Are you impulsive or are you more of a conscientious type? It matters. Your personality may play a role in whether you stay slim or put on weight over time. Researchers at the National Institute on Aging looked at data on almost 2,000 people to see how personality affected a person’s chance of being overweight or obese. When they did, they came to some interesting conclusions.
Does Personality Affect Body Weight and BMI?
There’s little doubt that genetics affect how hard it is to maintain healthy body weight, but lifestyle is a more important factor. Research shows that even people born with the FAO gene, a gene that makes them more susceptible to being overweight and obese, lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise reduce its impact on their body weight. This study shows that personality makes a difference too. This makes sense since people with certain personality types are more likely to make the effort to eat healthy and exercise.
In this study, researchers discovered that people who are impulsive are at greater risk of being overweight. In fact, when they measured impulsivity using a test, those who scored in the top 10% weighed an average of 22 pounds more than those who scored lowest. This isn’t surprising since people with impulsive personality traits are more likely to reach for a cookie or piece of cake without considering the impact it’ll have on their health or weight. Impulsive people thrive on immediate gratification and may not be patient enough to continue an exercise program that doesn’t bring immediate results.
Other Personality Traits That Affect Body Weight
The researchers in this study also found that people who are neurotic and less conscientious were more likely to experience the “yo-yo effect” and have periods of fluctuating weight gain and weight loss. On the other hand, people who ranked high on the “conscientious” scale were likely to be slimmer and less likely to experience extreme fluctuations in weight. Again, this makes sense since a conscientious person would probably show self-control around food and be more likely to stick with an exercise program even if it didn’t bring immediate results.
The Bottom Line?
Your personality could have an impact on whether you gain weight over time and whether or not you stick with an exercise program. Of course, you can’t change your basic personality characteristics, but being aware of what your inner voices are telling you about food and exercise can help you respond in a healthier manner.
Next time you’re tempted to reach for a chocolate chip cookie, take a few deep breaths and consider the ramifications. Remind yourself how long you’ll have to stay on the treadmill to burn those extra calories. Teach yourself to stop and evaluate the consequences before stuffing the wrong foods in your mouth or skipping a workout to lounge around in front of the television set. Eating a healthy diet and working out may not give immediate gratification, but the long-term results are well worth it.
American Psychological Association. “Personality Plays a Role in Body Weight, According to Study”
Food Product Design. “Personality Affects Body Weight”