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Personality and Eating

I wrote THE FOOD AND FEELINGS WORKBOOK due to the realization that clients had a very difficult time following their appetite according to THE RULES OF “NORMAL” EATING because their feelings—or more precisely their lack of attunement to and understanding of their feelings—kept getting in the way. In short, the fact that disregulated eaters need to better manage emotions is one of the things that’s been keeping them stuck in unhealthy eating and self-nurturing patterns.

Now it seems that researchers have quantified mood and its relationship to body weight. An AARP article, Mood and Food: Can’t lose weight? Your personality may be to blame (1/12) offers some enlightening conclusions. Not astounding insights, but more reason to work on managing your feelings more effectively in order to become a “normal” eater. A National Institute on Aging study “found that impulsive people weigh about 22 pounds more than those who are cautious. Antagonistic folks gained 10 pounds more over their lifetime than did their friendlier counterparts (angry people tend to binge eat, previous studies have reported).” The point here is personality traits, not weight, mind you.

Let’s take these traits of impulsivity and anger one at a time. Stop and consider if you are impulsive in general or maybe you’re cautious in many areas and let yourself go only with food. What drives you to ignore consequences or go unconscious when you’re making decisions about food versus other things? How can you change that pattern? It’ll take work but be worth it. If you’re usually cautious but let go with food, you need more ways to go wild, play, and let loose. If you develop them, I guarantee you’ll be less likely to go crazy with food.

Many people (often women) don’t realize that they’re angry because they cover the feeling with automatic pleasantness. If you eat because you believe you deserve a reward or are entitled to one or feel frustrated a lot, you may well harbor underlying—what you’d call negative—emotions that you’re unaware of. Maybe you believe that life hasn’t treated you fairly and feel helpless or bitter. Or are angry at yourself or someone else and eat. In either case, you take out your distressing feelings on yourself with food.

As an emotional eater, whatever you do to become more aware of your emotions and handle them better will go a long (long, long) way toward helping you recover from your food problems. Put effort into controlling impulsivity, especially when it’s fueled by anger, and you’ll notice a big improvement in your eating habits.