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Is Your Personality Making You Fat? (Oh FFS!?!!?)

April 16, 2012

Trigger warning: The article discussed is basically a bunch of cheesy weight loss tips based on personality type.

I was scanning Yahoo!’s news and came across this article. One of these days, I’ll learn not to follow Yahoo’s articles on health/lifestyle, but they are so much fun for tearing apart and making fun. Especially this article.
Did you know that if you’re a daredevil or an adrenaline junkie that you tend to eat more? According to this article, which originally appeared on, that’s so, and the author tells us how to beat that trait (ROTFLMFAO).

How many times have you been skydiving?

Our image of adrenaline junkies usually involves people with the kinds of bodies that look amazing in jumpsuits and wet suits. However, an analysis by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) of more than 50 years of data from almost 2,000 people found that excitement seekers are more likely to be overweight or even obese. That’s probably because when they’re not jumping out of airplanes, they can always get a small rush by sneaking out for a midday margarita or blowing off the treadmill to go to a rock concert.

Umm, yeah… 2,000 people over 50 years is just such a huge number from which to extrapolate results for the rest of the population. You can read the original study here (PDF). I don’t think I’ll be basing my behavior on any recommendations they’re making:

Change your behavior: To tip the scales in their favor, excitement seekers don’t need to order plain, sauce-less, steamed everything when they go out to eat, says Keri Gans, RD, a nutrition counselor and author of The Small Change Diet. Instead, Gans suggests finding healthier ways to take risks — like ordering your dish punishingly spicy or sharing the most exotic, unpronounceable item on the menu with friends. If you happen to be one of those people who can sneak out of work for a mountain bike ride or a climb (Coloradoans, we’re talking to you), go for it. You’ll want to keep exercising as you get older, because the NIA study found that compared with other personality types, those with this excitement-seeking trait are vulnerable to greater weight gain over time.

Right, like exercise for exercise’s sake alone isn’t good enough, it just has to be coupled with maintaining/losing weight. Can I just say “Fuck that!”

Are you a blurter, an interrupter — excuse me, we weren’t finishedor a spur-of-the-moment decider?

It’s no surprise that impulsive people are impulsive eaters and thus more likely to be overweight, but it is a bit of a shock to hear how those pounds can add up: The NIA study, which was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that those who scored in the top 10 percent on impulsivity in personality tests weighed an average 22 pounds more than those in the bottom 10 percent.

Because it’s always Calories In/Calories Out, and when you impulsively decide to eat something you don’t know when to stop and you have to eat the world, donchaknow </sarcasm>. And is 22 pounds, on average, really all that much? Especially given that we don’t know the age, height, health status, bone structure, socio-economic status, or anything else about these people?

Change your behavior: Identify the things you’re powerless to resist: The office candy jar, the croissants at your local café, the pizza place on the drive home — and then do whatever it takes to avoid temptation, Gans says. Switch up your routine. If this isn’t realistic, Gans suggests creating distractions. Find a health-conscious coworker (not another candy junkie) who’s leaving the office at the same time you are and strike up a conversation to keep your eyes and mind off the jar of temptations. Or pick up some healthy takeout before you pass the pizza place. Whenever you can, eliminate the opportunity to make last-minute decisions that involve food.

Heaven forbid you should stop once in a while for croissant or a slice of pizza — because everyone “knows” it’s not just a couple of pieces of candy once in while, it’s the whole damned jar; it’s not just one croissant once in a while, it’s a dozen every damned day; and it’s not just a slice or two of pizza now and then, it’s the whole damned pizza every time you drive by the pizza place, amirite? When you’re fat, there’s no such thing as eating in moderation — after all, if you ate everything in moderation, you wouldn’t be fat!

Do you often forget you have plans with a friend…until she calls you from outside the movie theater?

