If we see one more "miracle" weight loss book .... The truth is, what works for the goose may not work for the gander—and certainly not for the platypus. But no matter what personality tendencies you have, you can find a weight-loss (or maintenance) plan that does work for you.
Here, we've asked experts to delve into some common weight-related personality types and give us their insider tips on what they see as the pros, cons and best tips for each.
Weight-Loss Personality 1
The Nutrition Stickler
Mantra: Nothing bad in the mouth.
What Sticklers Do Well
Sticklers nourish their body and avoid empty calories. Their method is precise and can give solid results, says fitness trainer Charla McMillian.
Potential Stickler Pitfalls
Unfortunately, the Stickler's methods can also be unrealistic and therefore temporary, says registered dietitian Debi Silber. Taken to the extreme, the methods can become unhealthy. Watch out for body image issues, McMillian warns, along with becoming an “incredibly boring, tedious dinner companion!”
Redefine "perfection," Silber suggests. Understand that eating perfectly means allowing for all types of foods, just in moderation. McMillian agrees: “Remember that eating is supposed to be one of the pleasures in life; be precise but not anal-retentive.”
A simple way to incorporate some fun but stick with your rigid sensibilities is to enjoy a small portion of something you normally wouldn’t eat, says sports nutritionist Nancy Clark. Eat it mindfully; really taste it.
Best Weight-Loss Tips for Sticklers
- From Silber: “Give yourself permission to have something delicious and decadent every so often to eliminate the desire to binge. Contain lapses to the meal or situation, and quickly get back on track.”
- From McMillian: “Relax just a little. Staying solidly within the properly calculated ballpark will get you substantially the same results as obsessing about every single morsel you ingest—while keeping you much more pleasant to be around.”
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Weight-Loss Personality 2
The Fitness Fanatic
Mantra: Exercise, exercise, exercise.
What Fanatics Do Well
Exercise is great when not overdone. It can help prevent and treat all sorts of things and keep you nimble. Plus, Nisevich says, weight-bearing exercise in particular can increase muscle, which will help you burn more calories even when you're not working out.
Potential Fanatic Pitfalls
“Being a fanatic about anything isn’t a great idea,” says McMillian. “This is the prime candidate to watch for body-image issues and mental-health issues—obsessive-compulsive, neuroticism, narcissism, etc.”
Our experts are also concerned about injuries from overdoing it. And there’s even a thing called exercise bulimia, says Silber, which replaces throwing up with excessive exercise.
Learn how to avoid injury by hiring a trainer, suggests Clark. And make sure you’re not being unhealthfully obsessive. “Stop. Evaluate. Look at your behavior, and listen to your friends or your competent trainer,” urges McMillian.
Best Weight-Loss Tips for Fanatics
- From Silber: "Create a healthy, realistic exercise plan. Discover if you're exercising at unhealthy levels. Are you exercising at the expense of other obligations, commitments, social activities? How can you cut back and still reap benefits without abusing exercise?"
- From Clark: “The ‘e’ in ‘exercise’ should be for ‘enjoyment.’ Be sure you are enjoying your exercise program. If not, revise it.”
- From McMillian: “Remember that the positive physical changes you want occur during rest/recovery, not during training! If you continually obsess, stay fanatic, overtrain, etc., you’re not only tired but you’re actually countering the training efforts you think you’re pushing.”
Weight-Loss Personality 3
The Calorie Counter
Mantra: Mealtime = Mathtime.
What Counters Do Well
“Precise data gathering can lead to precise results,” says McMillian. And, as with the Moderator type (number 5, below) this kind of weight-loss philosophy lets you eat what you want, says Clark.
Potential Counter Pitfalls
Then again, the Counter's weight-loss plan can be restrictive in other ways, warns registered dietitian Pamela Nisevich. Obsessive calorie counting can, for example, keep people from trying something new because the calories don't fit or they don't know how many the food has.
Nisevich also warns against trying to eat too few calories, which can slow your metabolism and be dangerous to your health. And don’t forget to factor in nutrition, says McMillian.
“Give yourself a break once in a while to try new and exotic foods,” advises Nisevich.
“Realize that calorie counting takes an enormous amount of time, energy and mental stamina,” says Silber. Clark suggests a more relaxed way of keeping track: Learn to listen to your body, and stop when it’s full.
