, you still find yourself wishing there were more hours in the day. You prioritize your drive to finish a task over your relationships, your physiological needs, and your emotions. You move past failure quickly and use it to fuel success. You’re always prepared, and your performance at work and in life is remarkable—which is why people love having you on their team. However, bearing the burden of getting things done while everyone else drags their feet can breed resentment.
Sometimes you’re moving so quickly that food isn’t a priority. However, if your body image is at stake, you can focus your powers of achievement on food and exercise—becoming obsessive about improving your body.
You might be a 4 if…
You know you’re different from your friends and family—and you like it that way! You feel deeply and you have a strong motivation to express yourself. You take the time to interpret emotions because you know they provide insight into who you are and help you understand others. You pride yourself on having great taste and being emotionally intelligent and sensitive. It’s can be hard for you to find the balance between being true to yourself and fitting in with people. You get frustrated when people misunderstand you and at the same time, you get freaked out when they get too close.
The way you eat depends on your emotional state. If you’re feeling sad, you comfort eat. If you’re in a good mood, you might treat yourself to more nutritious foods—like fruits and veggies. You may believe your food choices say something about who you are.
You might be a 5 if…
Intellect and independence are your top priorities. You pride yourself on your objectivity and believe thoughts are more reliable than feelings. The more you know, the better you operate in life, but you like to be well-prepared before you put my knowledge into action. You love to share what you know with anyone who appreciates the insight. You’re mentally alert, curious about everything, and very aware of the world around me—the good, the bad, and the ugly. You find that most people are wasteful, whereas you like to hold onto what you have—even minimizing your consumption to stretch your resources. Friends who demand a lot of your time and/or energy turn you off.
When it comes to food, you sometimes get wrapped up in what you’re doing and forget to eat. When you find yourself famished, you eat what’s immediately available—nutrition is rarely your priority. You sometimes eat as a way to distract from unpleasant emotions, and you may eat more than your fair share of food when the food is free.
You might be a 6 if…
You see yourself as likable, dependable, and hardworking. You are precise, disciplined, and persevering. Security is super important to you. You invest your time and energy into things that are stable and predictable, and you develop plans and systems that ensure your security and prevent problems. You’re not necessarily into having a big group of friends, but you appreciate feeling like you belong with a certain group of people—be it at work or in social settings. You feel that you should always be responsible, which sometimes breeds resentment—especially when your various responsibilities conflict with one another.
You have a tendency to overindulge in food, alcohol, or even drugs to distract from feelings of dissatisfaction and fear of the unknown.
You might be a 7 if…
You are agile and quick thinking. You crave novelty and keep yourself amused with new things and experiences. You strive to maintain your freedom and happiness and you make sure to keep your options open, so you don’t miss out on anything worthwhile. You love to share your adventures with your people, and your friends appreciate your energy and are thrilled to take in a breath of your fresh air. You can’t stand feeling trapped, and anxiety can make you unfocused. It stresses you out to be stuck with a commitment that prevents you from doing something I really want to do.
When it comes to food, you don’t want to miss out so you’re often planning what you’re going to eat next. Needless to say, you kind of have a tendency to overindulge in food and alcohol.
You might be an 8 if…
You pride yourself on your self-sufficiency and financial independence. You are enterprising, pragmatic, risk-taking, hardworking and full of self-confidence. You’re eager to use your strengths to impact your world. You go to great lengths to maintain control of the situations you find yourself in—being helpless would be terrible. In your relationships, loyalty is of the utmost importance. If that loyalty is in question—or if you find yourself in any kind of disagreement—it leads others to perceive you as combative, intimidating, or adversarial.
When it comes to food, you can be a bit lusty. You eat what you want to eat and often you eat a lot of it. This can make it hard to maintain your weight.
You might be a 9 if…
You want ease, peace, and spaciousness. You are agreeable, accommodating, and genuinely good-natured. You are optimistic that everything is going to work out, though you usually default to others for how it’s going to work out. Going with the flow is your strategy for avoiding conflict. You pour your time and energy into making others comfortable—if they are happy, you’re happy. You’re easily satisfied and settle contently into whatever your current circumstances are. When you run into problems, you can become unresponsive and complacent, even sweeping problems them under the rug in an effort to avoid. You’re so concerned with what everyone else is thinking and feeling that you fail to formulate your own opinions.
When it comes to food, you can use it to numb any unwanted feelings and to create pleasure. You sometimes use food as a tool to distract from things you need to—but don’t want to.