Having it within you to say no especially to your food temptations is one of the most useful skills you can develop, particularly when it comes to living a healthy life. Research is starting to show that small changes can make it easier for you to say no, resist temptation and stick to healthy eating habits.
In a research study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, 120 students subjects were split into two different groups.
The difference between these two groups was saying “I can’t” compared to “I don’t.”
One group was instructed that they would tell themselves “I can’t do X”, each time they were faced with a temptation. For example, when given temptations like an ice cream, they would say, “I can’t eat ice cream.”
The second group was instructed to say “I don’t do X.” when they encountered some temptation. For example, when being offered with an ice cream, they would say “I don’t eat ice cream.”
Each student had to answer a set of questions unrelated to the study, After repeating these phrases. The students went on to hand in their answer sheet once they finished answering their questions, thinking that the study was over. But in actuality, it was just beginning.
Each student was offered a complimentary treat (the actual test with the temptations) when he or she walked out of the room after handing in their answer sheet. In that study, the students could choose between a chocolate candy bar or a granola health bar. The researcher would then mark the choice of snack on the answer sheet of the respective students as they walked away.
The student subjects who told themselves “I can’t eat X” made a choice to eat the chocolate candy bar 61% of the time. Meanwhile, those students who told themselves “I don’t eat X” had chosen to eat the chocolate candy bars only for 36% of the time. This simple alteration in terminology drastically improved the odds that each person would make a more healthy food choice.
Why does something so small make such a big difference?
The Golden Words That Will Help You Eat Healthily
Your words help to frame your sense of empowerment and control. Furthermore, the words that you use create a feedback loop or an inbuilt automatic log system in your brain that impacts your future behaviors.
For instance, whenever you tell yourself “I can’t”, you’re involuntarily creating a feedback loop that acts as a reminder of your limitations. These words imply that you’re forcing yourself to do something you don’t want to do.
In the other case, when you tell yourself “I don’t”, you’re then creating an automatic feedback log that reminds you of your control and power over the situation. It’s a phrase that can force you into breaking your bad habits and applicating your good ones.
The difference between saying “I don’t” compared to “I can’t”?
“I don’t” is looked upon as a choice, therefore it feels empowering. It’s a jump start to your determination and willpower. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. To the subject, it feels as if there is a restriction and it’s being imposed upon you rather than being followed by their own wish. So thinking “I can’t” undermines your sense of power and personal agency.
“I don’t” is experienced as a choice, so it feels empowering. “I can’t” isn’t a choice. It’s a restriction, it’s being imposed upon you.
To frame this in other words, the phrase “I don’t” is a psychologically empowering way to say no, whereas the phrase “I can’t” is a psychologically draining way to say no.
Most crucially, a change in language results in a change in mindset.Well now you can utilize your new, empowered mindset in all future situations and that is why a minute change can lead to very different outcomes over the long-run.
Having said that the real ability to say no and to fight these temptations lies within you, in your actions but most importantly in something as simple as your daily vocabulary. A simple vocabulary shift from “can’t” to “don’t” can rectify your junk addictions and erase off these temptations by forming an inbuilt system to function the brain to say no. Thus, it is a slow process but helps in making you stronger by helping you make better decisions in other aspects of life.