Using Identity to Promote Healthy Eating

In Love and War

Rethinking the way we treat ourselves.
Juliana Breines

Juliana Breines, Ph.D., is a postdoctoral fellow at Brandeis University.

 

Despite increased awareness of the health risks of unhealthy eating, many people have difficulty making healthy dietary changes, and obesity rates continue to rise. In a 2015 study, researchers Amanda Brouwer and Katie Mosack proposed that one way to combat this problem is to change the way we see ourselves: Rather than simply pursuing the goal of eating more healthfully, we should identify as “healthy eaters.”

Why would identifying as a healthy eater make you more likely to become one? Prior research suggests that people are more likely to behave in ways that are congruent with their identity. For example, if we see ourselves as caring people, we’re more likely to behave in caring ways; likewise, if we see ourselves as healthy eaters, we may be more likely to make healthy food choices. They call this a “self-as-doer” identity.

To test the hypothesis that identifying as a “doer” of a healthy behavior—in this case, healthy eating—could increase the behavior, researchers exposed one group of participants to a “self-as-doer” intervention. After receiving educational materials about healthy eating, participants in this group completed a worksheet that involved: 1) listing six food-related goals; 2) transforming these goals into “doer” phrases (e.g., “eat more fruit” became “fruit-eater”); 3) envisioning being that kind of person; and 4) considering what it would take to become more like that over time.

Results showed that over the next few weeks, participants who identified as healthy eaters reported greater consumption of healthy foods, compared to participants in the two control conditions, which involved only receiving educational materials or doing an unrelated task. “Self-as-doer” participants didn’t increase in healthy eating over time, but they did maintain their healthy eating to a greater degree than the other participants, who tended to slip into less healthy habits.

These findings suggest that transforming dietary goals into self-identities might be a simple, affordable way to help people maintain healthy eating behavior, at least in the short term. They also raise the possibility that other kinds of goals may benefit from conversion into “self-as-doer” form. For example, what if low-performing students envisioned themselves as straight-A students, or if sedentary people saw themselves as athletic?

Research by Gabriele Oettingen suggests that people should proceed with caution when envisioning positive future selves. Positive thinking can increase hope and optimism, but it can also sometimes make people a bit too optimistic, producing a premature sense of accomplishment that undermines effort and motivation. In her research, Oettingen has found that positive fantasies about goals ranging from weight loss to job offers tend to be counterproductive because people neglect to plan for very real obstacles that they are likely to encounter.

Oettingen doesn’t think we need to scrap positive fantasies altogether, but recommends instead that we complement them with a realistic assessment of obstacles, especially inner obstacles such as fear of failure, and then come up with a concrete plan to address those obstacles.

The “self-as-doer” intervention contains a bit of this approach, since participants don’t just envision themselves as healthy eaters—they also consider what it will take to make this identity a reality. But identity-based interventions might be most effective when combined with action-based strategies such as Oettingen’s. Perhaps the most useful identities are those that focus on our potential, not just a fixed state of being: We can be “healthy eaters” who are still growing into ourselves.

 

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/experts/juliana-breines-phd

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-love-and-war/201610/using-identity-promote-healthy-eating

What is Play Therapy?

Play is the way children naturally communicate. Children under 12 can have issues developmentally expressing their stories, feelings and making sense of their pain.  In play therapy we use this natural ability to help children work through their inner deeper, troubling conflict.  In some sessions, we as the therapist decide what the child needs to work on and other times we use a child centered approach where we trust the child to guide us in the issues troubling them the most.

Dr. Landreth,  a pioneer in Play Therapy stated ““In play therapy, toys are like the child’s words and play is the child’s language”.  Plato stated ” “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation”.

child in therapy

 

At The Wellness Center we have Licensed Counselors, Registered Play therapists and Licensed Social Workers available for all ages and issues. We are trauma informed, specialize in severe trauma, abuse, and grief. Call us today at (401) 461-WELL so we can help you get your child back to a confident and happy child.

Play therapy room at The Wellness Center RI

Play therapy room at The Wellness Center RI

 

After a Crisis: Helping Young Children Heal

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Great information from The National Traumatic Stress Network:

www.nctsn.org

Young children, toddlers, and preschoolers know when bad things happen, and they remember what they have been through. After a scary event, we often see changes in their behavior. They may cry more, become clingy and not want us to leave, have temper tantrums, hit others, have problems sleeping, become afraid of things that didn’t bother them before, and lose skills they previously mastered. Changes like these are a sign that they need help.
Here are some ways you can help them.

Rethinking Alcohol: Can Heavy Drinkers Learn To Cut Back?

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Posted on www.npr.org

Article by Allison Aubrey

The thinking about alcohol dependence used to be black and white. There was a belief that there were two kinds of drinkers: alcoholics and everyone else.

“But that dichotomy — yes or no, you have it or you don’t — is inadequate,” says Dr. John Mariani, who researches substance abuse at Columbia University. He says that the thinking has evolved, and that the field of psychiatry recognizes there’s a spectrum.

Problems with alcohol run the gamut from mild to severe. And there are as many kinds of drinkers along the continuum as there are personality types.

How Meditation Can Help You Navigate Grief

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October 14, 2014  • By Juli Giordano, PsyD, LPC, Mindfulness Based Approaches / Contemplative Approaches Topic Expert Contributo

Grieving the loss of a loved one can be a horribly lonely experience. It is natural to assume that others don’t really understand or “get” our loss. Although we hope to find people who can truly understand and identify with our stories, be it via support groupsor self-help books, we rarely find the mirrors we seek. It seems we are more prone to focus on the differences than the commonalities we share, as though the comparisons we make somehow legitimize the degree of our pain. Questions such as “How old was he?” or “Had she been sick very long?” are typical as people seek to compartmentalize the experience and find a means of separating from it. Sometimes we even find ourselves trying to quantify whose loss was harder or more painful by making similar comparisons. It is the unlikeliest and perhaps most unfortunate of competitions.

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The Wellness Center RI has over 10 years of experience in the wellness and health field. Contact us today for a consultation.

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