Is your personality making you fat?

If you’ve been struggling to stay in shape, you could have some self-defeating fitness attitudes or bad diet habits that are making the kilos stick, or worse yet, pile on.

To help you uncover these traits, we looked up the latest research in the field, worked with experts, and created this quiz.

Read on to find out how you can tone up and slim down – for good!

1. A good workout is:

A) Biking, swimming and running – all in one session.
B) Does web/channel surfing count?
C) Something that can be done at the desk or in a car/bus. I’ve no time for gym!
D) One where there’s no one around to stare at me.
E) Anything that yields instant results – I should weigh less after exercising!
F) Dance classes like Zumba.

2. A friend suggests you try belly dancing. Your first thought is:

A) I’ll pass. I need something more intense and challenging.
B) I’d rather stick pins into my eyes.
C) Where and when is it? I need to check my diary.
D) There’s no way I’d wear that revealing get-up.
E) What’s the calorie burn?
F) Yes! When do we start?

3. What motivates you to exercise?

A) Having a goal.
B) Hmm… nothing.
C) If it were part of a work commitment, like golf with a potential client.
D) Celebrities with perfectly toned bodies.
E) The adrenalin rush!
F) My gym membership

4. Your exercise goal is to:

A) Be the fittest and strongest I can be.
B) Feel more energetic.
C) Feel less stressed out.
D) Look great and feel better about myself.
E) Torch lots of calories – fast!
F) Make friends, have fun, and burn fat at the same time.

4 more questions!

5. If you had an elliptical machine at home, how would you use it?

A) I put it to daily use.
B) What’s an elliptical machine?
C) I might use it when I remember to – after I’m done with last week’s laundry.
D) I’d happily exercise on it – once I’ve drawn the curtains.
E) I would use it only at the start, when it’s spanking new.
F) I’d never own one. It’s waaay too boring!

6. Think back on your exercise history. What pattern do you notice?

A) I go all out, but am often forced to stop because of injuries.
B) I’m not the sporty type.
C) I’ve signed up with many gyms, but rarely find the time to go.
D) I don’t think I look good enough for the gym, so I don’t go.
|E) I exercise often, but tend to lose focus after some time.
F) I’ve tried every new sport that I’ve heard of.

7. During a yoga class:

A) I secretly compete with the person next to me.
B) I can’t wait for it to end.
C) I watch the clock or mentally run through my to-do list as I slip into a downward dog.
D) I make a beeline for the back of the classroom and hope the instructor doesn’t notice me.
E) I daydream about how toned my arms/legs would look right after the session.
F) I wish they’d play Madonna’s new album – it’s so much more engaging than the sound of trickling water!

8. You’re on vacation. How do you maintain your fitness?

A) I don’t. I’d just make it up with a punishing training session when I return.
B) Hello, why in the world would I bother?
C) As much as I’d like to, I don’t think I’ll be going for a holiday any time soon.
D) I’d do 20 sit-ups every night in the hotel room before hitting the sack.
E) Depending on my mood, I might canoe or hike.
F) I’d walk from one tourist attraction to the next so I get a workout while sightseeing.

Get your personality analysis:

Mostly As - Go to page 3

Mostly Bs - Go to page 4

Mostly Cs - Go to page 5

Mostly Ds - Go to page 6

Mostly Es - Go to page 7

Mostly Fs - Go to page 8

Get your answers

Hello, I’m Extremist

Your fitness habits... At the heart of that all-or-nothing motto is this: A perfectionist streak that makes you goal-oriented and competitive.

The downside? “The constant pursuit of perfection means high achievers often do not allocate enough downtime for themselves,” says Dr Andrea Furst, principal psychologist at Mental Notes Consulting.

This can lead to injuries and exhaustion, the reasons why you tend to crash and burn.

DO THIS: Set aside time for passive activities that help you recover both metally and physically, suggests Dr Furst.

Keep a training log to identify your workload, injuries and level of motivation.

“This way, you’ll be able to identify patterns that reveal what works – and what doesn’t – for you,” she explains.

Your dining habits... The desire for fast, drastic results could cause you to go on unhealthy crash diets, says Jaclyn Reutens, clinical dietitian at Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultants.

Constantly stressing yourself out with unrealistic goals also raises levels of the hormone, cortisol, which can trigger carbohydrate cravings.

DO THIS: Exercise in moderation.

“Remember that a healthy diet requires a good balance of carbs, protein, fibre, and yes, even fat,” says Jaclyn.

If your goal is to lose weight, do it gradually and safely. “A realistic amount to lose is 2–4kg a month, if your BMI is between 23 and 32.9.

Any more and you’re running the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies,” she adds. And don’t avoid carbs completely. You still need them for brain function and to help you feel full.

Hello, I’m Lazybones

Your fitness habits... Plagued by low energy, you can’t seem to psych yourself up to take action.

Perhaps you developed an aversion to exercise during your school days, but whatever the reason – or excuse – your growing paunch is a nagging reminder to get off the couch.

DO THIS: Besides walking everywhere with a pedometer to track your progress, swim – it’s a full-body workout that won’t make you perspire. “It doesn’t matter what strokes you use or how fast you go. Just swim for at least 20 minutes a few times each week and you’ll be burning fat fast,” says Alfred Tang, a freelance personal trainer.

Your dining habits... Lunch is usually the easiest and fastest option that’s nearest to you.

You’re probably not health-conscious, but you’re not averse to eating well – you just won’t go out of your way to get more greens in your diet.

DO THIS: The fast food or microwavable meals you go for tend to lack nutrients, and are typically high in fat and sodium, warns Jaclyn. If you can’t give up instant mee, amp up its health factor by adding an egg and some frozen vegetables.

The former stays fresh in the refrigerator for three to five weeks, and the latter can be kept in the freezer for up to eight months.

