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Are You Going To Eat That?

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Are You Going To Eat That?

If you’re an extrovert, you just might!
Doreen Virtue
Doreen Virtue More by this author
Oct 06, 2011 at 10:00 AM

Many studies have delved into whether our personality determines our eating behavior. In particular, researchers have studied so-called extroverts and introverts and the differences in their eating styles.

Extroverts, as you probably know, are outgoing, friendly, and talkative. They are the people who are always making telephone calls and who generally dislike being alone. It’s estimated that 51 percent of the population are extroverted.

If extroverts are the talkers of the world, introverts are the listeners. They are shy, a little withdrawn, and self-sufficient loners. These are the people who are perfectly happy to be alone.

Neither style is good or bad, right or wrong. But they do appear to correlate to your appetite, eating, and weight. It reminds me of the Mother Goose tale about Jack Sprat and his overweight wife. Remember? Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean...

Anyway, that verse conjures up the stereotype of the thin, shy, reserved individual and the loud, boisterous, overweight person. Well, it turns out that there are studies explaining why extroverts tend to be heavier than introverts! It appears that:

  • Extroverts eat because of external cues. For example, the clock says “12:00 noon,” and the extrovert interprets this as a signal that it’s time to eat lunch. Introverts eat due to internal cues—a rumbling stomach, and other signs of hunger.
  • Extroverts demand more variety in their diets than introverts. A monotonous meal leaves extroverts feeling hungry and dissatisfied, while the introvert walks away with a satiated appetite.
  • High-fat foods and highly sweetened foods are more preferred by extroverts than introverts. Extroverts report experiencing more intense pleasure while eating, as compared to introverts.
  • When an abundance of food is available, extroverts are more likely to gain weight than introverts. One study of girls at a summer camp found that girls with an “external” orientation (such as eating in response to the clock instead of hunger) were much more likely to gain weight while at camp, compared to “internally” oriented girls (who eat only in response to hunger).
  • Extroverts are more likely to eat just because food is in front of them. If there is a plate of cookies in front of you, are you suddenly hungry for those cookies? This is an example of food cravings that are triggered by outside stimuli, rather than food cravings triggered by an emotion. Extroverts have more difficulty resisting readily available food than do introverts.
  • Extroverts experience physical reactions at the mere sight of food. You’ve probably heard someone say, “I gain weight if I even look at a candy bar.” It turns out this may not be far from the truth. The sight of food increases insulin levels much more in externally oriented people than in those who are internally oriented.

Appetite-Reducing Steps for Extroverts

How is all this information relevant to you? If you are an extrovert (like the majority of people), it’s important to be aware of how this external orientation can trigger overeating. Extroverts often ignore their gut feelings because they are tuned into cues from the outer world. Here are some strategies for extroverts struggling with an overactive appetite:

  1. Pay attention to internal hunger cues. It’s important not to automatically eat in response to external cues. We can retrain ourselves to become internally oriented to hunger cues. Instead of relying on the clock (“It’s noon, so I must eat lunch”), we must rely on our body to tell us when to eat.
  2. Beat the multi-course meal habit. A nutritionally balanced meal doesn’t require a multitude of side dishes. Vegetable, protein, and carbohydrate needs can be met with three to four menu items. Be especially careful around buffets, where the variety may tempt you to overeat. As an extrovert, you are even more vulnerable to buffet bingeing, so you may want to think twice before making restaurant reservations at that new all-you-can-eat establishment. Maybe the temptation is not even worth it.
  3. Minimize your exposure to food stimuli. Researcher Bernard Lyman, Ph.D., writes, “In externally responsive individuals, the insulin level rises at the sight of food, and this increases hunger. There has been some success treating the obese by minimizing their exposure to food stimuli. Little food is kept in the home, and the individuals are encouraged not to read articles discussing food or food preparation, to avoid food
    advertisements, and to stay away from supermarkets except to buy needed foods and then in very small quantities. ‘Out of sight, out of mind’ seems to reduce food intake for some people.”
  4. Center yourself before eating. Give your gut feelings a chance to be heard above the din. I’d love to see extroverts adopt the habit of saying a prayer before mealtime. Before picking up your fork, lower your eyes, take a breath, go inward, and say grace in your own way. Your body will relax, and your inner voice will reward you with valuable guidance and inspired information. 

Staying tuned in to gut feelings requires some patience and practice. It takes about 30 days to change habits, so hang in there. You deserve the best, including a free spirit and a light body!

About Author
Doreen Virtue
Doreen Virtue Doreen Virtue graduated from Chapman University with two degrees in counseling psychology. A former psychotherapist, Doreen now gives online workshops on topics rela Continue reading