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Is your personality making it hard to lose weight?


The hungry personality

Researchers from the University of Georgia found that people with impulsive personalities were more likely to report higher levels of food addiction - a compulsive pattern of eating that is similar to drug addiction.

"The notion of food addiction is a very new one, and one that has generated a lot of interest," said James MacKillop, the study's principal investigator and associate professor of psychology in UGA's Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Linking impulsive behaviour and food addiction

The study used two scales, the Yale Food Addiction Scale and the UPPS-P Impulsive Behaviour Scale, to determine levels of food addiction and impulsivity among the 233 participants. Researchers compared these results with each participant's body mass index (BMI) to determine obesity.

"Our study shows that impulsive behaviour was not necessarily associated with obesity, but impulsive behaviours can lead to food addiction," MacKillop said.

That is, just because someone exhibits impulsive behaviour does not mean they will become obese, but an increase in certain impulsive behaviours is linked to food addiction, which appeared to be the driving force behind higher BMI in study participants.

Foods that produce cravings

The food industry has created a wide array of eating options, and foods that are high in fat, sodium, sugar and other flavourful additives appear to produce cravings much like illicit drugs, MacKillop said. Now they will work to see how those intense cravings might play a role in the development of obesity.

"Modern neuroscience has helped us understand how substances like drugs and alcohol co-opts areas of the brain that evolved to release dopamine and create a sense of happiness or satisfaction," he said. "And now we realise that certain types of food also hijack these brain circuits and lay the foundation for compulsive eating habits that are similar to drug addiction."

How to fight food addiction

If you’re impulsive and believe that you could be addicted to food, help is just a click away!

Learn how to delay gratification and reach your weight loss goals by reading How to build self-control and, to help you resist that piece of cake or second serving, read The science of resisting diet temptation.

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