Best Weight-Loss Tips for Counters
- From Nisevich: “Set reasonable goals for yourself—certain numbers of calories at certain meals.”
- From Silber: “Once you discover the calories in foods you typically eat, get a visual perspective—what it looks like in a bowl, on a plate, in your hand, etc.—so you can stop weighing and measuring. It’s more of a long-term solution that you won’t quickly tire of.”
- From McMillian: "Learn the proper intake that's required to help you reach your desired physique and performance goals, and learn to hit that target daily. But track it conveniently, and learn what it feels like to do it properly—intrinsically—as quickly as possible. Don't become a boor and a nuisance to everyone by constantly fussing and faffing about how many calories are present in every morsel!"
Weight-Loss Personality 4
Mantra: Stick to the plan.
What Dieters Do Well
By nature, most diets will help you lose weight—at least short-term. And, says McMillian, "Everybody from fighter pilots to the beginner athlete needs a plan, so you're correct in seeking one out."
Potential Dieter Pitfalls
Watch out for the strict diets, warns Silber. “Too much structure doesn’t allow for imperfection. If those areas aren’t addressed with a plan—how to handle weekends, parties, vacations, etc.—the dieter will be at a loss of what to do.”
McMillian urges people to avoid "diets with a name" altogether. "Diets don't work, period, because they are, by tangential definition, temporary. You can't wait to get off them."
“If you’re prone to pitfalls, you probably already know who you are,” says McMillian. “You’ve constantly sought the quick, the easy, the well-publicized, the sure-thing diet. Knock it off!”
Yeah, in general, our experts just plain don’t like diets.
“Dieting creates more problems than it solves,” Clark says. “People need to learn how to eat appropriately, not diet and deny themselves of one of life’s pleasures.”
Best Weight-Loss Tips for Dieters
- From Silber: If you do choose a diet, make sure it “has enough calories, variety and satiety factor for longevity. Supplement with a realistic game plan for other situations not accounted for in the ‘perfect’ diet. The key is to make it enjoyable and realistic enough to stay with. Small changes done consistently over time bring huge results because healthy habits are being created.”
- From Clark: “See a registered dietitian—R.D.—in your area. This nutrition professional can teach you how to eat appropriately in a way that will help you lose weight.”
Weight-Loss Personality 5
Mantra: Anyting in moderation.
What Moderators Do Well
Our experts like the Moderator's typical weight-loss plan—“a more realistic, long-term solution,” as Silber puts it.
“This is probably the best approach to ensuring optimal physique and performance,” says McMillian.
Potential Moderator Pitfalls
McMillian sums up the experts' concerns: "getting crazy with the 'anything' part and forgetting the 'moderation.'" Silber says watch out for unhealthy choices, and Clark warns about portion size.
“Eat mindfully, asking yourself, ‘Does my body need this fuel?’” suggests Clark.
Also, consider that “varied colors and textures, and reducing intake from the standard restaurant serving portions, will keep you on track without your feeling restricted or denied,” says McMillian.
Best Weight-Loss Tips for Moderators
- From McMillian: "Remember to choose an ongoing variety of flavors and colors, and keep your portion sizes appropriate."
- From Silber: “Find healthier options to unhealthy foods that are still tasty, satisfying and delicious.”
- From Clark: “Eat mindfully, and enjoy appropriate portions of whatever you want—for the rest of your life.”
The Weight-Loss Experts
Nancy Clark, M.S, R.D., C.S.S.D., sports nutritionist in Chestnut Hill, Mass., and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
Charla McMillian, J.D., C.S.C.S., president of FitBoot: Basic Training for Professionals (Boston and San Francisco), featuring exercises adapted from those she learned as a U.S. Marine Corps officer.
Pamela M. Nisevich, M.S., R.D., L.D., nutrition consultant for Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! Sports Nutrition.
Debi Silber, M.S., R.D., W.H.C., founder of TheMojoCoach.com and author of A Pocket Full of Mojo: 365 Proven Strategies To Create Your Ultimate Body, Mind, Image and Lifestyle.
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Last updated and/or approved: April 2012. Original article appeared in May/June 2008 former print magazine. This general health-care information is not meant as individual advice. Please see our disclaimer.