I’d estimate there are approximately 344,847 diets out there. That’s an unsubstantiated, unscientifically backed guess, of course. My point is there are a lot. People are constantly asking me what diet is the best and which one they should follow and why they all contradict each other. The easy answer to the last one is because losing weight is hard, and everyone wants to capitalize on our vulnerability by creating a new diet craze. The not-so-simple answer is because not every diet works for every person, and I’m not just talking genetics and body-type. I’m talking personality-type, too.
That’s right. Your personality may be the reason a certain diet fails for you. It might affect the approach you take when it comes to fitness, too.
Now, I’m an introvert through and through by every definition of the word. I get anxious when I have to talk to other people. I tend to spend time by myself because actually asking someone to do something is nerve-wracking and unnecessarily stressful, not to mention a little quiet time is the easiest way for me to unwind. That doesn’t mean I don’t love hanging out with my friends, going out to have fun, or participating in group activities. Being introverted is only one part of my personality, but it definitely dominates other aspects. Perhaps that’s why I like exercising by myself with my headphones in and don’t see the “support” in joining a group diet club.
As a dietitian, I constantly put aside what I would do and think instead about what my client should do. What are they like as a person, what does their lifestyle look like, and what gives them anxiety or comfort? These things all matter and make a big difference in the type of diet or lifestyle modification that will work for them. It also determines whether they’d find success in a group-focused fitness program or with a personal trainer.
Now, just because your personality means you may favor one type of diet strategy or approach to fitness doesn’t mean that’s the only one that will work. Although I’m a tried-and-true introvert, I actually love group exercise classes. I like that they push me out of my comfort zone by being in a group setting, but I also just think they’re fun!
Pick your personality below, and learn what diet and fitness plans may work best for you:
Extrovert/Life of the Party
Heidi Hanna, PhD, author of The Sharp Solution: A Brain-Based Approach for Optimal Performance, says outgoing people tend to let stress build up. Our brain’s reaction to stress is to release cortisol, which also happens to tell us to eat more and to eat for pleasure. If this sounds familiar, perhaps you should think about avoiding food-centered social outings like fancy dinners out, parties with big buffets, and dinner clubs. If those are the events you tend to gravitate toward, try eating a hefty, healthy snack before you go, and don’t stand near the food. Exercise becomes extra important when you’re stressed, as physical activity can help relieve it. Low-intensity exercise helps bring cortisol levels down, but mid-to-high intensity exercise can actually raise cortisol levels.
Speaking of fitness, outgoing people tend to do well with group exercise classes, small group training, and fitness clubs. Try a step class, a spin class, or join a running club. At the very least, grab yourself an exercise buddy — someone you can rope into going to the gym or taking a walk with.
Spin or barre class may be all the rage, but if you tend to keep to yourself and find peace in solitude, these types of classes probably aren’t up your alley. Instead, try a workout DVD at home or a choose a class that tends to be quieter, like yoga, PiYo, or Pilates. In terms of dieting, announcing to the world you’re going on a diet may not provide the moral support you need. Instead, keep a food journal, join an online diet club, or use an app like MyFitnessPal (free on iPhone and Android) to keep track of your intake in a more private setting. A hidden bonus: Quiet people may be able to naturally exhibit more restraint when it comes to indulgent choices.
A plan that’s clearly spelled out is the way to go if you’re someone who likes to stay within the lines and follow rules. Impulsivity tends to be associated with increased body weight, so bonus points for you rule-following types! It doesn’t matter so much what the plan is — just that you have one written out that’s easy to follow. This goes for both food and fitness. Keeping a food journal or fitness diary is also a good strategy if you fall into the rule-following category. Keeping a record of what you’ve eaten and what you’ve done for your workouts can help keep you on track, help you identify your weakness, and help motivate you to stick with it. Take caution, though, because sometimes this approach can swing too far in the other direction. If you find yourself becoming a slave to your plan, back off for a while. Becoming obsessed with what you’re eating or your workouts isn’t healthy either.
Our moods and food habits have one big thing in common when it comes to our bodies: hormones. Hormones are a complicated ebb and flow of signals darting throughout the body all day and all night. Most of us know just how much hormones affect our emotions, but they also affect our hunger and energy levels. Eating regularly throughout the day, say every three to four hours, can help keep your hormones and blood sugar stabilized. Exercise can also make a marked improvement in your mood, so be sure to break a sweat on a consistent basis. You’ll probably be the most successful if you have a wide array of exercise options in your arsenal, so you can cater your workout to any given mood. Perhaps try yoga when you’re grumpy or kickboxing when you’re pissed off.
Lucky you! If you’re the kind of the person who takes things in stride and doesn’t let unexpected happenings ruffle your feathers. You’ve got it made when it comes to eating and exercise. Just one caveat: Don’t get too relaxed about what you’re putting in your mouth or how many days you take off from your workout routine. Little things can add up quicker than we’d like, and we often don’t notice until it’s too late. Take advantage of your easy-going personality and give all kinds of workouts a try. Check out deal sites like Groupon and Living Social to save money while trying out different fitness options like Crossfit or Pure Barre.
Does your workout/eating style match your personality?