You’ve resolved to stick to your diet. You’re feeling strong. And then…someone offers you a slice of your favourite: sticky-sweet pecan pie. Or a second helping of divine, cheesy, homemade lasagna.
How do you attempt to resist temptation?
If you’re like most people, you put on a pained expression, stick out your hand, shake your head—I can’t, you say. It’s like a physical act of being restrained.
But a new study suggests that those words “I can’t” are setting you up for failure. It’s a signal to yourself that you’re being deprived, being forced against your will, and that there’s some nebulous outside force controlling your actions. What does that set up? Feelings of rebellion. I’ll show you.
So what’s better, instead? To use the words “I don’t”. At least that’s what a recent study showed. Women who were instructed to use the phrase “I don’t” rather than saying “I can’t” were more likely to stick with their diet goals. Why? Because “I don’t” feels more empowering, and shows a sense of determination. Like you’re in charge, and this is what you’ve decided for the good of your own health.
The cool thing is that this is something you can learn to do. It’s a habit, like any other. (Read this, for a primer on how to change self-talk.)
This was a small study, but it’s an interesting line of research. I’m always fascinated by what makes people decide to do the things we do. We all know what we’re supposed to be doing…but something stops us from doing it, right?
As I frequently find myself saying (in fact, it’s part of my manifesto)…you and your body are on the same team.
The words “I don’t” just might help you act like a team.