Optimism: Is it the key the healthier eating?

Have you ever felt like some women adapt to healthier eating faster than others? Ever wonder why some women have more success with healthy eating habits? There may be proof that having a positive outlook helps.

Researchers from the Women’s Health Initiative, a study of 13,500 postmenopausal women, found that women who were more optimistic were better able to follow healthy eating guidelines, both when they were instructed to do so and when they chose to make changes on their own.

The women’s optimism levels had been evaluated with a questionnaire as part of the study and the most optimistic one third of the women saw the most improvement in their diets, whether or not they had completed the nutrition program.

But, they discovered that the biggest help for making diet improvements was not the optimism itself, but the skills that tend to go with it. Rather, it is not just about having a positive outlook but rather the other things that positive people do.

The researchers explained that ‘optimism itself is almost beside the point’. People who want to adopt healthier behaviors – whether eating more vegetables or getting more exercise – should instead focus on the skills that tend to make optimistic people successful.

Some of the skills are:

Self-regulation:

Being aware of one’s behavior as it is unfolding. For example, with healthy eating, this could include monitoring eating habits, by making a mental note or keeping tabs in a journal.

Finding healthy ways to cope with unpleasant emotions and stress:

This might mean getting the unhealthy foods that we tend to reach for when stressed – whether potato chips, cake or sugary soft drinks – out of the house, and channeling frustration into an outlet that is not food related, such as writing, yoga, breathing exercises, walking and talking with a friend, and guided imagery.

Social support:

This is often essential to sustaining a healthy eating plan, and making sure that those around you show support can mean success in the long run.

In the end, being an optimist or a pessimist is not what is most important, but rather the behaviors in your everyday life that can help you to make significant strides toward dietary success.

Adapted from this review article.


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