Anybody who has been paid any attention to dieting at all knows that emotions and discipline all come into play when a person tries to eat better. A recent study published in journal Appetite and conducted at ETH Zurich matches specific personality traits with eating habits. Using a reasonably large sample, the researchers have showed that how we eat correlates with our personalities. Perhaps this is the old saw “you are what you eat” reversed and adapted. “You eat what you do because of who you are.” While this study focuses on correlation rather than cause and effect, it’s interesting to speculate on how personality affects diet.
As you might suspect, people who score high in conscientiousness (mainly the Judging types in our model), eat the healthiest. They eat more fruits and vegetables and avoid sweet and savory foods, along with the sugars, fats and salts therein. Sugary drinks are not on their menus either. It makes sense. People who have these traits take care of business and promote responsibility. Those who are conscientious also live longer. Interestingly, people who score high in openness to experience (our Intuitive types intellectually, and Observant and Prospecting types experientially) also go for healthier fruits and vegetables and shun meats and soft drinks like their conscientious friends.
Those who score high in neuroticism are also more likely to eat the sweet and savory foods the conscientious types reject. These are the people with more volatile emotions making them likely candidates for emotional eating. They may actively seek out comfort foods. They also have problems when it comes to regulating their intake. In other words, they may overeat. While not all of those who have the Turbulent type variant will score high in neuroticism that is the most likely place in our model for those who do.
On the other side of the coin, our Feeling personality types are also likely candidates to score high in agreeableness. They typically aim for harmony with others. Agreeable eaters are more likely to be vegetarians or at least not eat as much meat. Does the harmony they seek in people extend to animals or are there other things going on?
Extraverts are a mixed-bag when it comes to health. While having vigorous social connections is seen as a health benefit in many studies, it apparently fosters poor eating habits in this study. Extraverts admit to eating more sweets, more savory food, and more soft drinks. If you need confirmation of why this is likely, attend just about any party or other social event where there’s food. Whether “partying” is the reason they eat poorly or not is just speculation. But the question remains: does the healthy aspect of having more people in one’s life balance out poor eating habits in the long-run?
This study explains some things which most of us understand intuitively. But it also raises some interesting questions.
Does this study ring true with your traits and eating habits? Do you identify with it or would you argue with the ideas it suggests? Join the conversation and let us know.