Personality is derived from an individual’s characteristics and traits and is also considered a pattern of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors over time. Although every individual has a unique personality, personality can be categorized into five types. Use the acronym OCEAN to help you remember. O is openness to new experiences, for example this person would be described as curious. C is conscientiousness, a type of personality that is geared toward self-regulation and planning. E is extraversion, which can, but not always predict positive thinking. A is agreeableness, seen as kind and affectionate people. Lastly, N is neuroticism; this can be seen in high-strung individuals. Typically people would classify themselves in more than one category or as a combination of multiple. It is best to know how each aspect of your personality affects you, specifically in weight management—meaning your personality impacts your eating and physical activity behaviors.
There are moderators to personality and these moderators differ between individuals suggesting that people with the same classification of personality will have a different reaction to a stressor. Examples of moderators include: gender, age, past experience, cultural differences, beliefs, values, mental and physical health, socioeconomic status, political undertone, and environment. Focusing on gender and age may be the best approach when trying to discuss physical activity and eating behaviors in relation to weight control. It is simple to divide genders into two cohorts, male and female, and then subgroup each cohort into about ten year age range to most appropriately develop weight management programs suitable to their life stressors for that age grouping. For example when addressing a group of women, 20 year olds do not have the same work and family stress as a sixty-year-old women. The older women may be experiencing menopause, have children and potentially grandchildren as well as a spouse and a job. While the twenty year old may be a college student and be only stressed by the demands of school and maybe a part-time job. Thus when talking to those two women it would be difficult to share and compare how they could control their weight similarly. Yes, the same principles still apply such as decreasing one’s sedentary behavior, increasing physical activity, and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. However to make a more significant and lasting impact health promotion professionals must address personality.
Going back to the example of the 20 year old college student, focusing on the population of 20-30 year old females it is important to note the personality differences and address those differences in a specific weight control program that will be more individualizes and focused to suit those with a certain personality type. For example if the goal of an intervention is to increase physical activity and the targeted population rate highly as extroverted then a fitness class such as BodyPump, Zumba, or CrossFit may be an excellent approach. These classes are designed around the idea of bringing like-minded individuals together, to promote that community-feel by “suffering” and conquering the workout together. This approach would not be suitable for someone that is highly neurotic. These individuals would do better in a more calming environment such as a yoga class to improve one’s health.
Developing a weight control program that would target healthy eating and promote trying new vegetables and foods would be ideal for those with the openness to new experiences personality. Having a weekly cooking class in person or virtually would allow those that are interested at managing their weight through diet to become more knowledgeable about how to cook vegetables they were uncertain of or how to prepare new dishes to increase exposure to new cuisines and cultures. This approach to personality and eating behaviors could be similar for those with an agreeableness type of personality. These people are more keen for kindness and affection and could do well in an environment in which they had group potlucks or cook-offs to introduce their friends, family, or others a part of their healthy eating group to new healthy foods. Being able to cook for one another and be able to discuss and judge each others food in a constructive way would be beneficial to improving their eating behaviors. Both of these approaches can be modified for gender and for age, the environment in which the groups met would be the most impactful. Meaning creating an intervention for guys could be at the dining hall or a sports bar-like atmosphere where they feel most comfortable. For women the older ladies could meet in their retirement community center and younger women can do this in their sorority house.
The idea of being able to subscribe to one’s personality is the best approach to ensuring a program works! Being able to individualize will allow maximum results because that intervention is more specific and targets that individuals typical patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. The challenge of this program design is knowing which type of personality to target and how to identify those individuals in each of the five types of personality. It can go without saying that regardless of having the same personality individuals will differ in their responses to stressors. Specific moderators such as age and gender are important and should be accounted for in how a program is designed to manage weight control through eating and physical activity.
Bottom line, determine your personality and find new activities and groups that will allow yourself to become more physically active! It may take some trial and error to determine what activity is the best fit for you so have fun with it! Take free trial classes and talk to instructors about what is you are going to be doing before you fully invest your time and money! You may find something you love that surprises you! Be open minded and get up and do something!
Article written by GUADS staff member: Kaitlyn