In this article, we’ll share the one word that can make you 8X more likely to achieve your health goals.

We’ll discuss how to empower yourself to create healthier habits and resist temptation. From working out to eating well to spending more time with your family, psychologists say it’s as easy as using the right words.

Here is how you can talk your way into better habits. 

a healthier life is one word away ryan and alex duo life microphone

a healthier life is one word away

“I don’t” vs. “I can’t”

A series of studies published in the Journal of Consumer Research show that certain words can subconsciously alter your actions. It’s a reminder that you can “fake it until you make it” even with health and fitness.

The main study divided women into three groups following a health seminar. All of the women were told to choose one longterm health-related goal.

The first set of women (the control group) were told to “just say no” in the face of temptation. No other further strategies were given.

The second group of women were told to say, “I can’t” as in, “I can’t miss a workout today.”

The third group of women were told to say, “I don’t” as in, “I don’t miss a workout.” Here are the results of the study:

  • 30% of the first control group achieved their health goal every day for 10 days.
  • 10% of the “I can’t” group achieved their health goal every day for 10 days.
  • 80% of the “I don’t” group achieved their health goal every day for 10 days.

Utilizing positive language to empower yourself is a highly effective habit booster.

Empowering Yourself With Words

By saying “I don’t” instead of “I can’t” increases chances of success eight-fold.

The words “I can’t” come from a place of restriction while “I don’t” comes from a place of identity and empowerment. That’s why having no strategy at all (like the control group) is even 3X more effective than the “I can’t” restriction group.

Let’s face it, no one wants restriction and deprivation. That’s why so many diets fail. Saying, “I can’t drink soda” makes you want to drink the soda. Instead, make it a point to say, “I don’t drink soda.” This gives the power and control back to you — and not the soda.

My Personal Experiment

Given my goal to maintain or lose weight, I recently employed a healthy alcohol consumption strategy by deciding to not drink more than one alcoholic beverage a night. It was a success and it was so simple!

I was aware of each time I ordered a drink and made it count. I deliberated over drink menus and chose something that I could sip slowly for longer. No one noticed* and I felt better about my evenings while still enjoying myself.

I stayed within the health parameters I set and when I saw others ordering round two, I told myself, “I don’t drink more than one drink.”

* The only time my family noticed was when I ordered something non-alcoholic like tea. Brutal, I know! I didn’t let it change my mind but it’s a warning that people do pick up on it if it’s outside your expected norm. I told them my rule and they respected my decision.

Psychology in Action

In addition, study upon study shows the power of empowering yourself. In the medical world, there’s a term called “engaged patients” for patients who take ownership and control of their health.

These engaged patients consistently show better outcomes: they’re 20% less likely to experience a medical error and 13% less likely to be readmitted to a hospital after discharge.

That’s significant considering all we’re talking about is a mindset shift towards empowerment. The problem is only 9% of patients are ranked as engaged patients.

What Can You Do?

How can you better empower yourself to eat healthier, work out more, and spend higher quality time with your family? Make a decision today about who you are.

Are you “the person who eats vegetables with every meal?” or “the person who says ‘no’ to desserts in the office kitchen?” or “the person who carries her own water bottle everywhere?”

Say “I don’t” instead of “I can’t.” You’ve got nothing to lose and, at the minimum, it helps you pause long enough to make a healthy decision.



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The creators of Ryan and Alex Duo Life. We are a husband-wife duo and “lifestyle engineers.”

After eight years working in the corporate world as engineers, we left our high-powered jobs to tackle our true passion — helping couples engineer their best lives.

The synergy of our engineering minds and ten years of health coaching experience produced Ryan and Alex Duo Life. Our mission is to help you transform your bodies, minds, and relationship as a couple.

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