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Study Reports Weight Gain Might Change Personality Traits

Update Date: May 06, 2013 01:32 PM EDT

Although stereotyping people people based on their weight can lead to bullying and judging, researchers have constantly studied possible links between personality traits and obesity. By understanding why some people tend to overeat and give into temptations easier, researchers can define certain contributing factors to obesity and subsequently find more preventative measures. In a new study headed by Angelina Sutin, a psychological scientist from Florida State University College of Medicine, and colleagues from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the team looked into the possible link between body weight and changes in personality traits.

"We know a great deal about how personality traits contribute to weight gain," Sutin said. "What we don't know is whether significant changes in weight are associated with changes in our core personality traits. Weight can be such an emotional issue; we thought that weight gain may lead to long-term changes in psychological functioning."

The researchers analyzed data of over 1,900 participants from the NIH's Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA) and the Baltimore Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA). The statistics regarding body weight and personality traits were recorded at two different time points, which were separated by nearly a decade. Based from the numbers, the researchers reported that people who experienced at least a 10 percent jump in weight gain also seemed to become more impulsive. These people tended to give in to temptations easier, but the researchers were not sure which factor led to the other.

"The inability to control cravings may reinforce a vicious cycle that weakens the self-control muscle. Yielding to temptation today may reduce the ability to resist cravings tomorrow. Thus, individuals who gain weight may have increased risk for additional weight gain through changes in their personality," the researchers wrote.

The team also found that people who gained weight also had increased deliberation, which indicated that they were more likely to think through their actions and choices. Although deliberation tends to increase into adulthood, the researchers found that deliberation increased two folds in people who gained weight. Although both personality traits appear to be opposites, the researchers explained that even though some one might think about the repercussions before choosing to eat, it does not mean that the person will make the better decision of avoiding the temptation.

The study was published in Psychological Science

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