There are many theories on the best way to get a person change their habits. I’ve read and tried many of them. After several years of my Epic Weight Loss Journey, however, I’ve decided that the best ways to change are small. They are especially advantageous if they cause mindfulness, and result in a change of thought patterns.
One of my favorite agents of change is the Hawthorne Effect. There is a really fantastic story behind it too:
“In 1924, a series of studies were started in a factory just outside of Chicago. Most of the studies were in an attempt to discover how the brightness of the lights in the factory affected the productivity of the workers. The workers knew a study was being conducted.
A strange thing happened. When they turned the lights down, productivity went up. When they turned the lights up, productivity went up again. Once the study was over, productivity went down.
Thus was born the Hawthorne Effect, the idea that when people know they are being observed, they will modify their behavior outside of any scientific controls.” - Kevin Mogavero, of Social Capital Magazine,
Simply put, our behavior (even the behavior of the electrons in our brains!) changes for the better when we feel we are being watched.
Applying the Hawthorne effect to health and fitness is easy. Recording what one eats (or how much one exercises) is an easy way to:
- Enforce accountability
- Provide insight
- Change habits
So, this week I’m encouraging everyone to record every meal they have this week and “publish” it in a food journal. My hope is that seeing what you eat on the page will be enough to encourage you to change and get you thinking about food differently. The most important thing to remember about the Hawthorne Effect, however, is that it isn’t meant to be used as a tool forever. It can’t be! After a period of time the results of the Hawthorne Effect level out. The ultimate reason to use the Hawthorne Effect is to gain insight and hopefully change your actions and thinking patterns for the long term (without the use of a regular monitoring tool).
The Step: Record
Record every meal you have this week and “publish” it in a food journal.
- Commit to writing down everything you consume this week.
- Pick a trigger that will remind you to record what you consume at each meal/snack time (For example: Will you write it all down before you eat? Or after you eat?)
- Set a reminder (or make a mental note) to do this each day.
- Choose how and where you will be recording your meals (For example: In a spiral notebook, on a new blog, by taking a picture and uploading to Tumblr, in a word document, etc.)
- Record everything you consume for a week
As always it is up to you to choose whether you will repeat this step in the future or keep right on going with it until you feel you need to stop. I only ask that you commit to a week (if it makes sense to you).
P.S. If you survived week one of 52 weeks, 52 steps - congrats! How did step one go last week? I’m dying to know! Please let me know in the comments!
P.P.S. If you’re just joining us, read all about 52 weeks, 52 steps here. You can get caught up on all the steps here (there aren’t many yet) and If you’d like to your weekly step in your inbox sign up for a subscription to my blog here.
P.P.P.S. Have questions for me? Leave them in the comments or ask away!