This won’t come as a surprise to the frazzled among us: The NIA researchers agreed with other study authors that orderly neatniks tend to be leaner than other people — in their analysis, by about 10 pounds. These are usually the same folks who embrace the structure of diets and are obsessed with counting calories. Then there are the disorganized masses. Gans has many overcommitted clients who tell her they’re so busy that they barely eat a thing all day — and they can’t understand why they’re gaining weight. She helps them recognize unhealthy patterns, like skipping lunch, drinking a beer in a post-meeting debrief and then snacking indiscriminately on whatever’s in the fridge at home. That’s 150 calories for the beer, 350 for some hummus and crackers, 250 for frozen yogurt, 150 for a cereal bar… and none of it adds up to real satisfaction, Gans says.

WTF?!? Being an orderly neatnik means you “embrace the structure of diets and are obsessed with counting calories”? Yeah, obsession is good for ya, if it keeps you thin, right? Except there lies the path to disordered eating, bulemia, anorexia, etc. And being disorganized means you’re too busy to think about food, so you overeat when you do finally think about it? Applying generalizations from a small study to the larger population doesn’t seem like very good methodology to me.

Change your behavior: Gans says that the trick for these personality types is getting them to eat even when they think they don’t have time. She recommends that they stock their homes and offices with portable, nutritious, filling snacks, so they always have something on hand to prevent them from getting too hungry and making bad choices. Her tried-and-true favorites: 23 almonds or 49 pistachios in individual-serving-size bags, six-packs of yogurt and low-fat string cheese.

ROTFLOL!!!!! Keep snacks in your home and office, but avoid the bad ones that everyone else has on hand because you’ll only pig out on the bad ones that everyone else has. Then you’ll only eat just as much as you really need of the “good” ones you’ve stocked for yourself. Yeah, right, why do I not believe this works?

Do friends or family members refer to you as “Little Miss Sunshine”?

We know that bringing joy to others can enlarge the spirit, but research seems to say it can also make our hips bigger. The NIA study found a correlation between warmth and gregariousness and a higher BMI — especially in women. Another study published earlier this year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggested that people with sweet dispositions showed a strong preference for sweet treats. Finally, a study from Case Western Reserve University found that when good-natured people pleasers found themselves in social situations, they were likely to overindulge in foods they’d normally avoid if they believed it would make others feel more comfortable. All of this means that cheerful, sweet people pleasers may face extra weight challenges.

Really? I mean, really? How many people did that study follow and for how long did they follow them? How was the study set up, what did they control for, etc? Without knowing any of those things, I’m questioning the validity of any their conclusions.

Change your behavior: Good news, sweetheart: Gans says that you won’t do any damage by eating an ounce of chocolate a day (that’s three chocolate kisses). Really adore sweets? Get creative by microwaving semi-healthy S’mores (substitute half a banana for the marshmallow) or enjoy sundaes with frozen yogurt, fruit and nuts. Share the love by making an extra one for your cubicle-mate. If your healthy eating plans are derailed by a friend who had a bad day and wants to split a pint of ice cream, Gans suggests a different kind of deliciousness: Take her out for a pedicure instead.

What do you want to bet that Gans isn’t saying you can have that “semi-healthy” S’more every day, or that frozen yogurt sundae every day? And I’m sorry, but that pint of ice cream is way more affordable to split with a friend than paying for 2 pedicures.

It’s 2 a.m. Are you a) sleeping b) finishing the book you’re reading, the book you’re writing or the Hogwarts-shaped cake you made for your kid’s birthday?
We know that not getting enough sleep throws off our metabolism, interferes with our ability to know when we’re full and causes us to seek comfort and stimulation in fatty, sugary snacks. The obvious solution for the sleep deprived is to get more rest. But night owls who do their best work after hours (and the overextended who need to squeeze in a few more hours of work, sewing kids’ costumes or catching up on Mad Men) need to be a little more creative.

