FIT Science in Psychological and Physical Well-Being
Abstract The present programme of research discusses a series of studies which explore the relationships between individual characteristics and well being. The FIT theory (e.g.Fletcher & Stead, 2000a) was used as a framework. It attempts to explain individual’s cognitions and behaviours using two broad dimensions: an ‘Inner’ dimension which details factors used to guide decision making (a cognitive dimension), and an ‘Outer’ dimension which focuses on behaviour. The research explored whether FIT was directly or indirectly related to well being. Initial findings from an exploratory, cross-sectional, study revealed that individuals with greater ‘Inner’ FITness demonstrated significantly lower levels of anxiety and depression. They also perceived their work and personal projects more positively. Individuals with greater ‘Outer’ FITness were found to demonstrate better physical well being. This latter finding was replicated in the second study which explored why individuals with reater ‘Outer’ FITness would demonstrate a significantly lower Body Mass Index (BMI). The results showed that ‘Outer’ FITness did not relate to weight management behaviours, such as controlling calorie intake or regular exercise, measured over a week, via the components of the Theory of Planned Behaviour (e.g. Ajzen, 1991). It was hypothesised that it may instead be underpinned by habitual behaviour. Study 3 explored whether ‘Outer’ FITness could be trained and whether this would impact on habits and BMI. A longitudinal pilot intervention was run which encouraged individuals to Do Something Different in order to change habits and facilitate weight loss. Doing something different did increase ‘Outer’ FITness and this increase had a ‘dose-response- relationship with BMI change – the greater the increase in ‘Outer’ FITness, the greater the decrease in BMI. This was accompanied by changes to dietary and exercise behaviours. A qualitative follow up of a sub-sample revealed that doing something different did facilitate changes to some habitual behaviours but the formation of implementation intention plans was also a significant contributor to weight loss. Further research is required to elucidate the exact relationship between behavioural flexibility, habitual behaviour and weight loss.