How to read people: Diet

When people think about nonverbal communication, they think body language. There is more to nonverbal communication than just body language. One often missed form of nonverbal communication is diet.

A person’s diet can say a lot about who they are, where they are from as well as providing clues to some of their personality traits.


Culture can be shown in two ways:

  • How someone is eating
  • What someone is eating

People often believe that how someone eats only tells you where they are from. That someone who grew up in Asia may be more likely to eat with chopsticks than a knife and fork. In this modern age it is not that simple with most people using what is provided.

What you can tell instead is what general culture someone has been exposed to. Proficient use of chopsticks at an Asian restaurant for example tells you that the person has been exposed to Asian food before. This may mean that the person has:

  • Travelled
  • Eaten at Asian food a lot
  • Been taught by an Asian friend

This all tells you that the person is open to new cultures.

How someone uses a knife and fork also tells you a lot. This goes beyond their ability to use a knife and fork in the manner a queen would. Take for instance what someone is placing on their fork each time. When presented with two separate elements on the same plate, some people will eat each element separately, while others will mix things together.

This could be assumed as follows:

  • Eating one thing at a time - They like to approach things in a methodical fashion.
  • Different combinations on fork each time - They like to explore different flavour combinations.
  • Eating favourite element first - Often seen in larger families where you might not get any if you are not in quick.
  • Eating favourite element last - They like to be rewarded at the end.

Food personalities

There are two main personalities people have when it comes to food:

  • Live to eat
  • Eat to live

Someone who has a live to eat mentality will tend to frequent new eating establishments, try new food and be willing to pay for something a bit more. This may (but not always) indicate that a person is more social, adventurous or becomes bored easily when eating the same thing. When meeting one of these people, it would be best to go to somewhere new and give them a new experience.

When someone has an eat to live mentality they are less focused on enjoying food experiences. This does not mean they they are poor. It just means that they have something else they would rather focus their attention. It could be anything from the conversation that occurs over food, or some task they would rather get back to. It may simply be that they are not very adventurous when it comes to food. When meeting people who eat to live, it is best to meet them somewhere with familiar food. They will most likely go for something simple and familiar, with new and foreign food causing an unwanted decision.


Although this post will not go in-depth into food and beliefs, it is possible to work out some peoples beliefs given enough time. This can be identifying what food people eat, what food they do not or in some cases, when they eat certain foods. This may help you ensure you cater for someone’s beliefs, without having to ask them what their beliefs are.

What are your experiences?

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