Optimistic women are at an advantage when it comes to adopting healthy eating habits and increasing diet quality, research suggests, with positive attitudes proving to be a valuable tool in making healthful choices and adhering to dietary restrictions.
The findings held true when the women took it upon themselves to make amendments to their eating habits as well as when they were instructed by medical professionals to do so. The study parsed data accrued by the Women's Health Initiative, looking at the dietary habits of around 33,500 women. Of that group, approximately 20,000 were looking to change their eating habits of their own volition, while the remaining 13,500 adhered to a medically-supervised nutritional program. Each of the women was post-menopausal and aged between 50 and 79. The women completed surveys at the beginning of their dietary changes and again a year later, with the first survey including a questionnaire asking them to self-evaluate their overall happiness and optimism levels, as well as drawing information about their diets. The second survey had them review their diets again to determine whether or not they'd adhered to the changes.
The researchers found that the women in the top 33 percent of the group's optimism bracket were the most successful at maintaining the changes, regardless of whether or not they were part of the structured nutrition program. Interestingly, the women who began with less healthful diets also tended to be more pessimistic throughout the duration of the study.
However, the researchers were quick to urge that optimism itself wasn't key to effectively implementing changes - rather, it was the emotional tools that came with a happier disposition. "It's not just having a sunny outlook - rather, this is a marker of other things people do," said study leader Melanie Hingle, a dietician at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "People who want to make lifestyle changes should focus on skill-based factors that can help them whether or not they are an optimist... "It doesn't really matter if you're an optimist or a pessimist. Either way, you can make positive changes to your diet," she said."
The study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.