Is Your Personality Making You Fat?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • A review of 50 years of data by the American Psychological Association seems to reveal that certain people may be at risk of yo-yo dieting/weight cycling. The specific personality traits that seemed to be associated with this type of weight and diet challenge were high neuroticism and low conscientiousness. In fact, impulsivity seemed to be the singular and strongest predictor of who would be overweight. A review of individuals found that if they scored in the top 10% of impulsivity - they weighed on average 22 pounds more than their counterparts who scored in the lowest 10% range of impulsivity. What does that really mean?

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    Well, think about it. If you are an impulsive person then it means you give in to sudden desires and temptations - which can include food - quite frequently.  It also means that you may lack the kind of discipline needed to stay on track and pursue a goal, in spite of bumps in the road, meaning difficulties or challenges. So if you hit a plateau on a diet, you impulsively strike back by "eating what you want anyway" since the scale is not cooperating despite your dieting efforts. This study looked at just under 2000 people and tried to examine how personality traits might be directly associated with weight fluctuations. The sample of people were 71% white, 22% black and 505 of the total group were women. Generally the people were well educated and healthy. The scale used to examine personality looked at the "Big Five" traits:

    • Openness
    • Conscientiousness
    • Extraversion
    • Agreeableness
    • Neuroticism

    Acknowledging that weight gain does typically occur with aging, researchers still found greater weight gain among, "impulsive people, those who are antagonistic - especially those who are cynical, competitive and aggressive." One researcher referred to prior research that had shown that impulsive individuals are prone to binge eating and alcohol consumption. One interesting observation was that weight (gain) did not seem to instigate a change in personality in adulthood, meaning that if you notice your personality is causing weight gain, you don't make an association and then a modification. What can scientists do with this information? Possibly create more dietary approaches that take into account personality of the individual and how it impacts their behavior with food.


    So it's worth asking you, the reader, if you think some of your struggles with food, diets and even commitment to exercise stem from your personality traits? Do you think you can change those traits or find ways to abort your behaviors so that you are able to stick to a diet or exercise plan?

Published On: November 28, 2011