‘Do’ is better than ‘don’t’ when it comes to eating better

23 03 2016

which health message works.png

 Credit: Daniel Miller

Thinking about a meal or a snack from the perspective of what you ‘can’ or ‘should’ eat, rather than what you ‘can’t’ or ‘shouldn’t’ has been shown to be much more effective for those trying to meet health and wellness goals. Telling your child to eat an apple so they stay healthy will work better than telling them not to eat the cookie because it will make them fat. A new Cornell discovery shows that “Don’t” messages don’t work for most of us adults either!

These new findings cast a dim light on the many public health campaigns that have used a fear approach to convince us to eat better, such as telling us: don’t eat candy or drink chocolate milk, or don’t eat red meat because of harmful consequences. The Cornell study findings show that focusing on Do is better than focusing on Don’t, and stressing the benefits of eating healthy foods is more effective than warning against the harms of eating unhealthy foods. These findings compliment a recent 2015 publication in Nutrition Reviews.

Though we are heavily influenced by media, advertisement, packaging, etc., it is the discussion we have with ourselves that can be most impactful on a daily basis. We are always in our own heads, and often our own harshest critics. By focusing on the positive side of choices in your “self-talk”, it would then make sense that we would feel better about our decisions afterward.

Check out this blog for a bit more on self-talk: https://healthperformance.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/it-may-be-time-to-change-the-track-making-self-talk-more-productive-and-positive/

By Stephanie R. McWilliams, Health Behavior Counselor

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