If you crave chocolate after a hard day at work or eat too much junk food when out with friends, your personality may be to blame, according to a new study in the journal Appetite. Researchers at Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology compiled 1,000 Swiss responses to three questionnaires on eating habits, food choices, and personality, with the latter questionnaire designed to identify one of five basic dimensions of personality: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. "We found that a person's personality does, in fact, determine why he or she eats and what he or she eats," study author Carmen Keller says. As well, certain characteristics may be "risk factors" for an unhealthy diet or lifestyle, and understanding those characteristics could play a key role in "successful weight management," New York adds.
Extroverts, who typically exhibit healthy social behavior, may eat more sweets, meats, savory foods, and sugary drinks, the study found. "It might be that the higher sociability of extroverted people results in having more meals with other people and, therefore, eating foods that are not healthy," Keller says. Neurotic people tend to eat as a result of negative emotions, while people who aren't conscientious are likely to cave to a delicious smell or taste. Conscientious people tend to eat healthier foods and avoid eating for external or emotional reasons, the Stir notes. They're also less likely to overeat. Interestingly, those open to new experiences tend to eat more fruit, veggies, and salads, and consume less meat and soft drinks. Overall, the study finds counting calories may not be enough to maintain a healthy diet. "Identifying ways in which people can boost their capacity to control their eating is the next big challenge in eating research," an expert says. (A psychologist has proposed a no-diet weight loss plan.)