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  • People who lose weight have different personality traits than those who don’t

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
    Wednesday, September 06, 2006 3:18 am Email this article
    Lean people and overweight people who successfully lose weight have different personality traits than overweight people who are not successful at losing weight according to a new study from researchers at Washington University's School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Novelty Seeking

    Lean people and obese who successfully lost weight, scored lower on novelty seeking

    Lean people scored 18 percent lower in novelty seeking than obese people.

    Overweight people who successfully lost weight—at least 10 percent of their bodyweight—also scored lower on novelty seeking—15 percent lower—than obese people who lost less than 5 percent of their bodyweight,

    I assume that perhaps this might translate to gaining excess weight because obese people are more likely to look for new foods to try than lean people. (“I think I’ll try this new desert or this new candy bar or this new hamburger,” as opposed to a lean person saying, “I’m going to stick with a turkey sandwich.”)

    Comment: I witnessed this recently in a 28-year-old friend who got very lean. His friends would joke that he would eat the same sandwich at the same deli a couple times a day. This is an one example of an extreme lack of novelty seeking in someone who got very lean.

    I also see this as being extremely disciplined.



    Lean scored higher on persistance

    Lean people also scored 17 percent higher on persistance.

    Again, I see this as discipline. Lean people continue to do whatever it takes to keep them lean. They are persistant about exercising. They are persistant about eating foods that keep them lean.



    Lean scored higher on self-directedness

    Lean people also scored 7 percent higher on self-directedness.

    This would suggest that lean people are slightly more likely to make the decisions necessary for good health and to maintain a healthy weight.



    Subjects: 264 lean people, 56 obese people in the community, 183 obese people in a behavioral treatment program

    The study involved 264 lean people with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25, fifty-six obese people from the the local St. Louis community, and 183 obese people who were enrolled in the Weight Management Program at Washington University “which involved weekly group behavioral therapy and diet education sessions for” 5 months.



    Conclusion: Personality traits different between lean and obese

    “These results suggest that personality traits differ between lean and obese persons, and between obese persons who enroll and who do not enroll in a comprehensive weight management program,” the paper concludes.

    “Moreover, high scores in novelty seeking are associated with decreased success in achieving behavioral therapy-induced weight loss.”


    Sullivan S, Cloninger C, Przybeck T, Klein S. Personality characteristics in obesity and relationship with successful weight loss. Int J Obes (Lond). 2006 Sep 5.


    Department of Internal Medicine
    Center for Human Nutrition
    Washington University School of Medicine
    St Louis, MO, USA

    Articles on the same subject can be found here:


    On Sep 10, 2006 at 1:37 pm Catherine Johnson wrote:

    . . . . .

    A few years ago I read a study or studies demonstrating that people eat more when they have more food choices. (I don't think I can track down the source.)

    That's the principle behind the 5-course meal. Each course is different, so you keep eating. If each course were the same, you probably wouldn't make it through all 5.

    People can eat huge quantities of food so long as each dish is a different food.

    I've seen this principle at work in two autistic children, both of whom have autistic eating disorders that caused them to sharply limit the kinds of food they would eat.

    In one case an overweight autistic girl who was taking Risperdal, notorious for causing weight gain, developed an obsession that she was going to spill food on her clothing.

    She decided to eat only spaghetti (I know; it doesn't make sense) and lost huge amounts of weight, becoming quite thin.

    On Sep 10, 2006 at 1:40 pm Catherine Johnson wrote:

    . . . . .


    This book, The Flavor Point Diet by David Katz, probably makes a similar point. (Haven't read it, and don't know if you've covered it...)


    On Sep 10, 2006 at 1:41 pm Catherine Johnson wrote:

    . . . . .

    This may be relevant as well:

    Associations between Food Variety and Body Fatness in Hong Kong Chinese Adults
    Sea et al. J Am Coll Nutr.2004; 23: 404-413

    On Sep 23, 2006 at 12:53 pm Larry Hobbs wrote:

    . . . . .


    Thank you for your input.

    (Sorry for late response. I did not see your comments when they were posted.)

    You noted...

    "I read a study or studies demonstrating that people eat more when they have more food choices."

    You are exactly right.

    That is exactly what the research shows.

    Give them lots of choice and they tend to gain weight.

    Give someone a bland, boring diet and they tend to lose weight.

    This also occurs in animals.


    About 20 years ago I worked with a guy who was fairly large -- probably 70-80 pounds overweight -- and he said exactly what you said.

    He said, "I don't think you ever really get full. You just get tired of eating a particular food."


    I also posted an article recently about a study which found that obese people are more interested in "novelty seeking" than lean people.

    I interpret this to mean that they are more likely to want to try new and different foods, whereas lean people are more likely to stick with the foods that they know work for them.

    Thanks for your input.

    Please feel free to share your comments about this article.




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