Personality Traits and Body Image

Today’s post is another excerpt from “Best Weight: A Practical Guide to Office-Based Weight Management“, recently published by the Canadian Obesity Network.

This guide is meant for health professionals dealing with obese clients and is NOT a self-management tool or weight-loss program. However, I assume that even general readers may find some of this material of interest.


There is no evidence that obese individuals share a particular personality profile. The heterogeneity in personality traits is comparable to that found in the general population. Nevertheless, certain personality traits can constitute barriers to obesity management. These may need to be addressed through appropriate counselling before initiating a weight-management intervention.


The term body image refers to the collective perceptions, beliefs, assumptions and feelings we possess about our body and physical appearance.

Many people seeking help with weight management suffer from poor body image, and this can sabotage medically significant weight management when patients feel they have failed. The sense of failure may well see patients abandon their efforts completely and puts them at risk of gaining back all the weight they have lost — and often even more.

Body image starts to form very early and is influenced by the home environment, schoolyard experiences, personal relationships and mass media. Studies have reported that half of girls aged six to 18 want to be thinner. Other studies have demonstrated that weight-related stigmatization can start as early as age three.

Identifying patients in your practice with poor body image is important as body image dissatisfaction is one of the strongest predictors of disordered eating behaviours. Certainly, if you have children in your practice whose parents are preoccupied with their body size or shape, it would be prudent to screen for eating disorders in the children and steer their parents to resources that can help them cultivate healthy eating behaviours and body image. While a full discussion of body image is beyond the scope of this book, some treatment tips will be provided in the behavioural interventions section of Chapter 6. We will discuss body image further in Chapter 8.

© Copyright 2010 by Dr. Arya M. Sharma and Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. All rights reserved.

The opinions in this book are those of the authors and do not represent those of the Canadian Obesity Network.

Members of the Canadian Obesity Network can download Best Weight for free.

Best Weight is also available at Amazon and Barnes & Nobles (part of the proceeds from all sales go to support the Canadian Obesity Network)

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