Eating and Exercise According to Your Enneagram Number
When I first took an Enneagram test and read my results as a Five (The Observer), I felt like someone just handed all the answers to explain why I was so weird.
Why was I so sensitive? Fives need space and silence.
Why was I so awkward with in conversations? Fives take time to process.
Why was I so tired all the time? Fives tend to hoard their energy because thinking all the time is exhausting.
I was hooked. I read The Road Back to You, The Sacred Enneagram, listened to many podcasts, and talked to countless friends about their number and how it impacts life and relationships. However, I haven't heard much about how the Enneagram interacts with our health habits. I had a few thoughts, but decided to dig in a bit more.
A website called DIETnosis "helps you focus weight loss techniques that match your personality type." Maybe it's the name, or maybe it's the black and white circles on their logo, or maybe it's both. But I can't help but think hypnosis. They are trying to brain wash me! Don't look directly into the circles!
But I wanted to assume the best, so I read some content and found myself nodding in agreement. Good work over there, Dr. Scott Harrington. Loving the motto "Skills not pills."
I sent his summary paragraphs for diet and exercise to friends on each number of the Enneagram to confirm or debunk his theories. I felt like a lot of it rang true, but some felt a little too negative and I thought it didn't highlight the strengths of each number nearly enough.
The result below is a mix of DIETnosis research, anecdotal evidence, and my own experience as a personal trainer. Each number has a little summary, a quote from a friend who shares that number, how each number's wiring sets them up for success, and how each can find health through stress.
The idea of strength through stress is rooted in the concept of how exercise is a form of stress that makes us stronger. Sometimes we don't need to escape from the stress, but use it as a tool for greater health, as fire to refine, lean into it as a door to a pathway to joy.
In her blog post "How Exercise Could Be the Key to Your Spiritual Growth," Stephanie Spencer outlines how exercise connects us with a different part of our enneagram in stress, and how we can awaken us to be more fully the person God created us to be.
My hope for this post is that you will be able to discover who you are, so you can know how to use your gifts for better health andstrengthen through stress.
But beware of connecting with a number over hoping in the Creator. He made you to move and to change, because you were not meant to be boxed in. When in doubt, return to intuitive training for guidance on what works best for you.
*DISCLAIMER: I am not an Enneagram coach or expert. The following information has not been endorsed by or approved by the Enneagram powers that be.
Health Habits According to Your Enneagram Number
Type 1: The Perfectionist
When Type Ones focus on a priority, they want to do it right. Ones tend to go all-in with healthy eating and exercising and are very detail-oriented along the way.
"My core fear is being a failure. There are only a few things I can focus on right now, and diet and exercise don’t make the cut, so I'm not making them a priority." --J
How Ones Succeed: Type Ones need little outside motivation to get them into gear. When they know what is right for them as far as diet and exercise, they set their mind to it and are successful. Ones work well with short-term programs with few requirements. For example, setting goals like, "I will drink a glass of water when I wake up for 30 days," or, "I will walk for 10 minutes every day for two weeks" is better than a comprehensive program they might not be able to keep up with long-term.
"With weight watchers I started thinking, 'Why am I going to do this if I’m not going to do it right? You get mad at yourself and tend to judge yourself like 'I’m such a failure, I only lost half a pound.'" --V
Strengthen Through Stress: When Ones are stressed, they disintegrate to the unhealthy side of Type Four (The Individualist) and become moody and irrational. Type Ones can redeem this need to balance their emotions by slowing down exercise to focus on performing each move well and eating mindfully (preparing a wholesome meal, sitting down at the table, giving thanks, eating slowly).
Type 2: The Helper
Type Two's motivation to get healthy is to support others. Type Twos tend to show their love in eating and exercising by cooking for others or doing manual labor chores, like helping with a move. If a health professional tells them what they need to do to get healthy, they are better at adhering to their advice rather than trying it out on their own.
"The only way I can stay on an exercise plan is through a doctor's recommendation. I asked him how much weight I needed to lose, he told me a number, and set an appointment for three months down the road. I met my mark at that three-month appointment, and we set another appointment for three months." --K
How Twos Succeed: Type Twos can encourage others to eat well by preparing delicious, healthy foods that everyone will enjoy. They are a joy to train or counsel because they take advice to heart and their motivations are others-centered.
Strengthen Through Stress: In times of stress, Type Twos disintegrate towards an unhealthy Eight (The Challenger) and become aggressive and domineering. Twos can blow off steam with exercise that is challenging to them, like running farther or lifting heavier weight. Instead of dominating food by putting it into their mouth, they could redeem this need for control by engaging in an extended meal prep, overseeing a complex process to completion and feeling empowered and equipped with healthy meals afterwards.
