Enneagram Type Three

Type Three

DIETnosis Enneagram Type Three



Food Type: The Detached And Determined Dieter

Exercise Type: The Climber

DIET Strength: Ambition

Power Skills (Level 1): S.M.A.R.T. Goals, Framing, Visualizing, and Mission Statements
Action Skills (Level 2): Realistic Expectations, Process Focus, and Contracting
Maintenance Skills (Level 3): Contingency Planning, Rule Setting, and Decision Making
Trouble with Food (habit): Being too controlled regarding food intake, viewing food as repulsive or having inherent social value
Emotional Eating Trigger: Shame Avoidance, Narcissism, Hostility, Anorexia and Bigorexia
Trouble with Exercise: Shortcuts, potions, body sculpting, cleansers
Trouble with Body Image: Sees body means for approval, image conscious, can repress or detach from body instincts for achievement
Typical Fitness Excuse: Fear of Failure so will not try, success in other areas deemed more important  



Popular Enneagram authors commonly name Type Threes the Achiever, Performer or Status Seeker because they are adaptable, efficient, driven and charismatic. Type Threes are impressive in their ability to put aside their personal feelings about a situation and accomplish goals in an efficient and practical manner.  They tend to rise to the top based half on their ability to work hard and adapt, and half on their charm, poise and diplomacy.  They display confidence, professionalism and dedication that is often rewarded handsomely in the workplace. Type Threes value productivity and competence and envision making the world more efficient place. Type Threes focus their attention on tasks, goals, and recognition. Friends value them and seek them out for their adaptability, charm and winning attitude. You might be a Type Three if you have a stronger drive to succeed than most.  You are also competitive, focused on efficiency, goals, and marketing yourself or your company.

Enneagram Type 3 Careers

Threes work hard to excel and often find their identity defined by their career path. They are driven to leave their mark and make significant contributions to their field.  They are also motivated by success and long for admiration and from their peers. Threes feel best in a career with potential for promotion, advancement, a chance to shine, and a high salary ceiling.  Although a Three is adaptable to any career field, archetypical careers include Salesperson, Attorney, Physician, Agent, Actor, Performer, Executive, and Politician. Threes tend to serve certain roles for others including the holder of practical knowledge and advice, an idol or mentor, a socialite and networker.

Negative Aspects and Weaknesses

Type Three’s weaknesses and negative tendencies are associated with measuring themselves by external achievement and become focused on their image.  They may neglect their inner-child, suppress their own inner desires and emotions in order to become what their parents or organization expects of them.  They may work so hard at achievement that they are no longer aware of this inner-voice.  Their chronic self-deception can lead to a life where the ends always justify the means and they are left with an empty or superficial emotional life.


Style of Impulse Control

Although weight gain always has a multi-faceted cause, it is helpful to look at the Big Five Personality Traits when analyzing Type Three. Threes score positively on “Conscientiousness” and “Extroversion,” and tend to score negatively in “Agreeableness.”  These traits tend to translate into someone who has a strong ability to resist temptations.  They oftentimes follow through with a plan even when they are stressed or under unfavorable conditions.  They seek value through their accomplishments and are practiced at self-talk and visual imagery that keeps them from straying from their goals.  If a Type Three is overweight, then it is usually that their goals have become unbalanced and more focused on career success over health.

Style of Activity

Type Threes are self-starter, go-getter, spark-plug types of people.  They tend to exercise with a purpose with an end result in mind.  They know what they want and often develop their own program to get the desired results.  They are disciplined initiators who are productive and efficient in their activities.  They prefer a structure to their activities and a stepwise path to a high achievement of which they can be proud. Type Threes are prone to advance to leadership positions like Type Eights and some Type Sevens.  In the fitness realm, this may mean that Three’s are the team captain or one that is leading by example for others to follow.

Leisure Style

Threes can be found getting out and being active of their own accord.  Many Threes will not remember a time when they went 3 days without exercising or working out in some way.  Being active in sports or individual challenging exercises is common for Threes.  They enjoy competition and scenarios that bring out the best in themselves and may periodically participate in a mini-triathlon or half-marathon.


Enneagram Type 3 Fashion

Type Threes will make their image adaptable for any situation. They are very concerned with image and fashion if that is what is important to them. A businessman or woman may wear the most fashionable suit of the group. If they are understated then it is likely because it is appropriate for the situation. Type Threes will appear very professional. If appropriate they will wear the latest fashions, especially those that represent high status or achievement. If the Type Three is still dating or in a high profile job, then they will pay very close attention to the latest trends and styles that make them desirable. There fashion statement is, “look at me, I am desirable or clearly I am the best.”