Learn to make better choices on your weekly or monthly visits to the supermarket so you won’t need to head there every day. Replace sugary and fatty snacks like ice cream with frozen berries or hardy fruits such as apples (they keep well in the fridge for a week).

Hello, I’m Busy Body

Your fitness habits… So little time, so much to do! Despite being an expert juggler of work, family and other social commitments, you often find yourself cutting corners when it comes to your health.

And it’s worse because you know you need to exercise – you just can’t seem to get down to it!

DO THIS: Kill two birds with one stone by planning tennis or golf sessions with business partners, friends or colleagues.

This way, you get to torch calories and socialise at the same time. And if “too much work” is your biggest obstacle, tell yourself this: You are your most important project.

“Respect the exercise time you’ve scheduled as if it were your biggest client or closest friend. Honour these appointments and do not break them,” advises Dr Robert Kushner, clinical director of the Northwestern Comprehensive Center on Obesity in Chicago.

Your dining habits… On most days, you head straight for work without food in your belly.

At lunch, you read while you eat so you end up downing more than you realise. If you skip meals, you compensate by snacking on the go. In fact, you can’t remember how many chocolate bars you’ve eaten since morning!

DO THIS: Start the day right with a healthy breakfast that’s high in fibre and low in sugar, says Jaclyn.

A quick and easy-to-prepare option is bran cereal with skimmed milk. This will keep you full, alert and productive. Skip this meal and you’ll slow your metabolism, she warns.

“When you don’t feed your body, it thinks it needs to rely on its existing fat stores, so it slows its calorie burn,” she explains.

“Breakfast skippers also tend to have meals that are higher in fat and sugar compared to breakfast eaters.”

During mealtime, put everything aside so you can focus on eating. To promote satiety and help you enjoy your meal, look at your food, take in its aroma, and chew well before swallowing.

Hello, I’m Social Struggler

Your fitness habits… The thought of exercising in public places like parks and fitness centres makes you nervous.

“Because you have a hyper-awareness of your own body size as compared to others’, you’re not able to relax long enough to enjoy any group exercise,” says Dr Kushner.

This could stem from having a low self-esteem, he adds.

DO THIS: Start by exercising at home. Besides doing household chores, work out to exercise videos and do light weights.

“As you grow in confidence, go for gym classes during off -peak hours, between 1 to 5pm.

"Get a few friends to go along, or stand at the back of the class if you’re alone. This way, you’d feel more comfortable,” suggests Alfred.

Your dining habits… When you’re around people, you eat well and limit your carbs to avoid being judged.

However, you never feel satisfied and end up bingeing in the privacy of your home. Food is a double-edged sword for you: You seek comfort in it, yet hate the way eating too much makes you look, sending your self-esteem plummeting even further.

DO THIS: Seek help from a dietitian, says Jaclyn.

Of all the diet personalities, those in this group tend to put on weight the fastest, and need the most support and guidance, she says.

“They’re usually really overweight and think they’re beyond help. So even though they’re really knowledgeable about food and can probably tell you the nutritional contents in each, they lack the perseverance to follow through.” Losing weight takes time. That’s why you’ll need constant motivation, reinforcement and support from a food expert, adds Jaclyn.

“Very often, counselling is needed to help change one’s attitudes and habits.”

Hello, I’m Instant Gratifier

Your fitness habits… Feel like quitting when you don’t see results? You belong here.

“In general, there’s a tendency for impulsive, spontaneous types to quickly lose interest in any activity as they often have unrealistic expectations of their progress,” says Dr Furst.

They also tend to be more excited by the initial pursuit as opposed to the daily grind of exercising, she adds.

DO THIS: Get support. Apart from engaging a personal trainer and other specialists to watch you like a hawk, consider joining a running or swimming club.

“Such associations will build positive relationships as well as provide a certain level of accountability so you won’t be able to quit as you please,” explains Dr Furst.

Your dining habits… You just can’t seem to commit to a weight-loss plan for long.

People who were rated most impulsive weighed about 10kg more than those who were least so, reports a recent study published by the American Psychological Association.

The reason is this: Individuals with this trait tend to give in to temptation and lack the discipline to stay on track in the face of difficulties and/or frustration.

DO THIS: Have three square meals a day so you won’t have an excuse to overindulge in snacks, says Jaclyn.

Also, keep a food diary. Those who did lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t, finds a study from Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research.

In fact, the more records they kept, the more weight they lost, says study author, Professor Jack Hollis. “It seems that the simple act of writing down what you eat encourages people to consume fewer calories,” he explained.

Hello, I’m Variety Seeker

Your fitness habits… Routine makes you yawn. You have to derive pleasure from the activity you’re doing or you’d give it up.

It sure seems like you’re a “squigglie”, a term coined by American fitness expert Linda Shelton to describe folks whose interests fizzle out fast.

DO THIS: If gym-based routines don’t interest you and you’re sick of the usual cardio exercises (like running and swimming), set a goal to master a new sport.

This activates and challenges different groups of muscles to torch more calories. As soon as you find something you enjoy, stick to it and amp up the level of difficulty to avoid stagnation, advises Alfred.

Your dining habits… You’re constantly snacking, and it’s possible that you’re doing that to avoid feeling dull.

You justify your actions by telling yourself you’re only eating “healthy” foods, like nut bars. Because you don’t count calories or read nutrition labels, you don’t realise that one bar could add as much as 250kcal to your daily count, says Jaclyn.

DO THIS: Every time you reach for a snack, ask yourself if it’s because you’re hungry or bored.

If it’s the latter, distract yourself with a walk or do mental sums.

You can calculate the number of times you’ll need to run round a track to burn off the extra calories, for example. Hint: It’s three and three-quarter rounds per 100kcal.

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