I attended some really interested training recently – Elevate Your Anti Diet Message with Fiona Sutherland and Christy Harrison.

One of the sessions was about integrating values into anti diet communication.

It got me thinking about how this applies to anti diet content marketing and thought I would share what I learnt from a content marketing lens.

As health professionals, we might already have a good handle on our own values, but it may also be helpful to understand the values that guide our target audience when we’re thinking about our marketing pieces.

For anti diet health professionals in private practice, quite often the target audience may be ambivalent about anti diet and HAES approaches to treatment.

Which means that anti diet content marketing needs to change mindsets, perceptions … and activate values.

If it doesn’t, it can be difficult for some folk to connect with the content and feel comfortable that anti diet and HAES approaches are for them.

In this blog I’ll explain what I’ve learnt about values (skim over this if you’re already values-savvy!) and how values priming in content marketing may help connect with your target audience.

What are values?

Values are often shaped by our lived and direct experience.

They are how we show up in the world.

Our “why”.

They can be intrinsic (generated by self) and extrinsic (influenced by external factors).

Intrinsic values are usually those that are rewarding such as love, creativity, unity with nature. These values often lead to greater personal wellbeing and generates pro-social attitudes and behaviours.  

Extrinsic values are associated with external reward or endorsement such as wealth, success, social status. These values often lead to reduced personal wellbeing and lower levels of pro-social and environmental attitudes and behaviours.

In content marketing, we can apply our values intra personally via channels such as on our website and our social media channels.

Or they can be applied inter personally in our educational materials and resources.

What is Schwartz’s Values Theory?

We can categorise personal values as per Schwartz’s Values Theory (2012).

Schwartz’s theory stems from his huge study that analysed the personal values across highly diverse cultural, geographic, gender, age and religious groups.

He found 10 broad personal values that were shared across all groups.

They were:

  • “Self-Direction – Defining goal: independent thought and action–choosing, creating, exploring.”
  • “Stimulation – Defining goal: excitement, novelty, and challenge in life.”
  • “Hedonism – Defining goal: pleasure or sensuous gratification for oneself.”
  • “Achievement – Defining goal: personal success through demonstrating competence according to social standards.”
  • “Power – Defining goal: social status and prestige, control or dominance over people and resources.”
  • “Security – Defining goal: safety, harmony, and stability of society, of relationships, and of self.” (Note: this value shows up as fear of loss of these things)
  • “Conformity – Defining goal: restraint of actions, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations or norms.”
  • “Tradition – Defining goal: respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one’s culture or religion provides.”
  • “Benevolence – Defining goal: preserving and enhancing the welfare of those with whom one is in frequent personal contact (the ‘in-group’).”
  • “Universalism – Defining goal: understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection for the welfare of all people and for nature.”

At the heart of Schwartz’s theory is the above circle showing which values conflict and which are similar. Values towards the top right are intrinsic values and values in the lower left are extrinsic values.

Values close together have similar motivations, whereas values that are distant from each other are more antagonistic.

For example, values of universalism, benevolence that centre around the concern for the welfare and interest of others is in conflict with power, achievement values that centre around self-interest, success and control over others.

In his study, Schwartz points out that while values can motivate actions, we aren’t likely to be conscious of these in our everyday actions. We are more likely to be aware of values if we were considering an action that was in contradiction to another value that we cherish.

You see, we hold values in order of importance – and the order of importance guides our actions.

Surprisingly Schwartz’s study found there to be consensus on the hierarchical order of the values.

The most important values seen by individuals were benevolence, universalism, and self-direction and the least important values were power and stimulation.

How does values work relate to anti diet content marketing?

In anti diet content marketing, we talk a lot about creating a fairer and more just world – we are communicating intrinsic values.

For anti diet content marketing to stick, we need to activate these intrinsic values in others.

This can be achieved through values priming.

Values priming can help influence how our target audience acts and thinks. Not in a mind-altering, manipulative way, but in a thoughtful way that helps them identify with the value we are hoping they enact.

Values Priming Example

Please note that the following example is my interpretation from the training course. This example may not be appropriate for all, but I wanted to find a simple example that would allow a practical example for values priming.

Let’s say your target audience is folks recovering from chronic dieting and ambivalent about letting go of weight-based goals.

We may want to help activate values that centre around self compassion (the self direction value).

But in doing so, we need to be careful as to not enact values such as fearing loss of “health” or loss of belonging or loss of “self” (the security value).

In values priming, we communicate shared feelings rather than facts, because emotions can be influential. We are also thoughtful in our language and how we frame our messaging.

Facts are still important, but we want our target audience to know that who they are matters and that they are valued as people. We also want them to see points of agreement early on.

For example, if I was writing a piece about letting go of weight-based goals, I would front load my blog with messaging such as:

“Everyone deserves self compassion”
(shared feeling)

“We are compassionate towards others, why don’t we show the same compassion to ourselves?”
(point of agreement)

“Showing self compassion means treating ourselves with self care, being kind to ourselves and caring for the body that we have now.”
(activating intrinsic values)

“All bodies deserve to be in this world.”
(activating intrinsic values)

You want to front load your content with points of agreement to hold your audience’s attention. Then you can continue to sprinkle the content with other intrinsic values that you’re hoping they will enact.

If they identify with the shared feelings, they will likely engage with a more open mind when you present data later about weight science.

We know from Schwartz’s study that we all share intrinsic values – we just prioritise them differently.

Also, because of diet culture, intrinsic values are easily pushed down the level of importance scale.

But with values priming, we can activate intrinsic values in our target audience that centre around social justice, inclusivity, self respect, self love, self compassion which may help them to connect with your anti diet content.


Understanding the values that are guiding your target audience can be an important exercise.

Values priming can help activate intrinsic values in your target audience which can help them to engage with your anti diet content and your anti diet message.

At a more global level, the more we elevate, highlight and activate intrinsic values in others, the closer we are to created more inclusive, compassionate and connected communities.

I’d love to hear if you use values priming in your anti diet content marketing – drop a comment below if you do !


Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values. Online Readings in Psychology and Culture2, 1. Online: http://dx.doi.org/10.9707/2307-0919.1116

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