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Making the Switch

Posted At: January 7, 2014 9:28 a.m.
by Jacquie McMahon

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone swears to hit the gym at least three times a week, cut down on soda and eliminate all bad habits. Every time January 1 rolls around, people across the world are looking for change. By February 1, most of those people fall back to their couch-potato alter egos. Little do they know the secret to their undiscovered success lies in the bestselling book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. In this book, Chip and Dan Heath address how to make this change stick, despite that craving for an Oreo cookie.

“It’s Your Move!”
The “It’s Your Move!” campaign helped fight childhood obesity in the Tuscaloosa, Ala., area. Led by four undergraduate students and faculty adviser Teri Henley, the public relations initiative urged children to make healthier lifestyle choices, specifically emphasizing exercise during the hours of 3-5 p.m.

Setting a specific time period enhanced the success of the campaign, and it was inspired directly by Switch. Henley, who encouraged the “It’s Your Move!” team members to read Switch prior to the campaign planning process, found inspiration for behavior modification campaigns within the book’s suggestions.

“When campaigns try to change everything rather than focusing on the tangible doable, it is overwhelming for the target audience,” Henley said. “If an audience doesn’t get an immediate take-away, they tend to tune the message out.”

With a topic as expansive as childhood obesity, Switch helped the team narrow down specific goals and objectives.Switch_Fitness-300x121

“If you want people to change, you don’t ask them to ‘act healthier,'” the book suggests. “You say, ‘Next time you’re in the dairy aisle of the grocery store, reach for a jug of 1% milk instead of whole milk.'”

The book uses case studies and psychological evidence to prove the success of campaigns focused on improving one lifestyle trait, like improving health simply by drinking a different type of milk.

Jessica Melton, current editorial coordinator for Software Advice, worked on the “It’s Your Move!” campaign when she was a student at The University of Alabama.

Switch gave us a direct purpose,” Melton said. “We knew if we wanted to make a difference among these children, we had to give them something simple, direct and effective.”

The health initiative proved to be challenging, but Switch‘s principles helped the team conquer the national issue.

“It just seems overwhelming to ‘get healthy,’ but when you break it down to a small practical change, it seems easier,” Henley said.

Encouraging movement for two hours each day made the anti-obesity campaign easier for children to understand and act out. The team’s successful strategies earned them an Honorable Mention in the 2012 PRSSA Bateman Case Study Competition, placing in the top 19 schools in the country.

Henley called Switch “inspiring” and commented, “It makes you want to find a cause and use the principles presented to go address it. I highly recommend it to students, educators and professionals.”

Resolution Time
The book reveals that to accomplish lasting success, campaigns must appeal to a rational side as well as a much larger emotional side of the brain. This is true for any behavior change, from public relations campaigns to slimming down for a great beach body.

Throughout Switch, the authors reference self-control. Believe it or not, self-control can run out. Psychologists have discovered that self-control is an exhaustible resource. Dan Heath pointed out that what seems like laziness (e.g., swearing to go to the gym several times a week and quitting after the first month) is exhaustion.

“I have observed professionally and personally that dietary changes may be the most difficult to make,” Henley said.

Anyone who has tried a crash diet or wished for more motivation for gym time would agree. However, Switch provides insight that helps make that change easier and permanent. This way of inspiring change is not only important for industry professionals; Switch can influence personal lives, helping to reduce bad habits or encourage good ones.

Switch‘s principles are easily translated into everyday life,” Melton said. “I definitely keep them top-of-mind when establishing new goals for myself since reading the book.”

Melton suggested setting simple, doable tasks for self-improvement goals like New Year’s resolutions. She recommended opting for a “healthy routine change” instead of counting calories or pounds, which can often lead to frustration.

The exhaustive aspect of self-control is why it’s important to set realistic goals. For this New Year’s resolution, focus on a change you can accomplish — or focus on reading Switch!


  1. Post comment

    I really enjoyed this article for several reasons. I know how hard it can be for people to completely eliminate bad eating habits that they have had for years. The “It’s Your Move” offers alternate, realistic perspectives for how children can cut back on sugary foods and adopt a healthier diet. I am interested in learning more about the book, Switch, and how to successfully get a message through to the target public in a campaign. It is important for a campaign team to have a narrow specific goal rather than try and go in and completely change everything that is wrong. I think it was especially important for this team to make specific and achievable goals because they were working with children. For instance, it is easier to encourage children to set an hour aside to exercise a day, rather than just telling them they need to get healthier and eat less. I think this approach that Switch offers will make all campaigns more successful.

  2. Post comment

    I was automatically drawn to this post. I am one of those people that have participated in a healthy eating New Year’s resolution. I really enjoyed this post, especially the way that this book helped create the goals and objectives of the student’s campaign. Obesity may be a major issue in our society today, but this issue can be solved not only in a healthier way, but also in an easier way. Making big life changes can be difficult and this book is a great source of advice on how to set small goals that will be easy for one to achieve. The students used the idea from the book to focus on improving one thing at a time, rather than all at once. With this, they encouraged young kids to get outside and exercise just for those two hours every day. I like this advice because when changing a lifestyle trait, you need to take it one step at a time or you may break down and go back to your old ways. I have learned to do this through my New Year’s Resolution, and I have been able to improve my health by gradually adding more changes. Not only does this article make the readers want to go out and read this book, but you can see the differences that students are making in young children’s lives through this anti-obesity campaign.

  3. Post comment

    I definitely enjoyed reading this post. The topic is relevant in our society today and especially around college campuses. The tips about making the changes doable is important to remember. I know people in my own life who try the quick fix crash diets and always end up getting right back where they started. Knowing that you can go from changing to a healthier milk or maybe less of something not so good for you and get results is astounding. Once someone realizes this one small change then the rest will follow. The resolution time part wrapped up the whole post perfectly. It said a healthy routine change is what a person should strive for rather than a drastic quick fix. Overall great writing!


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