Okay, not enough sleep does throw off our metabolism, but as for interfering with our ability to know when we’re full or causing us to seek comfort and stimulation in fatty, sugary snacks? Citations, please? Where are the studies backing up your claims? Do you expect me to believe you just because you say it’s so? I think not. Especially since the main study you’re citing for this whole article only consists of 2,000 people over 50 years (not very credible, in my book).

Change your behavior: Gans says that the biggest challenge is to recognize when to eat meals and when to stop snacking. She usually sees people putting off eating for most of the day because they’re not hungry at normal meal times and then taking part in an all-night snack-a-thon. She recommends three regular meals, starting with breakfast every morning — even if your morning is 11 a.m. and you’re not starving, have a granola bar, a cup of yogurt or a piece of fruit. Don’t worry about eating dinner later than other people, she says, because it’s not when but how much you eat that determines weight gain. If you know you’re going to be up for a while after your last meal, double up on fiber (whole wheat pasta, barley, legumes), which will help you stay full.

This is another one of those “No shit, Sherlock!” moments. Doesn’t matter what your schedule is, you need to eat regular meals, but (and this is a big one) they need to be tailored to your individual health needs. Some people can handle three meals a day, others need four, still others need five or size smaller meals spread over the course of the day. Again, generalizations taken from a small study and applied population-wide are not going to work for everyone.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. April 16, 2012 12:07 pm

    I’m impressed by your ability to wade through this horseshit without exploding.

    • vesta44 permalink
      April 16, 2012 12:56 pm

      Actually, the expletives I used in my post are minor compared to the ones I was using while I was reading the article and then writing the post. If the person who wrote that article could have heard me – hir ears would have been burning, to say the least.

  2. April 16, 2012 1:30 pm

    So, if we want to be thin we just need to be more anal retentive and obsessive, and not so warm-hearted. Got it. I’ll work on that right away.


    • April 16, 2012 5:13 pm

      Yup Shannon, that’s the truth! My doctor once told me that in order to be thin, you have to be a “little mean.” Kid you not, direct quote!!! I told her that counts me out because I don’t have a mean bone in my rotund body!!!

      • April 17, 2012 9:55 pm

        Or maybe successful dieters simpler grow meaner as their success wears on because of the perpetual deprivation and diligence they must subscribe to in order to be successful. And to see others who aren’t depriving themselves or being diligent has to make it all the more frustrating and embittering. I mean, pleasure is pleasure, and if denying yourself sex made you thin, there’d be about the same amount of thin, horny people willing to denying themselves pleasure for what is ultimately an arbitrary goal. And if all your friends were having sex around you, it would probably make the sex-deprived person just as crabby.

        Who knows. 🙂


      • The Real Cie permalink
        April 26, 2012 4:56 pm

        I try not to be mean, but I’m a very angry fat woman. I was also angry when I was a thin woman (who believed that I was fat.) Obviously the s**t making me angry has not been resolved. Most of what makes me angry on a personal level is the fact I have been told all my life to stuff my feelings in order to avoid upsetting others. Now, I don’t advocate acting like a berserking maniac, but I always wondered, why are others’ feeling so important and mine so unimportant that I am never allowed to voice them?

    • BBDee permalink
      June 14, 2012 9:11 pm

      LOL, my dad’s wife should be the skinniest person on the planet in that case! She’s the Queen of Anal Retention, an obsessive neat freak, suspicious of everyone around her, but Twiggy she ain’t!!!

  3. April 16, 2012 2:50 pm

    I had a bunch of thoughts on this, but my main one is that if anyone ever catches me counting 23 almonds into a bag, I need to see my doctor about being checked out for OCD. (Not that I didn’t sometimes exhibit behaviour that came close to that, back when I used to diet. Not wanting to go back to that mindset, ever, thanks.)

  4. lifeonfats permalink
    April 16, 2012 3:32 pm

    I didn’t get mad reading that article, I was laughing silently. I went into a co-worker’s candy jar today and picked out a Cadbury Cream egg that was leftover from Easter. I didn’t go back for more or just snatch the jar right out from under her either. I love it when people assume we’re just mindless eating machines always wondering where our next meal will be.

