"Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard" isn't a foodie book. It's an everyone book. As a recommended reading for my dietetic internship, I scrolled through the first chapter of Switch which is available for free online. The first paragraph is all about food consumption and portion size with an experiment by Mindless Eating guru Brian Wansink. In fact, Mindless Eating was my first taste of books about food and behavior in high school! Needless to say I was hooked.

Using this first example of the overly sized popcorn bucket, Switch goes on to explain how to make change happen using a basic three part framework to change ANY behavior. They say that problems are like a rider trying to direct an elephant to move across a certain path.

  • Direct the Rider. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity. So provide crystal-clear direction.
  • Motivate the Elephant. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion. The Rider can't get his way by force for very long. So it's critical that you engage people's emotional side—get their Elephants on the path and cooperative.
  • Shape the Path. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem. We call the situation (including the surrounding environment) the "Path." When you shape the Path, you make change more likely, no matter what's happening with the Rider and Elephant.
For dietitians who want to change the way people think about healthy eating habits, for people who want to change the way a large company does something, and even for parents who want to change the way their child behaves at home, Switch has an answer.
Don't have time to read the book? Here are my favorite tidbits for the nutrition world:
  • Say you're at a kitchen store; there are 2 jam displays. One display has 6 different jams and the other has 24 jams. Shoppers are more attracted to the larger display but fail to make a decision to purchase. Shoppers who only saw the 6 jam display are 10 TIMES MORE LIKELY to buy a jar. Think of it as decision paralysis. Do you give your clients too many options to change behaviors?
  • Telling America to 'be healthier' doesn't work. It's too vague! We need to script the behaviors to make the path to health easy. In a study of change efforts, subjects were divided into 3 performance groups. The top third, the average, and the least successful. Across the three levels around 85% of each group set goals. However, the more successful group had change when BEHAVIORAL goals were set: 89% of the most successful set behavioral goals vs only 33% of the least successful group.
This is my top book of the summer. Getting people to change their eating habits is hard, so maybe it's time to Switch how you think.