How is this week going for you? I hope you’ve had a great Christmas, and that you are excited for the year ahead! For many of us this time of year also presents an interesting struggle, as we start to think about the things we would like to do differently next year, while indulging in behaviours that may be in contradiction to those goals?! In the following few paragraphs I’d  like to provide you with a few insights that will help you make healthy choices despite the environment and society around you making it difficult to do so!

In my last blog we focused on a process to help you identify the right MOTIVATION and reason for change. After all, I’m sure that everyone reading this blog has a very good idea of what we should eat, what we should (or shouldn’t) drink, what’s good for us, what’s bad for us, what to avoid, etc. Yet, this knowledge alone is clearly not enough to help us  and empower us to make better choices. So the very first thing we should aim to do, is to spend time working out what we want and why we want it. So if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to read that blog and spend some time answering the questions it poses.  The answers you come up with, and the concepts below will assist you to make healthy choices based on current knowledge, but that work for YOU.

Once you have decided what it is you want to achieve and why, and have also identified your main barriers, you will have completed the most important part of the journey! Now  we will explore some strong external forces that are likely to be working against you. Understand these will help you not be influenced by them!

Are your behaviours  being ‘nudged’ away from your ideal healthy choices?

The concept of a ‘nudge‘, from Nudge Theory, refers to any aspect of ‘choice architecture’ (the way in which choices can be presented to consumers to impact choice) that alters people’s behaviour in a predictable way without actually forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. This concept is so powerful, that it won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2017. It suggests that we are influenced by the choices given to us, even if they are subtle and we have the ability to chose an alternative.

For example, when you go and get your lunch, what do you see first? Do you see the salad or do you see the chips? That will very strongly influence what you end up eating. This is not always a ‘Machiavellian’ design, as we might say is the placing of lollies and chocolates at a supermarket checkout to tempt our kids while we are waiting to be served! Sometimes they are basic business choices, with good intentions at heart made by commercial inertia. An example of this may be the local café, which understands you are busy and have a short lunch break, so they place the ready made rolls in the most visible spot as you enter the shop…

How can we avoid this social engineering so you can make healthy choices?

One of the strategies we suggest in this scenario, is for you to decide what you are going to have before you get there! Don’t wait to be in the café to make a choice… the options to tempt you are too powerful!!
You should know what your next meal is, and where it’s going to come from… otherwise you risk being dictated to by external factors.

Is your social circle subtly influencing your choices?

Social norms are one of the very powerful forces in behaviour. We are influenced by what other people are doing. Not what we are told we are supposed to do – If everybody else is eating more or eating a certain kind of food, we will eat more of it, right?

If your friends are active, you are more likely to want to join them on that Mt Lofty hike. On the flip side, if they are all starting to put on weight, you are more likely to as well! Our social circles, our community, have a ‘recalibrating’ effect on our understanding of what is normal or not, hence having a very powerful influence on our behaviour.

It’s not easy to swim against the flow. The currents set by our environment (shops, etc.) and by our social networks are strong. But our success depends on it! We are here to help, and hopefully this piece has shone the light on a couple of areas that were lurking in the dark.

Here’s to a successful, fun, healthy and fulfilling 2018! Happy new Years!!

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