Personality Traits Linked to Obesity?

There are many contributors to weight gain and obesity–our food environment, physical activity and genetics, to name a few. Recently, a study published in the Journal of Psychology, examined the relationship between personality and weight – and set out to determine if specific personality traits can be associated with obesity.

The research study, which was conducted by the National Institute on Aging, found that impulsive people may be more likely to struggle with their weight.  While the pathway from personality traits to weight gain is complex and probably includes physiological mechanisms, the researchers wanted to identify the association between personality and obesity, so that more tailored treatments can be developed. They used data from participants in the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, an ongoing study administered by the National Institute on Aging. The participants were evaluated on the “Big Five” personality traits, which are openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. In addition, they were assessed on 30 subcategories of five traits. The participants were measured and weighed over the course of the 50 year study. While people do tend to gain weight as they age, the findings showed greater weight gain among impulsive people, those who are risk-takers, as well as those who are competitive. Those who scored in the top 10 percent on impulsivity were an average of 22 lbs. heavier than those in the lowest 10 percent for the trait.

Recently I had my own genetic screening for risk factors for obesity – it turns out I have a gene that puts me at risk of eating disinhibition – once I start I may have difficulty stopping – I look forward to offering all our patients similar genetic screening over the next few months, as part of our nutrigenomics program.

An important aspect of our weight loss surgery program at Olde Del Mar Surgical is a thorough psychological preparation. Research studies, such as this one about how personality is related to weight, can help us to match the weight loss procedure best suited to each of our patients’ individual needs. It also underscores the importance of follow up visits and support groups, where our team can help you on your weight loss journey.

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