The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
How Your Personality Type Could Influence Your Food Choices
By Melissa Kravitz
"You are what you eat" may be one of the oldest sayings ever to be repeated around the dinner table, but can you also eat what you are?
The idea of eating to suit your identity dates back millennia, particularly with religious dietary restrictions seen as shaping an eater's personality and identity. The Bible forbids the eating of predators or garbage-feeders. Buddhists practice a harm-free diet, with Jain vegetarianism enforcing more restrictions, such as not eating root vegetables that may harm insects. Hindus refrain from eating cows, considered sacred. But beyond organized religion, the dietary choices we make may be linked just as closely to our personality as our palate.
"Quite honestly, the link between the personality and diet is not scientific," said psychotherapist Karen Koenig, who specializes in compulsive, emotional and restrictive eating. But in Koenig's more than 30 years of experience, during which time she's authored several books about psychology and food, she's noted some trends in personality type and food choice.
Specifically, underachievers are less likely to take risks in their diet, perhaps due to an ingrained fear of failure or rejection. They may have lower self-esteem and can be easily disappointed, and may also comfort themselves with food. That friend you have who is tentative to book an overseas trip is likely the same friend who eats the same thing for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner everyday.
Overachievers, on the other hand, may display similar behaviors, comforting themselves with food when they fail to take care of themselves in other ways while striving for approval or goal achievement. The "too busy to eat" mentality is typical in Type A-esque overachievers who may put bodily comfort after other accomplishments. Contradictorily, however, this type of personality can possess a strict mentality, meaning they can be uncompromising in regards to maintaining a specific diet—like vegan or paleo—throwing themselves into a narrowly circumscribed eating regimen completely. Overachievers can also fall into a dangerous "all-or-nothing" mindset, meaning that if they aren't following a dietary plan 100 percent perfectly, they'll consider that failing, and perhaps take extremes while breaking it: Think a vegan who learned there's chicken broth in their risotto boomeranging and ordering a rib eye steak and a side of bacon.
"There's a lot of mix and match," Koenig said. Ultimately, a person's dietary patterns can't be predicted by their personality, though their personalities may explain their food choices. Keep in mind, personality and mood are different things—getting "hangry" may seem like a part of one's personality, and eating something delicious or soothing may elevate your mood, but ultimately, the temporary moods that define our day are not who we are as people.
Even the flavors we prefer—many of which are evident in young people who opt for sweet over sour, or salty over bland—cannot be completely attributed to personality. "There are many other factors that determine food preferences such as early exposure to different foods and flavors and how you were raised to interact with food: Was food approached as comfort, an arena for restriction or a way to relax and enjoy time together?" explains psychologist Laura Ciel, former president of the Santa Barbara County Psychological Association. These early taste preferences may be indicative of personality, however. She explains a tactic used in France, when parents of preschool age children are asked if they are "sweet" or "salty" in order to put together classrooms with the right mix of personalities.
In adults, Ciel has seen research that points to certain personality types drifting toward specific types of foods. "People who have a desire for fast-moving, adrenaline-producing behaviors would be more likely to enjoy spicy food," she said. "And those who prefer sweet foods would be more likely to be compassionate and caring of others. Salty and crunchy food? You're more likely to be ambitious and competitive. If you enjoy bitter flavors, you might be more open to different tastes, but you might also have some tendencies toward narcissism." Of course, this is not true for every person, especially as settings change and, oh, the patriarchy rolls in.
"Although there may be inherent preferences with different personalities, the research also shows that the social setting can impact food choices," said Ciel. "For example, a woman who loves adventure and spicy food might order differently if she is in a social setting where she wants to be seen as less intense or adventurous. On a first date, she might be trying to be seen as feminine and relaxed and be hesitant to order something too spicy. Or, at a business meeting, if someone tends to gravitate toward sweet foods, they will think twice about ordering something sweet, instead going for a more salty or crunchy choice." Brain food, of course, is a term we've all heard of, and while eating may not actually make you smarter, what you choose to eat in certain settings may make you appear smarter (or snobbier, if you're the only one at the table who knows what foie gras or uni or toro is and makes sure everyone knows it), though foods that are linked to improved brain function may actually help you perform better as a leader.
Leaders, who are both naturally born as well as made, have various personalities, and though food preferences may change over time, Ciel points out that personalities in most people "tend to stay relatively the same." You could be in a new place surrounded by completely new ingredients comprising a totally different cuisine than the food you grew up with and are used to, but you'll still be the same you.
Melissa Kravitz is a writer based in New York. She is a writing fellow at Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute. She's written for Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Glamour, AlterNet, Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Architectural Digest, Them and other publications. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Columbia University and is also at work on a forthcoming novel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @melissabethk.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By George Citroner
The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion and the World Health Organization currently recommend either 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise (walking, gardening, doing household chores) or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise (running, cycling, swimming) every week.
But there's little research looking at the benefits, if any, of exercising less than the 75 minute minimum.
It seems the reality of the climate crisis is too much for the Federal Reserve to ignore anymore.
For 21 years, Doug Distaso served his country in the United States Air Force.
He commanded joint aviation, maintenance, and support personnel globally and served as a primary legislative affairs lead for two U.S. Special Operations Command leaders.
But after an Air Force plane accident left him with a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and chronic pain, Distaso was placed on more than a dozen prescription medications by doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
By Bailey Hopp
If you had to choose a diamond for your engagement ring from below or above the ground, which would you pick … and why would you pick it? This is the main question consumers are facing when picking out their diamond engagement ring today. With a dramatic increase in demand for conflict-free lab-grown diamonds, the diamond industry is shifting right before our eyes.
The scourge of plastic waste that washes up on once-pristine beaches and finds its way into the middle of the ocean often starts on land, is dumped in rivers and canals, and gets carried out to sea. At the current rate, marine plastic is predicted to outweigh all the fish in the seas by 2050, according to Silicon Canals.
By Julia Conley
Joined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Friday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders held the largest rally of any 2020 Democratic presidential candidate to date in Iowa, drawing more than 2,400 people to Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs.