According to behavioural scientists at Csiro, the government’s research institute, Australians have expectations that are too high and are anxious about failure.
After surveying the eating habits of more than tens of thousands of Australian adults, they were able to identify the five behavioural “diet types”, revealing why many people find it hard to maintain a healthy diet.
Of these types, the over-thinking, anxious perfectionist was found to be predominant, after the researchers assessed all personality traits and behavioural patterns in relation to eating and weight loss.
This so-called “Thinker” diet type was the leading type among 41% of adults, and who identified as Thinkers were found to be goal-orientated and analytical.
Yet these qualities were seen to be counterproductive to achieving diet goals as the Thinker tended to over-analyse every decision, set unrealistic expectations and give themselves little margin for error. This type is also more prone to self-doubt, anxiety and stress, which can lead to over-eating and low success.
With nine out of 10 of Australians attempting to lose weight at least once in their lifetime, it appears that Australians are motivated to lose weight. Though judging by the results of the Csiro study, not everyone is successful: about half had made more than six attempts, and almost 20% had tried more than 25 times.
Even with this strong motivation and persistence to lose weight, obesity rates remain high.
The most and least common of the five main diet personality types across the surveyed population were:
The Thinker (41%): “Overthinking and worrying about failure leads to stress which can derail diet progress.”
The Craver (25%): “Craves delicious food and finds it hard to stop, leading to overeating in tempting situations.”
The Foodie (15%): Loves making, eating and experiencing food
The Socialiser (15%): Flexibility is essential, won't let strict food restrictions stifle social life
The Freewheeler (4%): Makes spontaneous and impulsive food choices, finds planning meals hard
"If you have struggled to maintain your diet after a few weeks, your personal diet type will shed light on what behaviours and habits are creating a barrier for you," said Csiro behavioural scientist Sinead Golley.
"Knowing your personal diet type helps you maintain a healthy eating plan because you are more aware and equipped to manage moments of weakness.
"Successful weight loss requires a different mindset, focused on long-term total wellbeing. If you identify as a Thinker, you can improve your eating habits by reflecting more on positive changes and rewarding progressive achievements towards your goal."
The second most common type, “The Craver” scored high for people who were obese, while people who identified with “The Foodie” type were more likely to be a normal weight. This suggests that Cravers may need particular strategies to help them cope with strong desires for food.
When it came to differences between the generations, Cravers included a high proportion of young adults, while older people scored high for “The Socialiser” type.
The results come from an online diet type assessment launched by Csiro last month to help Australians understand their limitations to successfully maintain a diet.
More than 28,000 participants filled in a short survey to receive instant, personalised feedback about the participant's diet type profile and the right strategies to manage it.