FOOD

Always Fail On A Diet? Knowing Your 'Diet Type' Helps You Succeed

Are you The Thinker or The Craver?

05/01/2017 9:23 AM AEDT | Updated 05/01/2017 5:05 PM AEDT
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Your personality plays an important role in how well you stick to a healthy eating plan.

With it being the start of a new year, chances are you're currently on a diet -- or trying to start one.

Most, if not all, people's hesitation when dieting or starting a healthier lifestyle is that it just doesn't feel sustainable. Seriously, how is it possible to eat healthy and not indulge in office doughnuts for the rest of time?

According to new research by CSIRO scientists, behavioural and personality types can play an important role in how successfully you stick to your diet or healthy eating plan.

"[People] are quite motivated to make changes and we acknowledge the changes that need to be made in terms of our diet and what we're eating, but it's about transitioning from those initial changes and incorporating them into our lifestyles in the long term," CSIRO behavioural scientist Sinead Golley told The Huffington Post Australia.

We all know this from personal experience -- it's not the first few days which are the hardest, it's when our nature and cravings get the best of us (and we lose motivation) that diets go haywire.

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Day one snack: apple. Day seven snack: a block of chocolate.

"That's where behavioural science can really make an impact, because we understand the triggers for behaviour and what factors are important when considering behaviour change," Golley explained.

"That was a key part of our research, understanding the types of hurdles that people may encounter when they're trying to make that transition.

"Some of the triggers people mentioned were willpower, giving into temptation, going out and socialising. We thought, these triggers and hurdles might be salient for some people, but not everybody will be the same. There will be different issues for everyone."

Sound familiar? It isn't all bad news -- identifying what type of dieter you are can help you stick to your diet in the long term.

We're trying to move away from a 'one size fits all' approach, to personalise diets and diet programs, and help you understand the barriers you may experience for better long term success.

"We went through the literature and came up with as many factors as we thought would be important, especially to the domain of food choice," Golley said. "We conducted survey research and, based on a data reduction technique, we were able to reduce that to five key diet types, which we think most people will be able to identify with and understand the hurdles they will experience."

By highlighting the diet type-specific hurdles and issues people may be unaware of, and by providing tips, strategies and tailored meal plans to circumnavigate those hurdles, the CSIRO program can increase a person's chance of success in making these changes long term.

"We want people to not only be able to identify their diet type and the triggers they need to be aware of, but also the tips and strategies for how to work around them," Golley told HuffPost Australia.

"Ultimately, we're trying to move away from a 'one size fits all' approach, to personalise diets and diet programs, and help you understand the barriers you may experience for better long term success."

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So, what are the diet types, and which one do you align with most?

1. The Thinker

If you tend to overthink everything, the stress and mood swings that usually ensue can actually derail your eating patterns.

"The Thinker is me, so I can elaborate on this," Golley said. "We need to understand that some of these characteristics are reasonably stable, so while they are going to impact your food behaviour, they may also impact other aspects of your life.

"So, for a Thinker like me, while this is helpful in my job and what I do as a researcher, it also makes people who are classified as The Thinker quite sensitive and negative, and they critique, which unfortunately can lead to a spiral where they go, 'oh, I've done a really bad job today' and lack the ability to appreciate all the good work they have done up until that point.

"To try to distract themselves from all that self-criticism, they might turn to comfort food, which can derail a diet and the efforts to make those positive changes."

Solution:

While it's important to address the underlying issues of being an overthinker or worrier, one strategy which can help in terms of dieting or healthy eating is to focus on what you have achieved, not what you haven't.

"The strategies around this diet type would be around focusing on your actions, and not necessarily the outcomes," Golley explained. "This can work really well for a person with this diet type. Also, replacing the distraction of comfort food with things like exercise."

JGI/Tom Grill
Focus on what you HAVE achieved.

2. The Craver

If you're someone who can't resist those delicious office cookies and find it hard to stop eating, you are The Craver.

"This person's main issue is that the cues for their temptations are quite visual," Golley said.

"If they are presented with their trigger foods (things like chocolate, pizza and potato chips are particularly notorious foods for The Craver), it's hard for cravers to stop at just one. That might mean it leads to overindulgence and derailment of your diet and diet plan."

Solution:

"Try to understand what the food triggers are, and come up with strategies to be able to manage those," Golley said.

"If you go to a buffet, you'll know what area you'll stand around at and eat and eat. Understandably, for people who are The Craver, an 'out of sight, out of mind' approach might be the best option."

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The next time you're presented with treats, stand up and go for a little walk outside.

3. The Foodie

Foodies love everything about food and cooking, and the idea of restricting or limiting foods is completely off-putting.

"The characteristics that define this diet type is a love of food. It's not just preparing food and cooking it, it's experiencing the different types of flavours, being explorative, really enjoying all aspects of foods and eating a wide variety," Golley told HuffPost Australia.

"For them, restrictive diets might not work so well. Because of the types of foods they might enjoy trying, or because they want to try new foods, there might be a tendency to overindulge."

Solution:

The key for The Foodie when it comes to a healthy diet or meal plan is cooking a variety of nutritious, interesting foods, and experimenting with bold flavours using ingredients like herbs and spices.

"I know the Total Wellbeing Diet is catered to The Foodie, so it's about having those types of amazing, varied recipes using novel ingredients, and understanding that people want different types of flavours and food experiences," Golley said.

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Challenge yourself to healthifying your favourite dishes.

4. The Socialiser

"With The Socialiser, the biggest hurdle is you're going to be put into situations where the best food choices are not always available, paired perhaps with alcohol," Golley said.

"Going out when you're catching up with friends, this is usually done in environments where there's food involved, whether it's lunch, coffee, dinner or at a bar.

"It's hard for somebody who's on a diet to know the best choices when they're in these environments or to keep track of what they're consuming and drinking. For them, that's the main hurdle they need to overcome."

Solution:

The most helpful things people with The Socialiser diet type can do is plan, plan and plan, and make sure they don't go out on an empty stomach.

"If you can plan ahead and eat before you go out, that's really helpful," Golley said.

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Try planning a meal with friends at a place you know has healthy options.

5. The Freewheeler

"These people are spontaneous and impulsive, and make decisions in the spur of the moment. For them, diets that are quite prescriptive are just not something that comes natural to them, even though they understand the merit and value in planning meals," Golley said.

"Instead of having all the good foods on hand, they may have more tendency to be eating and purchasing foods in the spur of the moment, and what's available then might not always be the best choice."

If Freewheelers don't see results quickly, they also have a tendency to become bored and unmotivated.

Solution:

"Make the diet more in line with The Freewheeler. In terms of meal planning, maybe they can't manage seven days ahead -- do one to two days ahead. Or have meals ready to go, so they don't have to rely on purchases that are made ad hoc," Golley said.

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