CHICAGO, March 24 (Xinhua) -- A study posted on the website of the University of Michigan on Monday suggested that talking to oneself in the third person may help one make healthy food choices.
In the study, young adults disclosed if they were currently dieting or trying to lose weight. They were randomly assigned to watch a two-minute video of health-related commercials that emphasized eating healthy and exercising -- health video, or home improvement commercials -- control video.
After watching the video, the participants chose between healthy and unhealthy food items on a computer screen. For each pair of foods, participants were instructed to use either first-person self-talk "what do I want?" or distanced self-talk "what do you want?" in a counterbalanced order.
The study found dieters who viewed the health video chose fewer unhealthy foods when they used distanced self-talk than when they used first-person self-talk. And distanced self-talk led non-dieters to make healthier food choices regardless of the video viewed.
Since people are regularly confronted with cheap and accessible tasty foods, self-control strategies that are easy to implement when encountering these foods are more likely to be effective for improving dietary choices, said Ethan Kross, a professor of psychology who has extensively researched distanced self-talk.
The researchers said making minor changes in eating can make a difference in people's lives.
"We do know that even reducing caloric intake by a couple hundred calories a day can be important for preventing unhealthy weight gain and promoting weight loss," said Ashley Gearhardt, an associate professor of psychology. "We need to do additional studies in the future about the impact of distanced self-talk on actual caloric intake, but even small improvements can lead to big public health gains over time."
The study has been published in Clinical Psychological Science.