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Attitude is a Main Predictor of Eating Habits

Attitude is a Main Predictor of Eating Habits

Dr. Clyde Wilson

Ideally, life should be long and lived to its fullest. We can then experience and share more with family and friends. Achieving this goal is a natural instinct, but is re-enforced in childhood (attachment theory) and is psychosocially influenced as an adult, meaning that our environment impacts our attitude and behavior, particularly when we form habits while young. Nutrition plays a key role in allowing us to live life to its fullest because it provides the fuel and building blocks for our body, which is the vehicle within which we experience and share our lives. The psychosocial link with nutrition habits has been directly measured in adolescents, separating out the following components:

• Attitude, based perceived consequences (fruit tastes good, breakfast improves mental focus, etc)

• The perceived habits of parents

• Whether family and friends are personally supportive of eating healthier

• The availability of healthy foods provided by the parents

• Whether or not it is easy to eat healthy (self efficacy)

Of these parameters, ONLY ATTITUDE had an actual impact on how adolescents ate. And it positively correlated with every healthy eating habit measured (eating more fruit, eating breakfast, and limiting the amount of fatty snacks). Mothers were perceived to practice healthy eating twice as much as fathers. Adolescents think that family and friends have only a marginal interest in their eating habits. They do not perceive their environment as being very supportive of healthy eating. And students generally found it easy to practice good nutrition habits, but few had an intention to eat more fruits (even though they ate only 0.9 pieces of fruit per day) or to limit fatty snacks. The lack of intent to eat breakfast was the strongest of all the measured unhealthy eating practices. The authors of this paper conclude that interventions to promote healthy eating for adolescents need to include ways of creating positive attitudes on healthy eating i.e. opinions about perceived outcome.

Clyde’s Thoughts: Each of us has two sides to our inner conversation about healthy habits, whether it concerns taking the time to sleep enough, exercising regularly, or eating better. Our inner adult tells us to do what improves our quality of life so that we can live life to its fullest and so we can be there more each day and for more years for our loved ones. But the kid in us sometimes wins out, postponing healthy actions indefinitely. To improve our chances of taking action, we need to be honest with ourselves about whether or not we think following a healthier pattern will actually make us healthier. This point is more important than any other measured psychological factor, including how easy it is for us to schedule healthy habits into our lives, or how much the environment keeps us from being healthy.


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