You make an effort to eat your greens, get plenty of protein, and stay away from sweets, but despite your best intentions the number on the scale always seems to move in the wrong direction. It’s a tale as old as time. And an all too familiar one for the millions of people on diets right this very moment. When counting calories and watching portion sizes fails what do you do? Go out and buy the next big, buzzed-about diet book? Perhaps, but the truth is most people end up right back at square one. Which begs the question, is there something larger at play? New research says yes, and that something larger is your personality.
Keep reading to figure out the surprising connection between your personality and your weight.
In a recent study, researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology set out to determine if personality influences eating habits and food choices. They measured what psychologists often call the “big five” personality traits—neuroticism, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and openness—to see how the different traits correlate with typical food-related behaviors. And they found that personality does in fact impact why and what people eat.
Neuroticism promotes emotional eating and eating due to external cues (like good smell and taste, as opposed to the internal cue of hunger). High neuroticism is also associated with eating dense, high-calorie foods. Essentially, neurotic people have a tendency to make unfavorable food choices and overeat to cope with negative emotions.
Conscientiousness is linked to restrained eating, reducing the tendency to overeat and engage in emotional eating and external eating. Which also prevents poor food choices. They choose fruit over sugary soft drinks and eat less meat. In a nutshell, highly conscientious people tend to be virtuous eaters.
One of the more surprising findings comes out of the extroverts group. High extraversion promotes eating due to external factors. And extroverts tend to eat more meat, sweets, and high calorie foods. Which might be because extroverted people have more meals with other people (years of research have linked sociability to diet and exercise choices). Unfortunately for extroverts, it seems higher sociability leads to unhealthy eating habits.
Both openness and agreeableness have less of an influence compared to the other traits, but do still play a role. High openness to experience is associated with healthier food choices, like eating more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and drinking less soda.
The findings demonstrate the importance of personality and the influence it has over the decisions you make. Maintaining a healthy weight is not just about buying the right foods at the grocery store and counting calories. In order to successfully shed pounds and avoid scale creep, there’s an understanding of self that has to occur. If you have a bad day, do you immediately reach for the cookies? If you’re at a social event, will you be inclined to try every rich dish that comes your way? Understanding how you respond to certain situations is the often-overlooked part of the equation. The bottom line: Investing in a personality test may not be a bad idea if you’re trying to control your weight.
Do you know your defining personality traits? Do you relate to any of these findings? Tell us below!