If there's one personality trait that is the strongest predictor of whether you are or will be overweight, it's impulsivity, researchers say.
A new study examined over 50 years of data to see how personality traits can influence weight gain and found that those who scored in the top 10 percent on impulsivity weighed an average of 22 pounds more than those in the bottom 10 percent.
Impulsive people "tend to give in to temptation and lack the discipline to stay on track amid difficulties or frustration," according to the study, reported in Psych Central. "To maintain a healthy diet, it is typically necessary to have a healthy diet and a sustained program of physical activity, both of which require commitment and restraint. Such control may be difficult for highly impulsive individuals."
Weight gain tended to happen gradually across the board as participants aged; but "researchers found greater weight gain among impulsive people; those who enjoy taking risks; and those who are antagonistic -- especially those who are cynical, competitive and aggressive."
"Previous research has found that impulsive individuals are prone to binge eating and alcohol consumption," said one of the study's authors, Angelina R. Sutin, Ph.D. "Their behavioral patterns may contribute to weight gain over time."
Researchers also found that conscientious participants tended to be leaner and weight did not contribute to changes in personality across adulthood.
Sutin added that "the pathway from personality traits to weight gain is complex and probably includes physiological mechanisms, in addition to behavioral ones."