There is a cream bun in the shop window. But you had one for morning tea. Look away. There’s enough egg in the bread to make the damn thing glow like a daffodil inside.
But eggs are good for you. And that little dollop of strawberry jam couldn’t harm anyone. Well, despite the promises you’ve made, you’re slipping. You’re gone. The bun owns your soul.
Later, you regretfully wonder what it takes to get out of this bad marriage with food.
The short answer, you probably need to understand yourself how to act and how to meet your needs.
In Australia, behavioral psychologists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) conducted a large-scale experiment to investigate the relationship between personality and diet.
More on her results later, but first, what about good old-fashioned willpower?
The great debate of will
If only you had willpower, you’d never eat a cream bun again. A lot of people still think that way. In academic conversation, the notions of willpower died years ago.
As early as 1999, the New York Times reported that willpower was an outdated and largely discredited concept, “about as relevant to diets as cod liver oil.”
Many doubted that willpower even existed.
The Times wrote, “To attribute success or failure in dieting to willpower, the researchers say, means ignoring the complex interplay of brain chemicals, behavioral conditioning, hormones, heredity, and the powerful influence of habits.”
Telling an obese person to use willpower “is like telling a clinically depressed person to break out”.
So is willpower really dead?
No. It’s a constant argument among psychologists.
The positive psychology movement published a long and serious statement in April on willpower and “training the brain to make better decisions.”
In 2019, Psychology Today published an article entitled “How Unhealthy Foods Can Steal Our Willpower”.
The American Psychological Association continues to offer tips on how to “strengthen self-control.”
A typical piece of advice is “focus on one goal at a time”.
Here’s the thing: people are complex
There is no magic recipe – it’s about understanding how people behave, think and feel differently. This is what CSIRO scientists have found in a long-term study on diets.
We all have a diet personality type determined by our fears, the different ways we control and organize our lives, how relaxed or uptight we are, etc.
As the experiment progressed, a more complex, nuanced, and personalized analysis emerged.
In 2017, the CSIRO published the Diet Types study:
“From the survey data, the researchers identified the five most common nutritional personality types found in the surveyed population, including differences in weight status, eating habits, gender, and generation,” it says.
The thinker (37 percent) was the most common diet type.
“Mostly women (86 percent), thinkers tend to overestimate their progress and have unrealistic expectations. This can lead to a feeling of failure and derail a diet, ”the CSIRO explained.
There was also the craver, the socializer, the foodie and the freewheeler.
On the way to personalized analysis
Five years later, the Diet Types project has skyrocketed.
The CSIRO published an update on the 2017 study this week. Based on a study of 245,000 Australians, the researchers identified 325 possible diet type personality combinations.
This suggests that nutritional strategy has moved a long way from the magic bullet strategy and is approaching a personalized solution for healthier eating.
The six most common diet types identified in the new study, which made up over half of the study sample, include:
The Thinker, still number one, but down from 37 percent to 14.1 percent.
The fighter (12.8 percent) – Likely to suffer from frequent eating attempts and to be prone to stress and worry. Battlers require some unique strategies to help them break the cycle and achieve long-term success on their nutritional journey. Nine out of ten fighters are female.
The craver (7.3 percent) – likely severe food cravings that can lead to overeating in “tricky” food situations. Cravers had the highest body mass index of any type.
The bitter (7.1 percent) – sympathetic and friendly, but also sensitive to social comparisons that can make them feel that they are not doing well. You probably have a lot of people who can support you on your way.
The gourmet (5.9 percent) – Passionate about everything to do with food, including the experience of preparing and eating quality meals. Gourmets love variety and have the best nutritional quality of all kinds. Men often identify themselves as foodies.
The conviviality (4.8 percent) – a person who needs flexibility to ensure strict food restrictions don’t stifle social occasions or destroy the mood of an event.
Emily Brindal is CSIRO Group Leader Public Health and Wellbeing. And she’s one of the psychologists who interviewed Australians.
In an email, Dr. Brindal:
“The original concept for diet types was that some of the broader parts of your personality (your disposition) are also likely to be related to how you go about dieting.
“For example, if you are organized and conscientious … diets with lots of great planning tools will work better for you.”
She said the success of the study was due to the fact that many questions were asked.
“Some personality assessments include over 200 items. It was a big challenge to make something accessible, short and engaging without losing depth, ”she said.
To find out your diet type, take the CSIRO Diet Type Quiz here.