What Does Your Personality Reveal About Your Health?
Whether you’re the life of the party, a total bookworm, or a workaholic, your personality actually has a lot to contribute to your attitude about food and exercise. Certain personality traits also can increase your chances of developing serious diseases later in life.
For example, in 1972 scientists offered children a choice between a marshmallow immediately, or, if they waited fifteen minutes, two marshmallows. Those who chose to wait were most likely to experience more success later in life. Being able to delay gratification correlates to weight loss and fitness. People are either ‘one marshmallow’ or ‘two marshmallow’ personality types and if you’re struggling with weight loss, you’re more than likely the one marshmallow kind. An easy fix is to eliminate little temptations throughout your life – for example: remove junk food from your pantry and only get one snack at the movies.
Other specific personality quirks include:
Openness: open people tend to be curious and imaginative, they have a broad range of interests and like playing with new ideas. A one-unit increase on a 1-4 scale for openness can decrease the odds of a stroke 31%, high blood pressure by 29%, arthritis by 21%, and all other heart conditions by at least 17%, so loosen up!
Self-involved: being self-centered is actually a good thing when trying to lose weight. People who are stuck on themselves consider their own interests and motivations when making a decision, which can lead to making better decisions, conserving energy, and having better willpower to make healthy choices. People pleasers, however, can get overly stressed about helping everyone else and can find themselves depleted by the day’s end. This will often lead to poor food choices. Instead, try being more selfish – ask for what you want and stick to it, without feeling guilty.
Mood-swings: your ability to roll with changes determines emotional stability. If you’re excitable, things tend to be very good or incredibly awful with brief periods of everything being just right. Add to this that some people are emotional eaters, and you’re more likely to reach for food. Take stock of your emotional well-being and try to utilize that energy in more constructive ways, like working out or even picking up a hobby.
Neuroticism: high stress levels lead to poorer health, which leads to higher stress levels, which leads to worsening of health. Chronic stress lowers the body’s ability to heal and fight off infection. A singular increase in neuroticism can increase the odds of being diagnosed with high blood pressure by thirty-seven percent, lung disease by twenty-nine percent, arthritis by twenty-five percent, and a heart condition by twenty-four percent.
Self-critical: those who lack self-compassion experience strong negative reactions whenever they make a mistake. Those with a large amount of self-compassion will simply move on and promise themselves to not make the same mistake again. If you’re hard on yourself, you’ll be more likely to continue overeating after you’ve slipped, as realizing your mistake often leads to feelings of hopelessness. If you’re not compassionate, let alone self-compassionate, you must work on forgiving yourself and others.
Your best bet, regardless of personality type, is to excuse-proof your habits. Pay for classes in advance, join an in-person weight-loss group, or meet friends at the gym — get involved and accept your foibles. Remember: perfection is unattainable, but improvement is a glass of water and a flight of stairs away.