American College of Nutrition Certified Nutrition Specialist | Author | Professor of Nutrition


Making It Personal: Weight Loss Edition

We spend billions of dollars a year on weight loss programs, products and supplements that don’t work. If participants (who are technically obese) in a research study lose 8% of their body weight and keep off half of it for more than three years, it is heralded as a huge success. Yet, there are those who do lose the extra weight and keep it off for the long haul. So I looked at my successful clients and thought, What do they have in common?happy dance

  1. They have a specific goal or reason for losing the weight, such as returning their blood pressure to normal or avoiding having to take medication for diabetes.
  2. They are committed to reaching that goal, and would rather reach that goal sooner than cheat on their plan.
  3. They know their personality, and make their weight loss program work for them instead of trying to change themselves to fit the weight loss plan.

So I got to thinking about personality types, and if one of the reasons typical weight loss programs don’t deliver lasting results is they are created to be one-size fits all. Myers-Briggs, the most popular personality-type test in the country, counts 16 different personality types. Yikes. This is a problem.

We think its our fault that we can’t lose weight and keep it off, and that we just need to fix ourselves so we fit the weight loss program, when we really need to make the weight loss program fit each of us. Because we are made just the right way – exactly as we should be – and the weight loss program should change to suit us.

brainmazeMy Myers-Briggs personality type is ENFP. You can find your type by sending my friend Carolyn a note ([email protected]) and she’ll send you back a link to take the official test. She has agreed to work with you all at a special rate. You will not be sorry, I promise. Learning about yourself this way can change your life.

ENFPs hate routine, like the new and exciting, hate counting anything and keeping track of stuff. I hate restriction and discipline and I am easily distracted. I am also enthusiastic and fun, and optimistic and a creative cook. So programs where you have to do the stuff I am averse to doing, which is most weight loss programs, are not a good fit for me.

If you love counting, or love planning, or love eating the same thing everyday, then celebrate that and find a program that is tailor made for you. If you don’t express your creativity through cooking, well, actually try it before you decide its not for you. Really. But if not, then find a program that gives you exact recipes.

Whether you are extroverted or introverted, you will probably do better with support. Find a place or group with an environment that makes you feel comfortable and welcome. And that makes you feel good about yourself, because any lasting change comes from love. Let me say that again: any lasting, positive change comes from love and acceptance. Its just the way our brains work.

So what does this all mean if you want to lose weight and feel good?

  1. Take an honest look at your personality and see what you gravitate towards, and what makes you want to run away. What has worked in the past, and what makes you feel tired just thinking about it?
  2. Take the Myers Briggs personality test and learn everything you can about yourself, and then use that knowledge to find the best solution for you. Celebrate who you are and what you bring to the world, because you are perfectly unique and the world would be awful if we were all the same.
  3. Block out all the noise telling you there is only one right way to lose weight, or that you are doing it wrong. Find a plan that plays to your strengths and stick with it.
  4. Evaluate as you go. What moves you forward? What do you want more of and what isn’t working? Then take charge and modify your plan to fit you – not the other way around.

Figure out what you need from a weight loss plan, and you can be one of those people who loses weight and keeps it off. I’ll be cheering you on the whole way.

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