Can’t stop yourself from buying stuff when it’s on sale? Play a few (hundred) hands of online poker every day?
If you often find yourself struggling with impulsivity, chances are, you’re probably overweight, too, says a new study from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas at Dallas, which found that people with an impulsive personality are more likely to have a high body mass index (BMI).
In the study, researchers asked 45 people—aged 22–43, with an average BMI of 30.7, which is obese—and tested their impulsivity by asking them to rate statements like “I tend to change interests frequently” or “I tend to begin a new job without much advance planning on how I will do it.” The researchers also monitored the subjects’ brain activity as they performed impulse control tasks.
Francesca Filbey, Ph.D., the principal investigator, said that subjects with a high BMI showed different brain function compared to normal-sized people. “We expected that an impaired ability to inhibit impulses would be the factor linking high BMI and brain change, but our study showed that having the inherent, impulsive personality trait, not an impulsive decision-making state in a specific situation or in response to vices, is the mediating factor.”
Put another way: It’s not that these folks are just impulsive in particular scenarios or when presented with a plate of cookies—it’s that impulsiveness is a cornerstone of their personality.
That means addressing impulsivity might be another angle scientists can take when trying to come up with effective weight management programs to help the 70% of Americans who are overweight or obese.
Our take? Here’s an impulsive thought—put down the cookies, peel yourself of the couch, pick up some running shoes, and jog around the block. Now impulsively click on this link to our 10 favorite workouts for weight loss, and do that 3 times a week for a few months. No guarantees, but we’re betting you’ll have a lower BMI.