Changing the way you eat, easier than you think?

We all know it’s hard to change. And the behaviours we want to change most seem hardest. How many of you have made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, or buy organic or fair-trade, only to fall short at the 20 box chicken McNugget shaped hurdle. Well, there are some ways to alter your behaviour according to your own specified guidelines.

Implementation Intentions are techniques which one can use to help reach personal goals. In essence, an implementation intention is mentally linking a specific situation with a specific response (Gollwitzer, 1999). For example, ‘When I am in Tesco Express (situation), I will not buy any chocolate (response)’. Forming this mental link creates an association in memory meaning you will be more likely to follow through with your goal; more so than if you just say to yourself ‘I’m going to try and eat less chocolate’.

So, how to utilise this handy technique? First specify your location: corner shop, supermarket, standing at your drawer full of takeaway menus. Next specify your desired response: I will buy fair-trade goods wherever possible; I will not buy caged hen eggs; I will not order a takeaway from somewhere that uses unsustainable produce. Now you form your implementation intention, by repeating your statement either in your head or out-loud. For example, you could say, 3 times over, ‘When I am in the supermarket, I will not buy caged hen eggs’. And the next time you’re in the supermarket, chances are you’ll be buying some no-guilt free-range eggs instead.

Implementation intentions have been shown effective in not just influencing eating behaviours (Armitage, 2004), but also alcohol consumption (Gill & Donaghy, 2004), and stopping smoking  (Armitage, 2008).

But why bother eating sustainably? We need a food system that’s fair for all. Fair pay for the indepentend producer, fair price for the consumer, fair treatment of our planet. In this way, we can help sustain production of not just our favourite foods, but help keep local businesses alive, and reduce the environmental damage to the planet.  


PEET’s final blog post will be tomorrow, where we shall talk Biophilia



Armitage, C. J. (2004). Evidence that implementation intentions reduce dietary fat intake: A randomized trial. Health Psychology, 23, 319-323.

Armitage, C. J. (2008). A volitional help sheet to encourage smoking cessation: a randomized exploratory trial. Health Psychology, 27(5), 557.

Gill, J., & Donaghy, M. (2004). Variation in the alcohol content of a ‘drink’ of wine and spirit poured by a sample of the Scottish population. Oxford Journals; Medicine; Health Education Research , Vol 19; 485-491.

Gollwitzer, P. M. (1999). Implementation intentions: Strong effects of simple plans. American Psychologist , 54, 493-503.

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