Type 3: The Performer
Type Threes are the go-getters of diet and exercise. They set goals and achieve them. Type Threes are focused on checking off lists, crushing personal records, and are motivated by healthy competition.
"When I look at setting fitness goals, I prefer to choose a program rather than an indefinite type of general workout. I get motivated by the sense of completion and accomplishment. The type of program varies (I've done lifting programs, body weight programs, yoga, HIIT, cardio-heavy), but if a program has a calendar, or to-do list that I can check off as I progress, even better!" - S
How Threes Succeed: When Threes are challenged, they rise to the occasion. Threes are disciplined and are not easily distracted. Since Threes thrive on success, they can inspire others by achieving what others think cannot be done.
"With threes and achievement, I think its important to remember the idea of 'curated successes.' Threes don't believe that they are perfect, but they are going to downplay or move attention away from their failures or things they don't do well." --S
Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, threes disintegrate into the unhealthy side of a Nine (the peacemaker), and will detach from others. Threes can redeem their tendency to withdraw in stress by taking some time to discover what their personal needs are and take care of themselves in a private setting. This can look like going on a run or doing yoga alone to remember they are loved even if nobody sees. By preparing a delicious meal just for themselves (without posting on social media), Threes practice self-care in a way that says, "I can take time to nourish myself."
Type 4: The Individualist
Type Fours are the creative eaters and exercisers. If they can express themself in some unique way, fitness and cooking is more fun and sustainable.
"I will sometimes use my broad tastes as a way to express my uniqueness. I always like to tell the story that I once decided to put hot sauce on chocolate chip cookies and suddenly discovered a culinary miracle, even though its not really that tasty (but also not as bad as you'd think). I tend to make decisions based on unique experiences. It doesn't matter how healthy I'm trying to be, if they have something unique or interesting on the menu, I'll have to try it.
One thing that is consistent with both activity and food is that they are almost always connected to my emotional health. I will eat much healthier and be more willing to exercise when I am feeling emotionally uplifted and whole." -M
How Fours Succeed: Type Fours think outside the box, and expand our perspectives of what food and fitness can be. They use their creativity to make typical healthy food taste amazing, or present it in a way that makes others get excited about eating well. Fours make games out of fitness and move their bodies in ways that encourage others to use every part that God gave them.
"I also tend to have unrealistic expectations for myself when it comes to what my physical abilities are. I will almost always overestimate my ability to play a certain sport, or how far I can run, or how much I can lift. I think this is usually because it's easy for me to project a detached reality that helps me feel more unique." -M
Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, Fours disintegrate to the unhealthy side of a Two (the helper) and become clingy and over-involved. Individualist Fours can lean into this tendency by finding someone to help instead of seeking others out for validation. This can look like doing manual labor like raking a neighbor's leaves or making a healthy meal with enough to share. In a team sport, it means focusing on setting someone else up for a win.
Type 5: The Observer
Fives are the thinkers of diet and exercise. They observe human motor patterns and diet correlations, share what they've found out with others, and experiment with personal theories.
"I love helping people figure out how to connect their deep inner desires with their external habits through personal training and counsel." -Me
How Fives Succeed: Since Fives are systematic and analytical, they are gifted at creating solid workout routines and meal plans. Fives are good listeners of others and sensitive, can easily recognize problem areas and will think hard about how to solve them. Sometimes this means walking for miles until they reach an answer in their minds.
"When I am writing or doing any kind of thinking work, I will often turn to food when I get stuck on a thought. Since Fives are hoarders of energy resources and often feel tired, thinking on an empty stomach often leads me to gorge on high-carb or sugar-laden foods. I try to keep baby carrots or rice cakes available and will often eat those until my jaw gets tired or I figure out a solution." - Me
Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, Fives disintegrate to the unhealthy side of a Seven (the joyful person). They become hyperactive and scattered, which leads to gluttony. Fives eat to comfort themselves from mental work and will delay exercising by overthinking it. Fives redeem this tendency by going on a walk or doing something adventurous out in the open. This kind of movement gives their hyperactivity a place to vent and rhythmic motion pulls their scattered mind together.
Type 6: The Loyalist
The devoted Six is a creature of habit when it comes to diet and exercise. Type Sixes like to stick with what they know, enjoy connecting with others in their healthy journey, and like having someone or some program leading them along the way.
