It’s All in How You Say It

Last month, a study determined that the simplest advice is the most effective for motivating people to make lifestyle changes, but the verbiage matters much.

Researchers broke 204 participants into 4 groups, giving each group a different set of instructions for improving their health. Each group was given very basic directions, “exercise more and eat less fat,” or “be less sedentary and eat less fat,” or “exercise more and eat more fruits and vegetables” or “be less sedentary and eat more fruits and vegetables.”

The group that was asked to “be less sedentary and eat more fruits and vegetables” had the greatest success toward reaching their goals – this group consumed less fat in their daily intake, ate more vegetables and increased their daily activity significantly.

Researchers suspect that the decreases in fat were linked to the reduction in sedentary activity – less time in front of the TV, when people tend to consume the most fat.

Author’s note

Although all four sets of instructions were essentially the same, the most successful recommendation was spelled out in a less daunting manner. When dieting, it can often feel as though you have to give up everything you love and live this wretched, bland disciplined life without flavor. However, when you simply tell someone “eat more fruits and vegetables,” you are not taking anything away – you are simply adding more color and flavor to their menu. If you embrace this style of eating, it is likely that these healthier foods will replace some of the fat and sugar in your diet.

In regards to activity – there is a stigma surrounding the words “exercise more,” but if you simply say “be less sedentary,” again, the task sounds less daunting. The level of interpretation opens up and people envision forms of exercise like walking around the block or playing tag with their kids.

If you are struggling with weight management, change your mantra: “Eat more vegetables and be less sedentary.” You just might find success in the simplicity of it all.


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