A recent article about personality as it relates to attitude and personal nutrition in the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel got us thinking. The article brought to our attention a correlation between how well you can stick to a healthy diet has to do with more than willpower, but also a working knowledge of nutrition, as well as the correct time to shop and cook healthfully.
Think about your personality. Are you an overachiever? Someone who can’t sit still? A person guided more by emotion than reason?
Personality traits shape our attitudes and beliefs about food – and therefore, our eating behaviors – more than we might realize. Our coping patterns, how we deal with stress, are of particular note.
“When we get stressed, we tend to eat foods that are lower in nutritional value, which is a double-edged sword: now, you are in a cycle that just leads to feeling worse,” says registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Amy Jamieson-Petonic.
Because food has a huge impact on overall well-being, the choices we make every day can have a significant effect on our health – mental, physical and spiritual. As we leave the more-active summer season and head into fall and – all too soon – the food-intensive holiday season, it’s a good time to take stock of our overall diet and make improvements where needed.
“People often don’t realize how good they will feel when they start eating well. It can give you a better outlook and the clarity of mind and body to face tough situations,” Jamieson-Petonic says.
The question then becomes: What is healthy eating? And what’s a healthy way to lose weight?
Fad dieting dates back to at least the 1820s, when the low-carb diet first appeared. But the fact is, there is no one magic diet. All foods can fit into a healthy eating plan, as long as wise choices are made.
“You can lose weight on virtually any diet,” says another ADA spokesman, registered dietitian Roberta Anding. “If you eat less, you will lose weight.”
Bingo: The key to lasting weight loss is shrinking down portion sizes, when combined with regular physical activity. And moderation.
Ah, yes, moderation. But what does that mean? That, too, may depend on the person. Take an honest assessment of your eating habits. Are you a binge eater? Fast-food addict? Fast-paced eater?
Then look to determine where changes can be made. And don’t underestimate the power of small changes.
“Small, personalized and realistic changes can make a big difference in your health,” says registered dietitian Dawn Jackson Blatner.
But weight loss isn’t only about diet, exercise and personality. Life events also can alter the number on the scale. Job loss, career moves, promotions, weddings, pregnancies, parties and holidays are only a handful of the numerous blissful (and often stressful) events impacting our waistlines.
“Stress and anxiety can make it hard just to get through the day,” Jamieson-Petonic says. “Food is connected to so many levels of our being,” she explained.
Stress. Emotions. Eating. Sound familiar? Emotional eating has become the norm. In fact, 75 percent of overeating can be triggered by emotions, according to a study by the University of Maryland. Feeding our feelings has fed the obesity epidemic.
So has today’s fast-paced lifestyle. Too many of us are tired and overworked. Mealtime seems like a huge feat when compared with a drive-through. When there’s no time to cook and children to feed, making mindless choices becomes a way of life. Prepackaged foods and already-prepared food have become the norm.
But a healthy meal doesn’t have to be a big production. Plan ahead and meals can be convenient, healthy and inexpensive.
And it all starts with knowing yourself.
Realizing the role that personality plays in everyday food choices forces us to look at behavior modification for some real-life, practical solutions.