At the recent Dietitians NZ conference in Wellington, I was fortunate to be able to listen to some very interesting speakers*.
One speaker was Dr Niki Harré, Associate Professor of Psychology at Auckland University. She spoke about the use of psychology in contributing to positive social change (primarily in caring for our environment). Afterwards we exchanged books. I gave her a copy of my book Fat Chance! The no-going-back Weight Loss Workbook and she gave me a copy of her very interesting, recently released book Psychology for a Better World.
In her book, Dr Harré talks about the secret power of positive emotions, based on the clinical studies of Dr Barbara Fredrickson. I quote (pg 15): “One of the differences between positive and negative emotions is that positive emotions broaden our sense of what we can do, whereas negative emotions narrow this sense… A negative emotion is telling us something is dangerous and we had better attend to it, so we narrow our focus to the threat and work to make it go away…
“Positive emotions, on the other hand, are a signal things are going well… so we can afford to look around at what the world has to offer, try things we haven’t done before, take a few risks… Positive emotions are conducive to creativity, expansion and looking for and seizing opportunities.” Positive emotions make us more open-minded, imaginative and creative, better and faster at problem solving in innovative ways.
Dr Harré’s conclusion is that, based on clinical evidence, positive emotions are much more powerfully motivating and effective in bringing about both personal and social change. She was talking about environmental sustainability but we can apply this to weight-loss. I’m going to adapt Dr Harré’s negative and positive passages (pgs 12, 13) to weight loss and see what you think:
- Obesity is a major problem in our society and globally, in all countries and all age groups, and it is only getting worse. It is an increasing burden on the taxpayer and our health system, leading to major health problems including cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, stroke, as well as contributing to cancer, infertility, sleep apnoea, depression and just about any disease you care to name. Overweight people are marginalised in our society, actively discriminated against in their careers and earn less money. They avoid shopping to avoid the humiliation. Their attempts at dieting fail and they are constantly reminded by the finger-wagging media that they just aren’t good enough. Something must be done!
How motivated does that make you feel? Shocked, maybe; depressed, probably; but hopeful and called to action, unlikely. Now compare it with this:
- Sally used to be overweight. But then she decided to change to a new healthy lifestyle. She decided to cut out fizzy drinks, to eat healthy food and become more active. She began with small steps, beginning with walking to her local farmers’ market every week and buying freshly picked fruit and vegetables there. She subscribed to Healthy Food Guide so she always had good healthy recipes available and she began cooking them. Her family enjoyed her new cooking skills and encouraged her. She began to pay more attention to listening to her body and respecting it, enjoying what it enabled her to do. As well as regular walking, enjoying her new connection with nature, she joined a dance class, something she had always wanted to do and made new friends there. Her family enjoyed the new Sally and she enjoyed her new life. Not only that, but she found the weight began to melt away and it stayed away!
So which passage is the most inspiring, hopeful, open to new possibilities and motivating? Which spurs you to action? Yes, you could be Sally! You can change to a new healthy lifestyle. You can expand your horizons and change your life. You can seize new opportunities! What will you do to start your new lifestyle today?
Dr Niki Harré’s book is available here to download for free.
Until next time!
(*Please note: I am not a dietitian, I was there promoting my book to professionals in weight loss to use with their clients.)
Susan Maiava PhD is the author of Fat Chance! The no-going-back Weight Loss Workbook, available from Paper Plus, Whitcoulls, independent bookshops and Online at www.fatchance.co.nz (free delivery in NZ). RRP $39.99. Fat Chance! is ideal for groups. Professional enquiries also welcome.