This One Thing Reveals the Best Weight Loss Method for You, Study Finds

Lauren Cahn
·2-min read

There's no shortage of weight-loss plans out there. But how do you know which one's right for you? A new study from the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine suggests it may come down to the personality traits that make you…well, you.

For the study, published October 14 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, a team of researchers led by X. Shirley Chen, M.D., re-analyzed data from a 2019 study that sought to identify the best way to motivate overweight and/or obese adults to become more physically active. The 602 participants, all of whom committed to walking more and wearing a step-counter to chart their progress, were randomized into three groups defined by their style of behavioral intervention:

  • Competitive: participants' step counts were posted on a leaderboard.

  • Collaborative: participants were assigned teams, and their step counts were combined.

  • Supportive: participants sent step reports to a designated friend or family member.

After 24 weeks with the intervention and 12 without, the competitive group's step total was significantly higher than the others. But when Dr. Chen reviewed the data, she observed wide variations among individuals and theorized that this might be due to their different personality traits. (Related: 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.)

To test this theory, Dr. Chen and her team used data collected at the beginning of the 2019 study to sort participants into three personality types:

  • Extroverted and motivated

  • Less social and less active

  • Less motivated and at-risk

Re-evaluating the 2019 data through the lens of "personality," Dr. Chen found that competitive weight loss plans were actually not the best plan for extroverted and motivated participants. Their step counts increased at first, only to drop off once the leaderboards were gone. By contrast, all weight loss plans worked for those who were less social and less active, while none worked for the less active and at-risk group.

While this research is too preliminary to draw conclusions about the best wellness plans for, say, extroverts, the conclusion to draw, Dr. Chen tells Eat This, Not That!, is that "one size does not fit all. Wellness plans could be more effective if customized for individuals."

To that end, here are the 22 best tips to start losing weight, according to dietitians. And make sure to sign up for our newsletter for more weight loss news.