Weight loss study is food for thought

New research indicates personality types may play a part in weight loss – so is it time to update the old saying from 'you are what you eat' to 'you eat who you are'?

Key Points

  • CSIRO study finds personality types influence weight loss success and failure 

  • Findings give hope to dieters by identifying strengths and weaknesses 

  • Surprisingly, ‘Foodies’ were the most successful at losing weight 

There is hope for those who struggle to lose weight. A new study has found it may come down to their personality type – and you can play to your weaknesses to achieve your weight loss goals. 

Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) scientists studied more than 245,000 people to understand the unique behavioural and emotional characteristics that help or hinder the national waistline in 2021. 

The study identified 325 ‘Diet Type’ personality combinations, including two new hybrid personalities, the ‘Battler’ and the ‘Pleaser’, representing around 20 per cent of all dieters. 

Dr Emily Brindal, Research Scientist and lead author of the study, encouraged Australians to embrace the strengths and weaknesses associated with their Diet Type.  

“We are seeing people cope differently with COVID-19 stresses and uncertainty, which has included disruptions to health, fitness, and social routines. 

“We hope to help people achieve greater success on their journey to rediscover their health by playing to their individual strengths while also helping them to gain better control over their weaknesses,” Dr Brindal said.    

Six common diet types

The key personalities that emerged from the study (representing half the sample) were: 

  • The Thinker (14.1 per cent) – Goal-oriented, motivated and analytical, however sensitive to negative feedback that can lead to stress or anxiety, which could ultimately derail their diet.  

  • The Battler (12.8 per cent) – Likely to experience regular food temptation, as well as being prone to stress and worry. ‘Battlers’ require some unique strategies to help them break the cycle and achieve long-term success in their diet journey. Nine in ten ‘Battlers’ are female.  

  • The Craver (7.3 per cent) – Likely to experience strong food cravings that may lead to overeating in ‘tricky’ food-related settings. Cravers had the highest Body Mass Index (BMI) of all types.  

  • The Pleaser (7.1 per cent) – Likeable and friendly but can also be sensitive to social comparisons which can make them feel like they are not doing well. They are likely to have many people to call upon to support them along the way.   

  • The Foodie (5.9 per cent) – Passionate about all things food including the experience of preparing and eating good quality meals. Foodies love variety and have the best diet quality of all Diet Types. Men often identify as Foodies.

  • The Socialiser (4.8 per cent) – A people-person who needs flexibility to make sure strict food restrictions don’t stifle social occasions or ‘kill the mood’ of an event.  

Of the six dominant Diet Types, the research found that ‘Cravers’ had the most weight to lose when they signed up for the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet Program. 

‘Foodies’ were the most successful at losing weight and staying on the program, engaging with the program 50 per cent more than ‘Cravers’ and ‘Battlers’, who were least engaged. 

How did she lose so much weight?

South Australian retail assistant, Kayleen Nuus, lost 37 kilograms and said understanding her Diet Type was critical.  

“As a Craver, I would consume food without a second thought – if it looked or smelled delicious, I had to have it, no matter how unhealthy it was,” Ms Nuus said. 

“Now I make decisions based on an understanding of how my mind works in certain situations. If I’m craving a particular food, I look for a healthier option. For example, rather than a take-away hamburger, I’ll make it at home, so I know exactly what’s going in it. I also generally track my food to understand my portions and satisfy my hunger, without the sacrifice.  

“Understanding my Diet Type means I have more control over the psychological elements of my eating habits and can focus my energies on filling my body with nourishing foods, rather than empty kilojoules.”  

The findings can support ‘wannabe dieters’ overcome the challenges faced by their ‘Diet Type’.  

“Too often, diets are developed with a one-size-fits all approach that ignores the fact that some people behave or think differently to others,” Dr Brindal said.  

“Working with your Diet Type could help you achieve better weight loss outcomes in the longer term. 

“The new Diet Type enhancements use personality and behavioural science to speak uniquely to people identifying with different diet types so they can embark on a weight loss journey that better suits them.”  

Diet quiz

All Australians can take the free CSIRO Diet Types quiz online by visiting the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet website.

Once complete, you’ll receive instant, personalised feedback about your Diet Type and the best strategies to achieve their desired outcomes.  

Download the CSIRO report