"I have done weight watchers, Beachbody and Optavia (Medifast). I'm fine eating the same thing over and over. But then I also get overwhelmed if majorly restricted and end up binging or falling off the wagon. When at restaurants I always order same thing. As far as fitness goes, I love group exercise. So I do really well if I'm teaching my class, but if I'm not, I tend to not workout. I hate going into a gym alone and figuring something out." - T
How Sixes Succeed: Sixes do not get bored easily and can eat leftovers for days or do the same routine every week without fail. This makes it easy for them to stay on track, as long as they have a well-balanced plan.
How Sixes Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, Sixes disintegrate to the unhealthy side of a Three (the performer). They tend to become arrogant and competitive. Sixes can redeem this tendency by joining with others and competing not against other people but against an impersonal measurement, like signing up for a contest to get healthy for a set event (I.e. a team race for charity). It helps for the Six to have a health professional they know and trust to guide them when in stress.
Type 7: The Enthusiast
Type Sevens are the fun-loving early adopters of diet and exercise. They want to try all the food, are full of energy, and are always up for a new adventure in fitness.
"Exercise is for Sevens is like this: we have to go walk the dog, but the dog is ourselves. I will start wondering how many push ups I can do, then just take off my shirt and do like 1000 of them." -J
How Sevens Succeed: Sevens are not in danger of movement or nutritional deficiency. Sevens don't need to be told to exercise. They have to move to move out all the pent-up energy within them! Since Sevens want to try one of everything, their diet is typically full of a variety of nutrients.
"Get what you want. Live life to the full. You can be disciplined later! Sevens struggle with addiction in general, but food is exciting. No matter how bad your day is, you can always have good food. Food can be a way to escape from feelings by eating them." -J
How Sevens Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, Sevens disintegrate to the unhealthy side of the One (the perfectionist). Sevens can redeem their stress-induced tendency towards perfectionism and criticism by adding structure to their eating and exercising. It doesn't need to be a comprehensive program, one that Sevens will feel is fencing them in, but needs to have one anchor discipline. For example, Sevens can adopt a habit of meditating on one question each morning like, "What is my one purpose for today?" while holding a challenging pose for an extended period. It needs to be something they can achieve to avoid self-judgement, and done on a regular basis to demonstrate gradual progress over perfection.
Type 8: The Challenger
Eights are passionate about whatever they are eating and thrive on opposition in fitness, whether the challenger is someone else, an impersonal target, or even a version of themselves they want to see changed.
"I like challenges, but I don't have to compete against someone else." -M
How Eights Succeed With Their Health: Eights succeed in their health journey when they are educated about methods of diet and exercise that benefit them in the long-run. When an Eight recognizes something getting in their way of success, such as high cholesterol tainting a good doctor's report, they view it as a worthy opponent and strategize to take it down. An Eight will do research, equip themself with proper workout gear and healthy food, and defeat their enemy, at least for a time.
"Do you want kale salad as a side?" -Me
"Ew, no. Kale is disgusting." -M
How Eights Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, Eights disintegrate to an unhealthy Five (the observer) by withdrawing from others and disconnecting from their emotions. Eights can redeem this tendency by letting go of their usual passions for feeling like "this is the only way" and exercise just for fun or eat a previously shunned health food in a new way.
Type 9: The Peacemaker
Type Nines are experts at discerning what they need and choosing what will bring their mind, body, and spirit into harmony.
"When I can tune in to what my body needs is when I eat the best. And sometimes the best doesn’t mean the 'healthiest' option. I’d much prefer to enjoy ice cream with my niece than not, and to me, that’s best for me in that moment." -E
How Nines Succeed With Their Health: Since Nines are sensitive to what is out of sync in their body (like stress that needs venting), they don't have a need to stick with a particular exercise program. Nines feel free to change course according to their needs.
"The way I am wired has helped me realize that I love exercise that makes me feel good. Which I think is a huge part of being in the body triad on the enneagram. I’m not wired to be competitive, and I think that helps me with exercise because I give myself a lot of grace. It’s more about how I feel than how I 'perform.' And I’ve recently learned to incorporate that into my eating habits--still working on that. " -E
How Nines Strengthen Through Stress: In stress, Nines disintegrate to the unhealthy side of a Six (the loyalist) and become anxious, have a hard time making decisions, and numb with external placaters. Instead of finding comfort in food or exercise, Nines can redeem this tendency by having a go-to "stress" practice of deep breathing, yoga, or some other mind-body movement that can help re-establish the peace.
Can you relate with these?
Why or why not?