Here's a first of its kind look at personality and the causes for weight gain during adulthood. A research team has discovered that those who have certain identifiable personality traits are more likely to carry too much weight, or watch the scale go up and down in the unhealthy "yo-yo" pattern.
The researchers looked at data that had been compiled from a longitudinal study conducted over fifty years on just under 2,000 mostly healthy, highly educated subjects to see if there was an association with personality and weight.
Beyond being regularly weighed and measured during the study, participants were analysed on what are known as "big 5? personality traits.
These five are broad categories of traits including:
4) openness and
The categories are meant to cover a wide range between two extremes - in the real world most of us fall somewhere in the middle on all of these.
And while we all know it's natural to put on a bit of weight as we grow older the study found impulsive subjects had a higher risk of being overweight. Those who ranked in the highest 10% on impulsivity were 22 pounds (on average) heavier compared with those in the lowest 10%.
Earlier work has shown that impulsive people are more likely to indulge in binge eating and overconsumption of alcohol, and it may be that these behaviors, over a lifetime add up to weight gain.
Imagine the challenge that adds to making the hard life choices that lead to weight loss.
The thinking goes that people with this particular group of traits are more likely than others be seduced by temptation. It's harder for them to summon the discipline to stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan in the face of all of life's challenges and frustrations. For these personalities, weight management appears to be a most difficult challenge.
But impulsiveness isn't the only personality factor that might put you at risk for weight gain.
Risk takers, antagonistic, competitive, cynical and aggressive people also gained more weight according to the study findings. On the opposite end, conscientious people were found to be slimmer, and their weight didn't set off personality changes in adulthood.
The authors of the study are hoping the work helps to develop more tailored approaches to weight loss, that take personality factors into account. Perhaps group weight loss and support programs for extroverts, private sessions or other interventions tailored just to introverts are practical applications of the research. Anything that might help people manage their weight is a welcome addition to the approaches in use today.
Experts know that the link between personality types and weight gain is most certainly a complex one. There are likely both physiological and behavioral factors involved in the causes for weight gain over our lifetime, still the work gives an intriguing and first ever look at the effect personality might have on weight.
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