In a recent study found in Health Magazine, Vanessa Patrick, PhD associate professor of marketing at the University of Houston found that 80% of women who used the words, “I don’t eat that,” were able to hold to their good eating habits. On the other hand, only 10% of women who used the similar phrase, “I can’t eat that” stuck to their good eating habits.
“Saying ‘I can’t’ signals that you’re giving up something desirable, but saying ‘I don’t’ gives you a sense of empowerment,” said Patrick.
After reading this piece I couldn’t agree more. A couple years ago, when I was a sophomore in college, I had the pressure to look my best in my little-material cheerleading uniform while knowing I had gained about 10 pounds since making the squad. I used to look at the greasy box of fries my friends were eating and sadly say, “I can’t eat that.” What I didn’t realize was I was making it 10x harder on myself. Losing a few inches on my mid section was a huge goal of mine, but I was going about it the completely wrong way. Saying “I can’t eat that” felt like a slap in the face each time I said it, and it reminded me of the negative consequences and embarrassment I was facing.
Once I truly decided to make a serious change, both physically and mentally, I knew I was going to have to pour everything I had into it. I changed my eating lifestyle for the better, developed a positive attitude about working out, and unconsciously started using the phrase, “I don’t eat that.” While many of my friends in their early 20’s can get away with eating donuts and cheeseburgers, I know and now accept that my body’s different and I just simply can’t eat those foods if I want to have the physique that I desire…So I don’t.
I asked DIR’s registered dietitian Mary Hartley what she thought about this interesting concept. Mary says, “People who follow structured diets surrender their personal power to the rules of the diet. They know what they are supposed to do so they say ‘I can’t.’ Non-dieters who play by a personal set of rules believe they control their own decisions and behaviors. There is no external authority saying they ‘can’t.’ They personally elect to either ‘do’ or ‘do not.’ This mindset broadens their boundaries, and so they are not likely to say, ‘What the hell?’ and throw in the towel (i.e. ‘surrender’ to their cravings).”
So the next time your friend offers you a delicious treat you know your body won’t appreciate in the aftermath, try saying, “No thanks, I don’t eat that.’