Photo: ThinkstockBy Corrie Pikul
A new study about personality and weight confirms what anyone who has tried to balance eating well and living well knows: the people who are most likely to get invited to a last-minute luau are the same people who will have the hardest time resisting the pineapple upside-down cake.
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Researchers from the National Institute on Aging analyzed data from a study of 1,988 people using the assessment tool of the "Big Five" personality traits, which include openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism. [Curious about your personality profile? You can learn more about the Big Five personality test at the Berkeley Personality Lab site, and then take an online version of the test.]
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The strongest predictor of who would be overweight was impulsivity, they reported in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. We could have guessed that, but the numbers are still bracing: Participants who scored in the top 10 percent on this trait weighed an average of 22 pounds more than those in the bottom 10 percent. Compared to participants of normal weight, the overweight and obese participants were more impulsive-and warm, and assertive. They were also more likely to seek out excitement and prefer to be around others. Alternatively, those people who scored high on conscientiousness (aka, the task-focused, efficient, dutiful and organized) tended to be leaner.
Now who would you invite to your party? The study highlights a conundrum familiar to any weight-conscious social butterfly: It's hard to pass up fun events just because Temptation might also be on the guest list.
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Personality researchers like lead study author Angelina R. Sutin, PhD, tend to believe that personality traits are constant over time - those who are strongly compelled to carpe diem will carpe every diem for the rest of their lives.
What we can control is how, when and where we give in to different aspects of our personalities. As the report notes, "the expression of these traits, or their characteristic adaptations, is modifiable."
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Using our spontaneous luau as an example, here are 5 ways that impulsive thrill-seekers can have a blast without overindulging:
- Hula dance party!
- Volunteer to man the pig roast (or the barbecue) to keep your hands busy
- Play air ukulele
- Since dressing skimpily will make you less prone to nibble, show up in a bikini top and a grass skirt
- For a festive yet low-cal cocktail, toss a pineapple slice in a glass of seltzer with a splash of cranberry. Bottoms up!
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