Scientists have dismissed the latest diet fads and suggested that instead, thanks to people’s hormones, genes and psychology, there are three main types of people who struggle to keep their weight down. Therefore, by knowing your type, you can then tailor your eating habits towards these types.
Three Different Personality Types
The study, conducted by researchers at Oxford and Cambridge, put 75 dieters through a series of tests and discovered the types to be feasters who find it difficult to stop eating once they’ve started, constant cravers who feel hungry all the time, and emotional eaters who turn to food in a crisis.
People who feast all the time have their hormones to blame, as the research showed they produced low levels of a certain chemical which signifies that the stomach is full. Therefore they always feel hungry as the brain is not receiving the signs that it should stop eating.
“Some people have astonishingly low levels of certain gut hormones and are not getting those signals,” says Susan Jebb, a professor of diet and population at Oxford University.
On the other hand, constant cravers can call upon their genes as the culprit, as they have acquired a “hungry brain” that requires fatty and sugary foods. Research has showed that certain genes predispose us to crave these compounds.
“The role genes play in losing weight is unequivocal, but due to changes in technology we are beginning to find out what these genes are,” says geneticist Dr Giles Yeo, from Cambridge University.
People who eat when they are in crisis or anxious have developed a habit of reaching for food whenever they are in a stressful situation. The brain then releases a powerful chemical upon receiving the food, much like a reward.
“People often think diets are about willpower,” says Jebb. “Forget that, diets are about habits. There has never been a study that says people can will themselves to lose weight, but they can change their habits.”
Once people have identified which group they belong to, they can then follow a diet specifically tailored to that group.
Food for Feasters
Feasters should eat foods that keep them fuller for longer, so anything with high amounts of protein, such as lean meat, fish, cheese, eggs and nuts. They should also have a low glycaemia index (GI) like basmati rice, lentils, grains and cereals. No potatoes or bread because they don’t make people feel full for very long.
“Protein and carbs that are not absorbed quickly are absorbed lower down the gut, producing more hormones that make us feel fuller,” says gut hormone specialist Prof Fiona Gribble, from Cambridge University.
Food for Constant Cravers
Constant cravers are always hungry so a 7 day a week diet is hard for them. Instead they need to quickly shock their bodies and get their metabolism working again, so a diet of 800 calories a day for two days of the week and healthy eating for the other five (intermittent fasting) should help them lose weight.
“Constant cravers have the toughest job as they have a strong predisposition to being overweight,” says Jebb. “The fasting diet should shock their bodies into burning fat.”
Food for Emotional Eaters
Emotional eaters need to break the associations they have made with food so should swap unhealthy snacks with fruit and start attending group support to trigger the reward part of the brain that used to rely on food.
Other tips for losing weight
As well as finding out which group you belong to, the study identified several other basic tips to help people lose weight.
- Eat slowly. This gives the hormones in the gut time to reach the brain and tell it that you are full up.
- Always eat breakfast. It not only sets you up for the day but prevents you snacking on high fat or sugary foods midday.
- Soup and smoothies makes you feel fuller. These types of foods tend to hold in the stomach for longer and make you feel fuller for longer.
To see which group you belong to visit BBC.co.uk