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An impulsive personality might make you more prone to an eating disorder

Impulsive decisions can lead to many frustrating situations. (We won’t talk about the Great Dress Incident of 2010 when I may or may not have impulse-bought an extremely expensive designer dress… that has yet to be worn. Ahem.) But now a new study shows that this one trait could be affecting your health and making you gain weight.

Being impulsive isn’t always a bad thing. After all, it’s the spontaneous trip-takers, sky divers and party-throwers that seem to have the most fun. But impulsive decisions can wreak havoc on your waistline, no question. (Let the woman among us who hasn’t eaten a giant, gourmet cupcake because it was attractively displayed in the bakery window raise her hand now.) A new study shows exactly how much this one personality trait could be harming your health.

Research from the University of Chicago found that girls who had problems with self-regulating and planning ahead were more likely to binge eat and suffer health problems because of it.

“Food in our society is so ubiquitous,” said Andrea Goldschmidt, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and author of the paper, in a press release. “You can’t even go to [a hardware store] without seeing colorful candy bars in the checkout line. When kids have [problems] controlling their behaviors, it makes sense they would disinhibit themselves around food.”

And it’s not just kids. While the researchers noted it in girls as young as ten, the pattern of impulsive decisions and binge eating continued through the teen years and they added that previous studies have shown similar patterns in adults.

Ultimately, Goldschmidt hopes that identifying impulsivity as one of the root causes of binge eating will lead to better prevention and treatment of the disorder that affects up to five percent of men and women. Even if you don’t lose control in a true binge, the information can be helpful to all of us who struggle between what we know we should be eating and what we want to eat, says Jennie Miremadi, a certified holistic nutrition counselor. She sees this a lot in her practice and offers these five tips for controlling impulsive eating: 

  1. Eat mindfully, tasting each and every bite of food.
  2. Ditch distractions, like the TV, the internet and your phone, during mealtimes.
  3. Take small bites and eat slowly.
  4. Check in with your stomach and make sure your desire to eat is coming from hunger and not from your taste buds.
  5. Once you’re satisfied, put down the fork and stop eating. (She adds the key to this step is recognizing that your food is not a limited resource and you can always come back and eat more if you get hungry again later!)

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