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Blog / 2016 / April / Summit Spotlight: Using Self-Affirmation...
April 2, 2016

Summit Spotlight: Using Self-Affirmation Theory for Positive Behavior Change

by Kara Mohr

Health fitness professionals, health care practitioners, and students are gathered this week at ACSM's 20th annual Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition - taking place March 29-April 1 in Orlando. Follow all the action online by looking for the hashtag #ACSMSummit16, or learn more about educational & career opportunities at acsmsummit.org.

Yesterday, Mary Yoke led a full room of ACSM Health & Fitness Summit attendees through the tenets (and benefits) of self-affirmation theory. No, she didn't have us look in the mirror and repeat affirmations a la Stuart Smalley in the famous Saturday Night Live Skit. She did, however, review some of the 144 empirical studies documenting the evidence supporting this theory.

The theory of self-affirmation looks at how individuals see themselves and adapt to information or experiences that are threatening to their self-concept. The underlying conceptual framework is that self-affirmation decreases fear, integrity threat and resistance to new behaviors. Decreasing resistance leads to greater message acceptance and increased intention to change.

Self-affirmation theory has been shown to increase self-confidence and the resolve to overcome difficult situations, which may be particularly important for pre-contemplators. In a study of obese participants, those who were self-affirmed consumed significantly more fruits and vegetables over a seven day period than non-affirmed controls.

So how does someone use self-affirmation? Start by writing a statement of your strengths and values. Repeat the statement over the course of days/weeks until it is something you memorize. Watch as you become more positive and have greater confidence in who you are and what you offer the world!

Dr. Kara Mohr, Ph.D., is an internationally known educator in the area of weight loss, behavior change and exercise. She is co-owner of Mohr Results, Inc. and was previously an assistant professor at the University of Louisville and the assistant director of the Physical Activity & Weight Management Research Center at the University of Pittsburgh.

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