Editor’s note: Christie Clinic is a sponsor of Chambanamoms.
By Ashley Quinlan, Transformations Medical Weight Loss Program Manager
How do we ultimately live healthy, happy and able to do the things that are important to us? Wow, that’s a loaded question that is not so simple to answer. There is one change you can do right now that will make it easier for you to say no: resist temptation and stick to your health and fitness goals for the long haul.
How do we do this? Again easier said than done right! I know I know. It’s not like we are distracted or have a sense of urgency to get things done YESTERDAY (who me?)! Learning to say no is one of the most useful skills you can develop, particularly when it come to living a healthy life. Also more positive self talk can have a huge impact on our mental outlook towards a behavior or situation.
There is some very interesting research that I think is very relevant to this topic. In a research study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, 120 students were split into two different groups. One group was told that each time they were faced with a temptation, they would tell themselves “I can’t do X.” For example, when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I can’t eat ice cream.” When the second group was faced with a temptation, they were told to say “I don’t do X.” So again when tempted with ice cream, they would say, “I don’t eat ice cream.”
They repeated these phrases, either “I can’t do X, or I don’t do X and then they answered a set of questions unrelated to the study. After answering the questions, the students went to hand in their answer sheet, thinking that the study was over. But it was actually just the beginning. As each student walked out of the room and handed in their answer sheet, they were offered a complimentary treat. They got to choose between a chocolate candy bar or a granola health bar in which their response was recorded on their answer sheet.
Here is what they determined. The students who told themselves “I can’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, the students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” chose to eat the chocolate candy bars only 36% of the time. This simple change in word choice significantly improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.
The summary is this: your words create a feedback loop in your brain that impacts your future behaviors. And as we know this also affects behaviors around us…our kids, our spouse, even our peers. So similarly to when you were first learning piano, or how to swim or throw a ball, the word’s “I can’t” should be turned right around to, “I will or I do.” Also, practice saying no a little bit more in your life. When your friend or family member says, “Is that all you’re going to eat? Or, “Are you ready for dessert?” The automatic “Sure” needs to be turned into a polite, “No thank you.” Physical health and mental health surely go hand in hand so make sure your positive self-talk & responses toward others help you stick to your healthy goals for a lifetime.
The official study can be found online for purchase, or further information can be found on the internet if you search the journal and the study title, which was “I Don’t” versus “I Can’t”: When Empowered Refusal Motivates Goal-Directed Behavior.”