Tattoos and Accessories

If a type Three gets a tattoo is it usually to commemorate a lifetime achievement such as a marathon or Ironman competition.

Enneagram Type 3 At Home

Threes strive to active and their home is a representation of this achievement.  They will want to have a big house that shows they have succeeded in life.  They like to surround themselves with things that show their achievements or display photos of themselves with famous people.  If they do not spend much time at home or if they do not plan on entertaining there then their decor will be highly practical, efficient and “Spartan.”


Body Judgment

In terms of Body Judgment, Threes are overly harsh and constantly comparing themselves to others.  They feel compelled to improve their bodies at any cost. Even though they are keenly aware of their physical appearance and desirability, they also learn to behave in attractive, cocky or seductive ways. Threes learn how to hide their faults and may never be seen out of the house without being “made up” or “presentable.” One unhealthy problem relating to this harsh judgment is anorexia, bigorexia and preoccupation with cosmetic surgery or body cleansers.  If the Three is unhealthy and overweight, then it is likely that they have shifted their judgment from physical success to monetary or workplace success.

Value and Self-Worth

Threes merge their inner self or identity with their external image. Their self-value and esteem, then, is based on their image and achievements causing them to lose track of their true identity. Type Threes sees the body as a means for obtaining approval and accomplishment. This merging of self and image leads Type Threes to be willing to work harder than most other types to achieve their goals. They have a strong ability to mentally detach and repress their physical instincts in order to endure pain and achieve their goals. This drive to achieve leads to shortcuts, potions, colon cleansers, and supplements that are often detrimental to their health. Also, their emotional relationships may stagnate due to their work focus. In terms of motivation for health, Threes are focused on image and if they look good on the outside then they are not concerned with what is on the inside (such as high cholesterol, or damage from steroids). In terms of shaping healthy behaviors in Type Threes, their prior successes create an arrogance that makes it hard to convince them that they are unhealthy or need to change. Indeed Type Threes may only be convinced about becoming healthy by framing overall health as performance enhancing, beautiful/handsome, contributing to their abilities to meet non-health goals, and making their productive years longer.


Threes are unemotional and practical about food. They can be highly rational and detached from the comforting or euphoric aspects of food. They can strongly control their psyche if they set their minds to it and can even be repulsed by food if it is contrary to their fitness goals. Some Threes have issues with anorexia or “big”orexia if they become fixated on their body image.

Enneagram Type 3 Favorite Foods

Many Threes may crave the types of food that they associate with success. This could be healthy food but most often it is food eaten during a fancy or celebratory meal. (Status Food) Presentation and setting may play a big role in their appetite. They relish in fine dining or status foods such as filet mignon, fine wine or champagne. Type Threes’ problems with overeating tend to be eating on the run, and eating fast-food away from home or during business travel. They may not take the time to enjoy food due to work stress or may overeat at a fancy public occasion. The online book, “Your Fat, Your Fault,” suggests that Type Three’s food metaphor is that food is a status symbol.

Food Shopping Style

Oftentimes their grocery shopping is practical and no-nonsense. Threes know what they want and usually have a plan of attack. They usually do not get a lot of impulse buys along the way unless it is in relation to performance such as energy bars, caffeine, bulking powders, or body cleansers.

Meal Setting, Preparation, and Presentation

The common denominator in Threes’ food setting, preparation or presentation is that whatever they set their mind to, it will be the best. It all depends on how they feel they will be judged. For themselves their meals may be practical and simple, but for others or for a party they may cook a highly elaborate dish with an abundance of extravagant food.

Food Decision Factors

They are Brand conscious if being viewed by someone else but otherwise are otherwise practical in their decisions. When eating out they choose what would be perceived as the most appropriate order for the social setting, the healthiest or the order that is the most prestigious.


Emotional Eating Pattern

Threes have a way of divorcing themselves from passionate eating. They seem to have more likelihood than other Types of looking at food objectively and foregoing food if needed. They tend to eat in a more controlled manner than most and are less likely to let themselves feel the same joyfulness surrounding food. They eat with a goal in mind of a weight or an appearance. Although there is always a spectrum from healthy to disordered eating patterns for each personality type, Threes unhealthy eating spectrum includes anorexia or “big”orexia — the male version of extreme body image control. If a Type Three is overweight, then weight is likely to be low on the priority list or will not affect their career progression. Threes also emotionally eat or withhold food when they find themselves not meeting up to the standard they have set for themselves.

Hidden Calories

Threes must beware that they can stack on a lot of calories with different performance enhancing foods and supplements. Caffeine drinks, protein shakes and energy bars all have calories that typically do not get counted.

Lifestyle Eating

Travel, business trips, eating on the road, and fast foods are the lifestyle calorie traps for Type Threes.

