Your health goals – prepare, practice, prevail

This is a world where economies are sustained, policies worth billion dollars made across geographies. Welcome to the world of health economics, where information of every sort woven into the very fundamentals of nutrition.

Learning from our own mistake is bygone in today’s time. Now rational decision-making is a tool to live healthy, wealthy and happy life following ‘nudge’ a term coined by Nobel Prize winner economist, Thaler.

Nudge draws human psychology and thinking to better the decision-making of an individual. By health behavioral modifications without any subsequent compulsion.

Behavioral economics: An Intriguing Factor

Nobel Prize winner Richard H Thaler (2018) has been much acclaimed for his remarkable contributions in the field of “Behavioral Economics”. One can easily draw the analogy from his empirical findings and insights of his Nudge theory, which are instrumental in getting to the thoughts of people in choosing between two options.

It is a human tendency that people go for easiest over the wisest, even presenting with facts about healthy eating people tend to choose processed foods like burger and chips over healthy alternatives.

Poor decision, lack of thinking on time and lethargic habits account for picking the wrong one even knowing its negative impacts on health. Having captured the essence of “Behavioral Economics”, the theory aligned itself accordingly and is poised to become one of the most profitable panaceas to all health-related issues.

Triad of Behavioral Economics, Psychology and Economics-

Thaler suggests that triad of behavioral economics, psychology, and economics contribute to irrational decision-making.

Decisions such as whether to go to graduate school, whether to continue on healthy lifestyle or how to save money for the retirement makes an important part of one’s planning in their life at one point of time.

Behavioral economics explains why an individual decides one thing instead of going for other alternatives. Also, behavioral economics can direct any individual in making rational decisions on health and happiness.

Thaler’s nudge theory improves self-control towards beneficial health behavioral modifications in terms of healthy eating habits.

# Nudge 1- For School/ College by Rearranging the Cafeteria

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Without changing any menus experiment with the way food is displayed and arranged influence the choice of kids. This experiment can be achieved by keeping healthy foods like fruit salad at the eye level and processed foods at the last counter.

Make healthy food a default option, for example replacing French fries with sliced apples in children’s meal and limiting portion sizes as well.

As a nutritionist, I’m sure this will surely increase the consumption of healthy foods and decrease that of unhealthy ones. By changing the way of context in which people will make decisions with possible alternatives to go with.

# Nudge 2- For Patients Providing them with Alternative Treatment Plans

A doctor can help a patient by providing alternative treatment plans so that one can go with a proper health plan that suits best to the patient. For instance, if you are suffering from chronic kidney disease and doctor proposes kidney transplant.

You will definitely want to know about the odds. Now a doctor can nudge by positive framing of the statement. For instance, “out of hundred patients who went for a kidney transplant, ninety are leading a healthy and normal life after six years.

Rather than a negative statement, “out of hundred patients ten are dead after kidney transplant”.

Even doctors are more likely to recommend the operation/ transplant responding to the framing effects of the two contrasting statements as mentioned above (1).

# Nudge 3- Healthy Eating by Resisting Temptation (2)

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When you are hungry and have an appetite for pizza as aromas coming from the kitchen, you are said to be in a hot state. When you think of pizza that you will consume on Sunday before dinner, you are in a cold state. As mentioned by behavioral economist George Loewenstein (1996) ‘hot-cold empathy gap’ (3).

It does not confirm that decisions/ desires made in cold state will not be altered when we are under the influence of arousal. These conditions can possibly explain the reason behind failure in exercise, quit smoking and alcohol.

# Nudge 4- Transform following the Herd

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Humans like to confirm other humans and learn from social influences. Ingredients of social nudge involve information and peer pressure or priming.

To its evidence one of the research findings also prove that obesity is contagious. In other words, if your friend is obese or overweight, you are likely to become to gain weight (4).

# Nudge 5- The Default Rule at your Rescue in Effective Decision Making

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The default rule basically comes at your rescue when you are uncertain in decision-making. For instance, whether investing or not in a healthcare plan, organ donation or savings for future. In this government official or private sectors can play a major role.

Further, in setting one policy as the default option if it results in effective outcome over numerous other options.

According to The World Health Report 2000 pronounced that increased public financing for healthcare is an integral part of the endeavor to achieve equity of access (5).

# Nudge 6- Self Control Approaches to harness the power of Nudge

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Recent studies in Neuroeconomics demonstrate the evidence of a bimodal system of self-control. To clarify, a myopic ‘doer’ increases arousal behavior and a far-sighted ‘planner’ that suppress temptation.

In case of smoking and over-eating, the two sides of the brain are in conflict. Either it will stop you or tempt you as one is bound to lose.

Tip: Get small packets of food you like a small plate and never keep tempting food in your refrigerator.

Bottom-line-

Appraisal tendency framework curtails rationality in decision-making. As different emotions trigger different cognitive and motivational way that limits the time to make decisions.

This can be achieved by better placement of healthier foods on the shelves of a supermarket. In addition, updating one’s kitchen cabinet with healthier alternatives.

Making rational decisions while picking up foods in grocery shop with a guided motivation.

Rational decision-making serves as a raw material to build a healthy foundation of an individual. A shift in thinking approach will surely lift your nutritional status by fostering healthy eating habits.

References:

  • Thaler R.H, Sunstein C.R (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth and Happiness. New York:  Yale University Press.
  • Tversky, Amos, and Daniel Kahneman. ‘The Framing of Decisions and the Psychology of Choice’. Science 211 (1981): 453- 58.
  • Thaler, R.H, and Shefrin H.M. ‘An Economic Theory of Self Control’. Journal of Political Economy 89 (1981): 392-406.
  • Loewenstein G. ‘Out of control: Visceral Influences on Behavior’. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 65 (1996): 272-92.
  • Cialdini R. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. New York: Quill, 1993.
  • World Health Organization. World Health Report 2000- Health systems: Improving performance Geneva: World Health Organization; 2000.

2 thoughts on “6 Health Behavioral Modifications for Healthy Food

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