When my stomach rumbles around 3:00 pm, I often struggle to reach for an apple instead of a cookie. Despite knowing the advantages of choosing a piece of fruit over a baked good, I’m still tempted by the call of a Snickerdoodle.
The solution, I’ve recently learned, could simply be to turn my frowns upside down.
Researchers from the University of Arizona have discovered that when it comes to healthy eating, your attitude matters as much as what’s on your plate. Their new study, which was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, found that women who are more optimistic about life are also more successful at adopting healthier eating habits.
The study analyzed data from thousands of women who were part of a nutrition program, and discovered that those with the sunniest dispositions saw the most improvements in their diets.
What’s more, the women with pessimistic attitudes started the program with the least healthy eating behaviors, on average.
Does this mean healthy eating is impossible for glass-half-empty kind of people?
The authors of the study say no, because even the most pessimistic person can adopt the skills that help optimists successfully follow healthy eating plans.
According to the study’s lead researcher, three of those skills are:
- Self-regulation. Optimists tend to be strong self-regulators, meaning they are deeply conscious of their own actions. Anyone can apply this skill to healthy eating by monitoring their diet choices through a food log or journal, which generates greater awareness of one’s eating behaviors.
- Healthy coping skills. People who are optimists tend to deal with life’s ups and downs in effective ways—meaning they don’t turn to a carton of ice cream when they feel stressed or a bag of potato chips when they feel frustrated. Look for more productive ways to cope with life than with emotional eating.
- A strong support system. Optimists often have a strong circle of friends and family who can provide vital encouragement and motivation, making healthy eating easier. If you’re trying to improve your diet, enlist the support a partner or friend to remind you of your goals when you go to reach for a French fry.
The next time I’m drawn to a sleeve of Oreos over a Gala apple, I’m going to remember that making the healthy choice is as much about my attitude as it is about my willpower. Healthier eating and a better outlook on life? I’m feeling more optimistic already!
Are you an optimist or a pessimist? Do you think your outlook on life affects your eating habits?