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WHY BEFRIENDING YOUR FUTURE SELF MAY BE THE KEY TO HEALTHIER EATING HABITS

Mar 06, 2014

When it comes to making healthy eating choices it can often feel like the cards are stacked against us. We live in a world where unhealthy and processed foods are always readily available and have even been shown to be addictive. In addition, we are bombarded by food related advertising at every turn. In 2010 it was estimated that adults ages 18-49 wereexposed to an average of 19.3 television food ads per day, a 24% increase since 2004. Given these facts, it can feel challenging to maintain healthy eating habits. But it’s not all bad news.Last week, Mangoman Nutrition provided some fabulous suggestions for making good habits stick and I’d like to add another to the rotation: connecting with your future self. 

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Recent research by Hal Hershfield, Assistant Professor of Marketing at NYU’s Stern School of Business, has demonstrated that developing and nurturing a relationship with our future self can assist us in making good choices in the here-and-now. Because most of us are disconnected, both emotionally and intellectually, from who we will be in the future we tend to privilege choices that provide instant gratification over those that would provide significant (and sometimes life saving) benefits in the future. However, when people can realistically imagine their future selves in a vivid and positive light they are increasingly able to make choices that will benefit that future self. For example, one study showed that when individuals had the opportunity to interact with virtual, age-progressed images of their future selves they were more likely to allocate funds to savings accounts. Additionally, forming a connection to the future self also appears to decrease engagement in delinquent or unethical behavior. 

So while the impact of this practice on eating choices has yet to be empirically tested, the existing research would suggest that channeling the future self may be a helpful tool in establishing healthier eating patterns. When we can visualize who we’ll be in the future and what we want our life to look like with as much clarity as possible we are more likely to make decisions that are aligned with that vision. So if your image of yourself at 65 is someone who is healthy looking, full of energy, and still engaging in your favorite activities like yoga or mountain climbing you may feel more inspired to pick the quinoa and the green juice over the burger and fries. 

So how can you get in touch with this future self so you can maximize your decision making potential? I recently had the chance to interview Dr. Hershfield about his research and we discussed two innovative ways to befriend your future self: 

1) Create An Age Progressed Image of Yourself 

If you are having a hard time visualizing who you will be in the future, websites like Merrill Edge’s Face Retirement or the iphone app aging booth can help. Both of these tools allow users to create an age progressed image in order to visualize what they might actually look like at a later age. Rather than keeping the image hanging on your bathroom mirror or looking at it daily, Dr. Hershfield suggests looking at it only before making important decisions. With regards to food related choices this might mean looking at it before heading to the grocery store or before going out to dinner. 

2) Write A Letter To Your Future Self 

Writing a letter to your future self is a great way to get in touch with the needs and desires of who you’ll be later on in life. Dr. Hershfield suggests writing a letter “in which one can accurately envision who the future self will be and what that distant self will want and desire.” The most important piece here, he explains, is taking the time to “fully think through how their future self would respond.” 

With regards to picking the best age to focus on, this really depends on what your particular goal is. Dr. Hershfield explained that if your goal is to be in better shape for some specific event in the future, like a wedding or a reunion, then you could try to think about yourself at that specific time period. If your goal is long term health and well-being then it may be useful to envision yourself at 65 or even 80. 

So regardless of what age you pick, ask your future self some important questions and really get specific about how you think that future self would respond. Need some ideas? Here are some questions that you might pose to your older self: What does your life look like on a daily basis? Where do you live and what is the quality of your life? How do you feel physically? What do you look like? What kind of activities are you engaged in? What are the experiences that you have had that have added the most value to your life? What are you grateful for? For an example, click here to read a letter I recently wrote to my future self. 

So go get in touch with the future you. Be creative and have fun with it. Please feel free to share your successes with me on twitter @Tempestalcsw

Daniela Tempesta, LCSW is a psychotherapist in private practice in San Francisco and a blogger for the Huffington Post. She specializes in helping people in their 20s and 30s to successfully navigate "quarterlife" concerns so they can create a life filled with authenticity, passion, and joy.  Daniela is a practitioner of mindfullness and meditation, which she incorporates into her work with clients and her writing.  Daniela is a compassionate listener and teacher and a fierce advocate of love.  Connect with Daniela on her websiteFacebook orTwitter.

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Daniela A. Tempesta. MSW, LCSW

Psycotherapy and Coaching

415.567.1640

"Your task is not to seek for love, nut merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it." -Rumi



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