Adaptive Planning: Using Implementation Intentions as a Metacognitive Strategy to Change Unhealthy Snacking Habits
A. Verhoeven1, M. Adriaanse1, E. de Vet1, B. Fennis1
1Utrecht University, Clinical and Health Psychology, the Netherlands
Background: Implementation intentions effectively change unhealthy snacking habits by creating an association between a detailed situation and alternative. Yet such plans are rather inflexible. We tested whether if-then plans can be taught as a metacognitive strategy (MCS) teaching people to use and adapt this strategy independently. Methods: After keeping a 7-day snack diary, participants (N=73; community sample) received a planning strategy (implementation intentions, MCS, control). MCS instructions involved three steps: planning, monitoring, evaluating, and participants learned to adapt plans accordingly. Caloric intake was assessed with a diary after one and two months. Findings: Results showed main effects of condition and time (p’s<.05) and a marginally significant interaction (p=.07). The MCS was found most effective in reducing unhealthy snacking. Discussion: Providing the instructions just once, implementation intentions can be taught as a MCS. People learn to adapt plans to changing situations resulting in behaviour change maintenance. Boundaries regarding the use of if-then plans are addressed and an effective and applicable strategy for interventions is demonstrated.