THERE’S science behind being hangry, but can your personality determine your ability to withstand hunger?
That’s the questions University of New England psychology students Morgan Fisher and Emily Fraser are trying to answer.
“We’re looking at personality aspects and how that influences weight gain, it’s a relatively new concept and it’s been specified by a few physicians over the years but never properly studied,” Ms Fraser said.
“It refers to our ability to tolerate hunger, withstand it and not give in to the cravings we get."
The Tamworth students are investigating two distinct personality types, conscientious and neurotic, and Ms Fisher will test research subjects to see which personality they have.
Conscientious personality types are organised, complete tasks well and on time and don’t give in to reckless abandon or wild excess.
While neurotic types are more likely to be moody, experience anxiety, fear and jealousy and have bad health behaviours.
Ms Fisher hypothesizes those who are more neurotic will give into hunger more when they’re stressed or tired, rather than when they metabolically need to eat, leading them to higher weight gain.
“We already know that traditional methods of losing weight are successful at first, but research shows they gain it back, but if we can use personality traits to manage weight it’s a lot more enduring,” she said.
Last year, western Tamworth was named Australia’s fattest city, with the highest rate of overweight and obese people.
While Ms Fisher tests and evaluates personality types, Ms Fraser is testing the usefulness of meditation to try to curb giving in to hunger cravings.
“It’s about changing eating habits in the long term,” Ms Fraser said.
“There’s been a lot of evidence suggesting mindfulness is useful for anxiety and depression but has been used to increase pain tolerance, treating eating disorders and obesity.
“There’s been a lot of research in the media lately about hanger, getting angry when you’re feeling hungry and it’s been shown there’s neurons in the brain and in the cells that produce negative emotions when we feel hungry – it’s a real phenomenon.”
Ms Fraser said a lot of it has to do with evolution, in the hunter gatherer days humans would gorge themselves on food high in calories or fat to survive – not knowing when their next meal would be.
Now, with the convenience of shopping centres in an environment where food is plentiful, there’s a mismatch between what the body is designed to do and the environment.
Someone with hunger tolerance can differentiate between real hunger and cravings, Ms Fraser said.
The study involves two sections, and the women are looking for research participants 18 years and older to take part.
People with Internet access that have not been diagnosed with diabetes mellitus or an eating disorder and aren’t taking appetite suppressants are eligible to participate.
Part one is an online questionnaire that takes 15 minutes and part two is an online mindfulness training program that aims to increase hunger tolerance over two weeks.
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