Everyone May Have Been Wrong About Health ‘Makeovers’ All Along

Conventional wisdom dictates that if you want to make a big life change, you have to start small. Want to lose weight? One good first step might be to drink more water. Want to get fit? Start with a walk around the block.

While these small changes may slowly lead reluctant people down the path of well-being without depleting precious stores of willpower, research out of the University of California, Santa Barbara suggests that this incremental approach to life change may be well-intentioned but completely wrongheaded. If you want to get fit, be more mindful, eat healthier, have better relationships and be a better person, do it all at once.

“Science and society more generally may be significantly underestimating the human capacity to change,” said Michael Mrazek, director of research at UCSB’s Center for Mindfulness and Human Potential. “In some cases, the strategy of only pursuing one small change at a time might actually be counterproductive and frustrating for some people.”

One easy change vs. a whole bunch of them

In traditional science experiments, researchers change just one thing about a person’s life and then observe how it affects them. That’s so they can attribute any changes between baseline and post-experiment to that one change without any other interfering influences. These studies enable scientists to suggest things like yoga can improve quality of life, or that a low-carbohydrate diet helps you lose more weight than a low-fat diet. It’s just good science.

But just because it’s good for an experiment doesn’t mean it’s the best application for the real world.

“You could do studies where you try to isolate one single component and then you can be very confident that component is causing the benefits, but that —> Read More