Can personality traits undermine diet?

mcdonald's fast food burger

The CSIRO has undertaken Australia’s largest diet and personality survey, sorting consumers into one of five “types” when it comes to their diet

The results are based on input from more than 90,000 Australian adults and examine why many people find it difficult to stick to a dietary regime when trying to lose weight.

The five types are:

Thinker (37% of respondents). These dieters are predominantly women; they tend to over-analyse their progress and have unrealistic expectations which can result in a sense of failure and thus derail a diet. “People with the most common diet personality type – known as the ‘Thinker’ – tend to have high expectations and tend to be perfectionists, giving up when things get challenging,” says CSIRO behavioural scientist Dr Sinead Golley.

Craver (26% of respondents). These people find resisting temptation difficult, and more than half (58%) are obese. “One in five Cravers have tried to lose weight more than 25 times and they say that chocolate and confectionery are the biggest problem foods to resist,” Dr Golley says.

Socialiser (17% of respondents). Food and alcohol play a big role in these people’s social lives, and Dr Golley says flexibility is key to helping them maintain a healthy diet.

Foodie (16% of respondents). These respondents were the most likely to be a healthy weight: they’re passionate about food, but opt for a healthy diet, with a high vegetable intake. However, alcohol makes up a third of their discretionary food and beverage intake.

Freewheeler (4% of respondents). These are spontaneous and impulsive eaters who are the most likely to have a poor-quality diet and to avoid planning meals. A higher proportion of this group are men, and more than half (55%) are obese.

Dr Golley pointed out some interesting trends across generations, including that younger people were more likely to embrace technology to help them improve their diet.

“Baby boomers and the older, silent generation (aged 71 years and over) were more likely to be Socialisers and Foodies – suggesting lifestyle and social connections influence a person’s eating patterns at different stages of life – while millennials and Gen X were more likely to be Cravers, Thinkers and Freewheelers,” she says.

“We also found younger people commonly used fitness trackers and apps to lose weight, while older generations turned to diet books and support groups.”

Take the survey here.

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