Ordering Style

When Threes are with a group they may order to impress, but alone they order more rationally.

Representative Meal

Type Three’s foods or food settings that most represent them are food at a fancy restaurant such as a steak and lobster business dinner with important VIPs who are impressed by and praise the Three.


In regards to Types Threes adopting food changes into their diet — they are practical and conscientious and can put aside their temporary temptations for long-term gain.


Exercise Motivation

Threes are often concerned with image and notoriety. They enjoy any exercise that they feel makes them more attractive and competitive. This may include aerobic or anaerobic exercises and prolonged exercise skill development. They may dream of being an elite athlete and find themselves more drawn to physicality than other types.

Baseline Activity Level

Type Threes have a high basal energy expenditure. Oftentimes Threes are labeled as workaholics. Threes play as hard as they work and enjoy a much more elaborate leisure schedule than most. The key for the Three is to be sure their work and leisure goals are aligned with their fitness goals.

Favorite Exercise and Exercise Environment

Threes enjoy competition and being in the limelight. They tend to be physical push themselves to be the star player. Threes fear they will be shamed or not live up to the ideals that have been set in their minds.  It seems that Threes meet their goals at a higher rate than most Enneagram Types as they are willing to sacrifice competing demands to achieve their goals. The key is that they review the goals in their life to be sure they are healthy goals. If they are working themselves “to death” then what is the point of the wealth or status they achieve. Their motivation to active is only as strong as the value they place on the outcome. If they place a stronger value on wealth then they are less likely to workout. Threes typically place a strong value on image and this often fuels males to be muscular and females to be skinny. The key is that they ensure their road to success is not marred with shortcuts like medications, steroids or plastic surgery. Threes enjoy social exercise or at least individual sports where competition is the goal. Threes are great at achieving their goals but will not seek health if it has no value for them. They may conveniently change the value they place on body image and fitness as they become unhealthy because they feel that health is unattainable. And if unhealthy people surround them, then they may not feel the pressure to attain a healthy goal. Threes may look to shortcuts or quick fixes that get them into trouble. Threes are practical and like an environment that is most conducive to attaining their goals, and they are not discouraged by rain and bad weather.  Once they feel like they have achieved a modest success, they have no qualms about working out in public and demonstrating their skills to others. Until then, they may feel too ashamed to work out in public.

Exercise Personality Limitations

Threes fear failure and embarrassment. They try to avoid having others see their exercise limitations. Although Type Threes are highly extroverted they are so goal oriented that they may find themselves exercising alone in attempts to achieve their goals.  They keep their goals and end states in their mind to drive them forward. When exercising with groups they push themselves to be the best. This comparison pressure is good, but it can be limiting if the workout partners are at a much lower fitness level. Sometimes the Three may back off their showy presence once they have established they are best in order to avoid inciting envy. They must be careful when they are looking for shortcuts in their physical achievements such as diet pills, potions, body sculpting, cleansers or surgery.



Threes are dedicated to their goals. They are vigilant in their quest for achievement. If a Type Three has become overweight or unhealthy it is because they have had priorities in other areas of their life — not because they failed at their health attempts or goals. It is because their heart wasn’t in it.


Although Threes usually have a goal in mind, they also enjoy variety and exercising with others in team events. Examples include a pick-up game of football with the neighbors, volleyball or mountain biking with a friend. These leisure activities are kept separate from their self-made physical goals.


In terms of intensity, Threes have an uncanny ability to push themselves. This is heightened by a sense of competition and their surrounding competitors.


Threes sabotage health goals with work and worldly success goals. They may constantly add additional pressures at work by taking on more and more duties. They may find themselves traveling and eating on the road being unable to devote time to exercise.

Pre-Exercise Anxiety

Before an exercise event they may have some pre-performance anxiety if others are watching or if they are unprepared. Threes must beware when their fears of being ashamed keep them from exercising at all and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Otherwise, if they are fit, then they relish in the ability to show off their physical state.

Exercise Performance Anxiety

Once they are exercising or performing Threes feel a strong pressure to succeed. This pressure helpful for Threes who are fit, but it can be damaging to an unfit Three who is about to be shamed by his or her group. Threes look for an “out” or something on which they can blame for their lack of performance such as “this gym causes my asthma to act up.”

Post-Performance Guilt

Threes oftentimes walk away from an event thinking that they should have done better or feeling ashamed despite giving it their maximum intensity. This shame is much stronger than other types feel and plays a role in their continued motivation. It also plays a role in their willingness to cut corners for success. Even if they were successful, it wasn’t a true success unless someone was impressed or showed approval.

Learn About Diet Strengths and Skills for Type Three

By Dr. Scott Harrington

JUN 2012