If the idea of being in front during a crowded Zumba class, standing up at a weight loss meeting to share your goals, or sharing updates about your diet on Facebook makes you sweat bullets, you may be an introvert.
Introversion is a personality trait characterized by varying degrees of intolerance for social situations. While a general understanding of introversion sets the foundation for a stereotype that all introverts keep to themselves 100 percent of the time, there is more to the story. You may be friendly, love people and have great social skills. But for you, a little social interaction goes a long way. After a point—different for everyone—you want to leave the party, go home, curl up on the couch and watch NCIS reruns to recover.
Unlike extroverts, who are energized by other people, you’re often depleted by exposure your fellow man. You get your energy from being in touch with yourself. And there’s nothing wrong with that. According to Psychology Today, just about half of the population prefers this solitude to extensive sociability.
But, when it comes to dieting, the usual recommendations that science says can help you lose weight may not work for you. Take a class, share with a support group, announce your goals in public? No thanks! It may be best to take a different path than your more outgoing friends to be successful at weight loss. Here’s what to do:
Instead of joining a support group. . .
There are multiple studies that bolster the idea that social support is invaluable for everything from losing weight to living longer. Research published in 2003 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people who joined a weight loss program they had to attend with others lost far more weight than those who tried to go it alone with just professional advice.
. . .Get a little one-on-one help.
If the idea of being part of a larger group scares you, pick a diet plan that gives you one-on-one support. Consider individual counseling. You can get tips, support and motivation from an expert in-person or on the phone to keep losing weight safely. Nutrisystem provides tons of expert weight loss counselors standing by to help you, no matter what your question or need is (Click here to learn more). Another option is to pick a couple of friends with similar weight loss goals and make strides together. In a study by the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, people who followed a weight loss plan with three friends or family members lost more weight, were more likely to stick to their program, and to keep off the weight than people who decided to go it alone. No one said your support group had to be a room full of strangers.
Instead of signing up for the Zumba class at your gym. . . .
Buddying up is one of the “strongest predictors of exercise adherence,” says the American Council on Exercise.
. . .Just find one buddy.
You only need one, says the research. That one other person—either a friend or family member—holds you accountable, pushing you to complete that daily walk, jog or gym circuit. If you prefer a bit more “me time,” you could also hire a certified fitness trainer, invest in a few fun exercise DVDs, or get a little solitude on a walk through the woods, listening to nature or your favorite music through ear buds.
Instead of announcing your weight loss goals to the world. . .
Some studies suggest that making your goals public will help you keep to them. although several recent studies disagree. In fact, says one 2009 study published in the journal Psychological Science, sharing your goals makes you less motivated to achieve them because the announcement alone gives you plenty self-satisfaction without all the work. In other words, you talk instead of do. So you may have the advantage here.
. . .Write them down and share them with one friend.
A 2015 study by Dominican University Psychology Professor Gail Matthews, PhD, found that people who wrote down a goal and shared this goal along with regular updates to a friend had more success making it at least halfway to their goals, than those who did not take these steps.
Instead of trying to act like an extrovert. . .
Yes, there are plenty of benefits to being extroverted. Being outgoing helps you create rapport with others (including the opposite sex, the HR person doing the hiring, and the boss who controls whether you get that promotion or raise). Extroverts do tend to be happier in research findings. But, when it comes to weight loss, studies have found that being an extrovert isn’t really an advantage. In fact, extroverts are more likely to be overweight., in part because the social situations they love are often accompanied by alcohol and fattening foods, according to a Swiss survey released last year in the journal Appetite. Extroverts are also more likely than people of different personalities to respond to the smell and taste of food.
. . .embrace your best qualities.
Your personality might limit your exposure to party food and your calm approach may help you make healthier choices. If you follow your natural inclination to avoid social situations, at least some of the time, you’ll also reduce your stress. And less stress could mean less time curled up on the couch with that “therapeutic” box of cookies. Introverts are also great problem-solvers, thanks to the way they process information in the brain. No impulsiveness for you. Brain scan studies have found that introverts process data in their frontal lobes—the seat of higher cognitive functioning—and other brain structures involved in recalling events, problem-solving, and planning for the future. You’re probably more willing to take some time to think about your decision than the more impulsive, reward-seeking extrovert.
Remember Aesop’s fable about the race between the tortoise and the hare? Think of extroverts as the hare. Think of yourself as the winner.