If you're like the majority of the 108 million people who are dieting in the United States, you’re likely shaking your head “no.” And why would you? Up until recently there was no evidence that certain personality traits had any correlation to what—or how much—we choose to eat. However, a recent study published in the journal Appetite discovered just that. The research indicates that our eating habits and weight loss challenges are greatly influenced by certain dimensions of our personalities such as openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism.
By analyzing participants’ answers to three questionnaires about personality traits, eating habits and food choices, researchers found that highly neurotic people tend to overeat highly-caloric foods to deal with their negative emotions, while those who lack conscientiousness tend to be impulsive eaters and lose self-control around tempting fare. They also noted that extroverts eat more if a food smells or tastes good—and, in turn, often consume more sweet and savory foods like meats and sugar-sweetened beverages.
While more research needs to be done to gain a deeper understanding of this complex topic, these findings shed light on an emerging—and highly important—aspect of dieting. Besides eating right and exercising, understanding your personality traits and how you react to situations can be an integral part of weight loss success and long-term weight management. Overcoming these fundamental tendencies can be quite difficult, but taking a personality inventory to better understand your inherent traits is a productive first step.