Creating a healthy eating action plan and visualizing yourself carrying it out may help improve the way you eat, researchers suggest.
"Telling people to just change the way they eat doesn't work; we've known that for a long time," study author Barbel Knauper, an associate professor of psychology at McGill University in Montreal, said in a university news release.
"But research has shown that if people make a concrete plan about what they are going to do, they are better at acting on their intentions. What we've done that's new is to add visualization techniques to the action plan," she explained.
Her study included 177 students who were asked to set the goal of eating more fruit for a week. All of the students ate more fruit during that time. However, those who made a concrete plan, wrote it down and also visualized how they were going to carry out their plan (i.e. when, where and how they would buy, prepare and eat fruit) increased their fruit consumption twice as much as those who didn't plan or visualize.
"Athletes do lots of work mentally rehearsing their performances before competing and it's often very successful," Knauper said. "So we thought having people mentally rehearse how they were going to buy and eat their fruit should make it more likely that they would actually do it. And this is exactly what happened."
The study was published in the current issue of Psychology and Health.