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Stanford Medicine

Behavioral Science, Nutrition, Research

Can moderate behavior revisions add up to better health?

“Take it Easy,” the Eagles once suggested in song. And those words easily could be used to describe new research from Northwestern University that found that a moderate approach to changing behavior could have a significant impact on health.

Healthland reports that investigators looked at unhealthy behaviors such as “consuming too much saturated fat, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, spending too much time being sedentary, and not getting adequate exercise” in their study of 204 adults who engaged in all four of the behaviors. From the article:

What [the researchers] found was that people didn’t have to attack all four problems at once. Rather, changing just two behaviors — namely reducing the amount of time they spent watching TV, and eating more fruits and veggies — had a ripple effect, leading to a healthier lifestyle overall.

“Increasing fruits and vegetables was especially confidence-enhancing for folks,” says [lead author Bonnie Spring, PhD, ABPP]. ”Once they’d achieved that change, they felt more confident about being able to make other diet and activity changes.”

The authors also say that cutting back on TV had an especially positive effect on the participants’ diet because of “behavior bundling” — when you’re sitting on the couch in front of the TV, you’re not exercising, you’re probably eating junk food mindlessly, and you’re watching commercials for other unhealthy foods.

Previously: Can edible “stop signs” revive portion control and curb overeating? and How eating motivated by pleasure affects the brain’s reward system and may fuel obesity
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