Being impulsive may make you one helluva fun and spontaneous friend, but that no-holds-barred personality trait can backfire when it comes to eating habits, causing you to pack on the pounds.
New research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology shows that your personality plays a key role when it comes to your weight, particularly if you’re impulsive. Although most people gain weight gradually as they age, the researchers found greater weight gain in impulsive people, risk-takers and those who are antagonistic—especially if they’re cynical, competitive and aggressive.
“Impulsiveness refers to the inability to control cravings and urges,” says study author Angelina Sutin, Ph.D. “Desires—for food, cigarettes, possessions—are perceived as being so strong that the individual cannot resist them, although he or she may later regret the behavior."
So it’s no surprise they have trouble fighting their comfort food cravings or saying no to seconds. “Impulsive people are the ones who have the most trouble resisting the tempting brownie or can't stop themselves from having just one more serving of a great meal,” explains Art Markman, Ph.D., YouBeauty Psychology Advisor. “They are also likely to have some negative moods that they might fight by eating.” What’s more, previous research has shown that people who binge eat and drink alcohol—both of which add up to extra calories—tend to be impulsive.
“People who scored low on impulse control have trouble resisting their cravings and urges,” says Sutin. “As such, individuals with this trait may have difficulty regulating their food intake and tend to overeat. This is due to both a lack of control and a strategy to regulate emotions. Over time, these individuals may have a hard time controlling their weight.”
The powerful influence of personality may explain why joining a gym and buying the latest diet fad book doesn’t always help people shed excess pounds. Impulsive people may be better off with nutritional counseling or behavioral modification strategies (in addition to hitting the gym regularly) to help them learn to curb their impulsivity and find healthier ways to cope with negative emotions than downing a pint of ice cream.
For example, for people who are highly impulsive, not keeping snack foods around the house is a good move since it prevents uncontrollable, impulsive eating. Says Markman, “recognize that your natural reaction is going to be to do the thing that feels best in the moment”—and sometimes that can mean reaching for an apple pie instead of an apple. By having healthy foods on hand, you’re more likely to make wiser, waistline-friendly choices.
If shopping for eye makeup is one big guessing game, find your best colors here.
Highlight your eye color. Flaunt your body shape. Harness your confidence. Take our quizzes to better know yourself and get science-based, individualized advice to embrace your true beauty.
If shopping for eye makeup is one big guessing game, find your best colors here.Take Quiz
Define your curves and discover the best ways to eat, exercise and dress for your figure.Take Quiz
Find out how your relationship personality is affecting you and the people you love.Take Quiz
Find out for sure to best interact and deal with others.Take Quiz