32 Personality and Body Weight

Based on Reasearch by Angelina Sutin, Ph.D.. Psychology Science Minute written by Patricia Monaghan, B.A.; Radhika Krishnamurthy, Ph.D. class.

Have you ever found yourself staring at your closet with nothing to wear because nothing fits right?  Or become frustrated with a lack of success in losing weight?  Consider the role your personality has on your weight gain.

In 2011, Dr. Angelina Sutin and colleagues analyzed 50-years of data from over 1900 Baltimore volunteers. Personality traits are related to weight gain over one’s lifetime and do not alter with changes in weight.  The strongest association was with the characteristic of impulsivity. People who were very impulsive weighed more and had more fluctuations in their weight..  . People with this trait may struggle to resist temptations and cravings, especially when they are challenged or bored. This trait makes it difficult to follow a weight loss plan, have regular healthy meals, and stick to an exercise routine.

However, once aware how this trait can sabotage our weight loss, we can turn it to our advantage. Try using impulsive tendencies to keep things exciting and fresh such as trying new exercises and foods. Build in supports for curbing impulsive eating, such as by stressing meal planning and regular meal schedules. Use positive, assertive and outgoing social skills to collaborate with others to meet goals, and have fun in the process!


Costa, P. T., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Normal personality assessment in clinical practice: The NEO personality inventory. Psychological Assessment, 4, 5-13.

Sutin, A. R., Ferrucci, L., Zonderman, A. B., & Terracciano, A. (2011). Personality and obesity across the  adult life span. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 101(3), 579-592.

Terracciano, A., Sutin, A. R., McCrae, R. R., Deiana, B., Ferrucci, L., Schlessinger, D., Uda, M.,  & Costa Jr, P. T. (2009). Facets of personality linked to underweight and overweight. Psychosomatic Medicine, 71, 682-689.

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