Why is it that diets fail? Often, it is our thoughts that sabotage us in succeeding with eating healthy. The thought that you can’t have the french fries, pizza, or ice cream you have enjoyed for years incites a sense of rebellion. For most of us, this causes us to have thoughts such as, “I’m an adult, I can eat what I want,” or, “ It’s my body, my choice.”
What if reaching your healthy eating goal is as simple as changing your thoughts by changing your words from, “I can’t” to, “I don’t”?
In an article in Psychology Today, Dr. Nir Eyal cited a recent study published in the Journal of Consumer Research which affirms habits are easier to maintain when you believe they are your identity. He likened it to the choice made by those who identify themselves as vegetarians to not eat meat or observant Jews to not eat pork. The study divided participants into two groups. One group was instructed to use the phrase “I don’t” when offered unhealthy food. For example, a participant would say, “I don’t eat fast food”. The other group was told to use the phrase, “I can’t”. When participants finished the study, they were offered either a chocolate bar or a granola bar. Results were 64% of the “I don’t” group chose the healthier option as compared to just 39% of the “I can’t” group.
Authors of the study suggest the phrase “I don’t” empowered the participants. The thought was that the choice was theirs’ to make, not something imposed on them.
If your goal is to eat healthier, begin identifying yourself as a healthy eater. Thinking of food choices in terms of who you are can give you the power to succeed in reaching your goal.
Written By: Ann Sheerin, MA