Learning Lab

Achieving your health goals…without the pitfalls

By Amy Brann

It can all seem so simple, your client sets a goal, together you pick some ways to know they are staying on track and then they achieve their goal! Easy right? Often not the case. The brain can tell us a lot about why and how this happens. Here are 3 pointers from papers that highlight some unconscious influences that can railroad our choices in an undesirable direction.

Uncertainty has big effects on our brain. A study has recently shown that by making people feel uncertain they are more likely to choose brownies over fruit. Katherine L. Milkman from the University of Pennsylvania says “Uncertainty appears to affect people by sapping the same kind of attention resources required to exert self-control”.

Making unhealthy choices can also be unconsciously influenced by believing in dualism. Researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany found that by priming people to believe in dualism they made less healthy choices that those who were encouraged to think of the mind and body as interrelated. So finding out what beliefs your clients have around things linked to a goal really is a good plan.

Apparently we overestimate the healthiness of foods that are less appealing to us. In a study involving foods with identical nutritional values people were more likely to judge the less tasty and less attractive options as healthier. These less desirable foods may not trigger the self-regulatory defences in the same way, so you could end up eating more of it. To top it off – it may not have been any healthier to start with! So checking food labels and everything in moderation is good advice here.

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