We’ve all experienced cravings before. But some of us seem to struggle harder with them than others, and have a much lower success rate when it comes to handling them in healthy and weight-wise ways. For many people trying to battle with weight gain and control body weight, a fundamental connection between mind and body seems to keep on getting in the way. Researchers set out to understand why some people seem to struggle harder with weight gain than others, and discovered a personality trait that most perpetual weight strugglers seem to possess in common.
Are Weight Gain and Personality Linked?
Researchers at Florida State University’s College of Medicine joined forces with researchers at the National Institutes of Health. Together, they found that individuals who experience weight gain are more likely to be impulsive and deliberate in their actions. The study incorporated findings from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging and the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, which included 1900 participants. The body weight and personality traits of study participants were analyzed prior to the study, and then looked at again a full decade later.
The researchers found that those whose weight increased by 10 percent also had an increase in the personality traits of impulsiveness and deliberation. For the purpose of the study, impulsiveness was defined as “more likely to give into temptation”, and the deliberation trait described as “more likely to think about what you’re going to do before you do it”.
It’s interesting – and perhaps surprising – that those who are more likely to give in to their food temptations are also more thoughtful about their actions. Angelina Sutin, a psychological scientist and the lead researcher in the study, explained the motivation behind the study: “We know a great deal about how personality traits contribute to weight gain… what we don’t know is whether significant changes in weight are associated with changes in our core personality traits. Weight can be such an emotional issue; we thought that weight gain may lead to long-term changes in psychological functioning.”
If controlling your body weight has been a struggle for you for years, there’s a high chance that you’re forced to battle with cravings on a regular basis. Sutin explains that “the inability to control cravings may reinforce a vicious cycle that weakens the self-control muscle. Yielding to temptation today may reduce the ability to resist cravings tomorrow. Thus, individuals who gain weight may have increased risk for additional weight gain through changes in their personality.”
What’s An Impulsive Eater To Do About Weight Gain?
To help battle impulsiveness and control your body weight, try your best to implement the following tips:
- Eat meals every 3 hours. By eating breakfast, you’ll jump-start your metabolism in the morning. Eat balanced meals for lunch and dinner with healthy snacks in between. Instead of having 3 large meals a day, try having 5 meals with smaller portions. If you train yourself to eat regularly throughout the day, you’ll be less likely to make impulsive eating decisions out of hunger. Skipping meals is a bad decision that will most certainly lead to weight gain in the long run, as you binge eat later in the day.
- Keep your house healthy. For starters, go grocery shopping after you’ve had a satisfying meal because you’ll be more likely to make more sensible (less impulsive) choices that could be detrimental to maintaining your body weight. You’re much less likely to binge or overeat if you don’t have unhealthy snacks, desserts and “junk” in your house. If it’s in your house, it’ll likely end up in your mouth.
- Don’t deprive. Replace! Once you’ve cleared your fridge and cupboards of unhealthy foods, fill up on healthy snacks that you can feel good about eating. Dieting (especially relying on strict diets) will make you feel like you’re depriving yourself and are more likely to cave and overeat. Instead, focus on eating your favorite foods in moderation and reducing portion sizes.
- Exercise. Counterbalance your tendency to indulge and give in to temptations with physical activity. It will help you keep your body weight off in a healthy way. What’s more, it improves overall health, reduces stress and helps battle depression and emotional eating.
Even if you have an impulsive nature, that certainly doesn’t mean you’re doomed to live a life of weight gain battles. Arm yourself with the tools you need to make better choices. If binge eating is something you struggle with and you can’t get a handle on it, seek the support of a therapist, motivational coach, or registered nutritionist who can guide you in the right direction.