    I would also assume that people who skydive and do 30 mile bike rides often might want to eat more because it gives them fuel for their activities. I also assume some of these thrill-seekers do it for just the thrill and the challenge, and not because of weight loss. That “expert” really needs to think outside the scale if you know what I mean.

  5. April 16, 2012 3:45 pm

    This is one of those articles that I can just never but into. “Thrill seekers tend to be more overweight,” blah blah blah. I just feel like it’s so fabricated.

    • April 16, 2012 5:30 pm

      Sandy wrote several blog posts on Junkfood Science about how if you dredge through enough data for a long enough period of time, you can come up with any correlation you want, most of which don’t mean anything. If I dredge through the credit reports of 80,000 respondents for a survey, I might find something along the lines of “People with credit scores about 650 are more likely to be born in March and like the color blue.” It’s totally coincidental and means nothing.

      The Yahoo! article also reinforces the stereotype that all fat people are jolly and that thin people aer skinny bitches.

      • BBDee permalink
        June 14, 2012 9:14 pm

        Right on Joanna! I have worked professionally, and taken graduate courses, on surveys and statistics and data mining and have seen first hand what you are saying about correlations is absolutely true!

  6. Erin S. permalink
    April 16, 2012 10:39 pm

    I stopped reading with any intent to view it as more than a humor piece when I got to the “If you happen to be one of those people who can sneak out of work for a mountain bike ride or a climb (Coloradoans, we’re talking to you)” part… lived here since I was 17 except for a couple years in California in my 20’s. Guarantee that people in Colorado don’t get some special mountain biking exemption from getting fired for blowing off work! What an absurd thing to say!

    Seriously, what an utterly brainless suggestion.

  7. Pyctsi permalink
    April 17, 2012 10:29 am

    Ummm, when fat people get angry, annoyed, passionate or even just vocal on the internet we are told we need to calm down and not take things so seriously, when we try to stay nice and polite we are told we are wrong or liars or just ignored.

    I try to walk the line between politeness and vocalness (I’m great at passive aggressive apologies to people who almost (or do) crash into me) but this article is telling us to be mean, well when I do that I’m written off as an angry fatty who’s just looking for excuses. When I’m fit and healthy I do lose weight – a whole dress size which takes me down to a tiny… Oh wait, I’m still obese when I’m at my fittest and smallest hmmm, also what happens if you happen to exhibit traits from more than one personality category, does that explain why my ass is so large, ’cause I got the fatness from two different aspects of my personality? Wait make that 4 different aspect (I don’t do thrill seeker – unless troll baiting is considered a high risk activity).

    I think I’ll go back to assuming it’s a combination of bad habits (due to body shaming) in my early 20’s combined with a body that likes to hug every calorie it can and not let go, along with complications from medication – gee I didn’t mention personality once!

    • BBDee permalink
      June 14, 2012 9:16 pm

      One personality for each cheek, ya know! 😉

  8. April 18, 2012 10:05 am

    Want to lose weight quickly? Try ACME’s new Wile E. Coyote diet, based on the popular film The Hunger Games, we will place you in the middle of the desert. Your only source of food will be a Road Runner. From the countless attempts of trying to catch him, using ACME’s fine products which will be provided as part of your diet plan,you will be losing weight without even trying!

  9. The Real Cie permalink
    April 26, 2012 4:51 pm

    Change your behavior. This lipstick on a pig (not meant to be a dig at fat women, of which I am one, but you can take it as a dig at Sarah Palin if you want to) is nothing more than that same wretched school of thought that tells those of us with mental illness that we *COULD* be happy if we just stop that stinkin’ thinkin’. I nearly threw up reading this, and all I’ve had to eat today was a few stripes of Cheez Whiz from a can licked off my finger (it’s all I have in the house, literally. I’ll go mooch some food from my son before I go to work) so the resulting yak would have been mostly dry heaves. Not pretty.

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