You can't take a one-size-fits-all approach to losing weight, according to Jen Widerstrom, fitness expert and trainer on NBC’s The Biggest Loser. That's why she wrote her new book, Diet Right for Your Personality Type: The Revolutionary 4-Week Weight-Loss Plan That Works for You ($17; amazon.com), out today. Widerstrom's plan does more than provide eating tips and workouts to help you drop pounds; it also takes into account your personality and behavioral traits, your triggers, what you care about, and other motivating factors to help you customize a diet plan that you'll actually stick to.
“A lot of diet plans come out that don’t include the individual in the plan,” Widerstrom says. “If we don’t identify who you are, we’re not going to find a plan that’s successful for you.” After years of training and coaching thousands of people, Widerstrom identified five core personality types and developed a month-long plan for each based on what’s proven to work best for that person’s behavioral patterns.
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“It has to be different because we’re all different. What would work for you, may not work for me,” she says. “The information behind food, protein, water, fiber, and veggies all exists very similarly throughout all the plans because that is what’s effective in nourishing our bodies. It’s not so much the information I’m giving, it’s the way I’m applying it.”
Widerstrom says she worked with a psychologist to create a simple 20-question assessment to help readers identify which of these five personality types they identify with the closest:
The Organized Doer
The Organized Doer thrives on structure and checklists; the only thing they love more than checklists is crossing things off those lists. “These are the people that like getting up at the same time every day, probably eat the same thing every day, and have no nutritional variety,” Widerstrom explains. “But when given the right plan, they can do very well.”
To cater to their organizational needs, Widerstrom created a step-by-step meal plan, noting exactly what to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. Throughout each of the four weeks, Widerstrom includes a detailed grocery list categorized by food groups, which foods to prepare ahead of time, and even the exact amount of water to drink. Knowing how important sticking to a plan is for this type of personality, she made it simple by giving them all the information they need in a systematized list that they can check off as they go.
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The Swinger can be described as the life of the party and a people person. “These are the people that go to Barry’s Bootcamp or SoulCycle because they love what’s trending and what’s cool, and when they’re there they know the instructor’s name or get groups of people together for coffee,” Widerstrom says. “But they skip around a lot and never allow a program to fully sink in, so nothing works. The programs could work, but they never give it a full go or the opportunity to be effective.”
For these non-committers, it’s important for them to be held accountable for the programs they start so they can actually follow through and finish them. In their diet plan, Widerstrom gives menu options for each meal and snack so they feel like they have a say in the decisions, while they’re actually being guided. She compares it to a mom disciplining a young child: “You’re going to do what I asked you to do regardless, but we can do it your way or we can do it my way.”
The Everyday Hero
These are the people that are ‘everyday heroes’ in the lives of their loved ones; they spend so much time helping others that self-care tends to come last on their to-do list. This can often be found in mothers, parents, nurses, police officers, and community service people. “They are extending so much care for everyone else that they become careless with their own health,” Widerstrom says. “Helping them prioritize themselves and their own needs in an effective way is a big turnaround for them.”
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Due to their busy schedules and suppressed “me” time, Widerstrom created the simplest meal plan possible for these folks, using healthy options of pre-packaged snacks and meals, and only relying on a slow-cooker for more involved dinners throughout the week to do most of the work for them. The detailed grocery list and easy-to-follow meal plan with minimal cooking finally gives the everyday heroes a chance to invest in themselves and their own health.
Never-Evers are very intelligent and effective people, but they tend to deny or avoid facing their health problems because that would mean they have to deal with it. “It’s scary for them because living in denial is easier for them than the fact that they may fail at weight loss,” Widerstrom says. “They’re a bit more stuck than the rest.”
To combat their fear of failure, Widerstrom created a benefits-based food program to help them see their successes as they happen, motivating them to continue and not give up. “Instead of giving them a course of action to follow, I give them a cause of action,” she says. “Week to week, they’ll be given new directives, points of focus, and goals.” This keeps them focused on the big picture, so they’ll feel successful quicker and will feel driven to continue.
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Widerstrom describes The Rebel as “kind of like a tornado.” They’re unpredictable and chaotic, but once they set their mind to something, they’re as determined as ever.
“They like to find their own way, without guidelines, to get sh*t done,” she says. “But because there’s no guidelines, that becomes negatively represented in their training habits, food portions, and timing.” To satisfy their spontaneous and impulsive personalities, Widerstrom created a meal plan that is “all about guidelines without containment.” She focuses on controlling portion size, combating cravings, and regulating meal times to create stability and routine, leading the rebels to live healthier lives.