Personality and situation predictors of consistent eating patterns

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Authors: Vainik, U., Dubé, L.Lu, J., Fellows, L.K.

Publication: PLoS ONE

Abtract: 

Introduction: A consistent eating style might be beneficial to avoid overeating in a food-rich environment. Eating consistency entails maintaining a similar dietary pattern across different eating situations. This construct is relatively under-studied, but the available evidence suggests that eating consistency supports successful weight maintenance and decreases risk for metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease. Yet, personality and situation predictors of consistency have not been studied. Methods: A community-based sample of 164 women completed various personality tests, and 139 of them also reported their eating behaviour 6 times/day over 10 observational days. We focused on observations with meals (breakfast, lunch, or dinner). The participants indicated if their momentary eating patterns were consistent with their own baseline eating patterns in terms of healthiness or size of the meal. Further, participants described various characteristics of each eating situation. Results: Eating consistency was positively predicted by trait self-control. Eating consistency was undermined by eating in the evening, eating with others, eating away from home, having consumed alcohol and having undertaken physical exercise. Interactions emerged between personality traits and situations, including punishment sensitivity, restraint, physical activity and alcohol consumption. Conclusion: Trait self-control and several eating situation variables were related to eating consistency. These findings provide a starting point for targeting interventions to improve consistency, suggesting that a focus on self-control skills, together with addressing contextual factors such as social situations and time of day, may be most promising. This work is a first step to provide people with the tools they need to maintain a consistently healthy lifestyle in a food-rich environment. 

Read full article: PLoS ONE, 3 December, 2015