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Day 9: Lesson 3: Harnessing Your Habits

Have you ever noticed that it’s easier to manage bad habits when we’re on vacation?

You might have even made a whole bunch of resolutions: “When I get home I’m going to…” Why? Because you’re away from the triggers that initiate those behaviors—the stressful job, the brutal schedule, the lack of sleep. No, I can’t give you a permanent vacation, but I can help you identify and eliminate those triggers.

Breaking the Behavioral Chain

If you’ve ever reacted to a bad day by eating a whole bag of chips or an entire pint of ice cream, you’re not alone. But if you analyze your behavior, you’ll discover that eating in this way usually isn’t caused by one single event, but rather by a chain of events, known as a behavioral chain.

Let’s say, for example, that you ate a whole bag of cookies one afternoon. On the surface, you simply went to the kitchen, got the cookies, and started eating. But on closer examination, you can see that a whole series of antecedents led up to this behavior… starting, innocently enough, with the clipping of a coupon.

  • Clipped a coupon for fifty cents off your favorite cookies.
  • Looked through the coupon box while making a shopping list and decided to use the cookie coupon.
  • Bought the bag of cookies.
  • Put the cookies in the cupboard.
  • Had nothing to do on Sunday.
  • Felt bored.
  • Developed the urge to eat.
  • Went to the cupboard and saw the cookies.
  • Brought them out, opened them, and ate two while standing at the counter.
  • Took the bag into the living room and continued to eat while reading the Sunday paper.
  • Finished the whole bag in fifteen minutes.

The good thing about a behavior chain is that it can be broken at any one of those links, often in several ways. Here are a few:

Links of the Chain Ways to Break the Chain
Clipped a coupon. Don’t clip any coupon you don’t want (for high-calorie foods, for example!).
Looked through coupon box. Only look for coupons that match your program foods.
Bought cookies. Shop from a list. Don’t buy cookies!
Placed cookies in front of cupboard. “Hide” cookies in cupboard or give them to your neighbor.
Nothing to do on Sunday. Plan weekend activities…bike, walk, go shopping.
Felt bored. Have a list of things to get accomplished around the house.
Developed urge to eat. Wait 15 minutes, drink a big glass of water, have a healthy snack.
Went to kitchen cupboard. Take a walk. Get out of the house.
Ate out of the bag. Take out one cookie and put it on a plate. Put bag away. Sit down to eat slowly.
Ate in living room while reading. Eat only when sitting at the table. Don’t get distracted by TV or a book.
Finished cookies in 15 minutes. Slow down and be aware of what you’re doing and eating.

You now have a better understanding of how a behavioral chain works and the many opportunities that you have to break any given behavioral chain. Start to experiment with breaking your own behavioral chains. At the very least, start becoming more aware of the behavioral chains in your life that lead to Habits of Disease. But don’t get frustrated. We are still making small steady steps toward a better you, and we will keep working on breaking your bad habits.

Little by little, we’ll get there.

In health,





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