Habit Hints Can Change Lives

Both recently and farther back, all our posts about establishing good habits show plenty of overlap. That is perfectly understandable, because if a technique effectively solves a problem, a lot of people will hear about it and try it, and then share the hot tip with a bunch of other people. From the random sample of habit-formation advice articles we have looked at over the past few days, it is obvious that certain methods are recommended over and over again. When it comes to good old common sense and self-preservation, few concepts are patentable.

Among the modern experts recently quoted by Childhood Obesity News, many recommend starting with “baby steps,” changes so tiny and easy they cannot be resisted. The persistent practice of small incremental improvements can work wonders. A person can build up an effective workout routine by starting with one pushup and a couple of squats each morning, and then by slowly but relentlessly adding on.

Practice vigilance

And what if you skip a day? It happens. But… slack off for two days in a row, and now it’s no longer just a slip, it’s a pattern. A good recommendation is to forgive yourself for your first miss, and then never let it happen again.

Self-discipline sounds like a real bummer, but try calling it something else — like “keeping the promises I’ve made to myself.” Call it fulfilling a commitment that you made to the person you know best and want to love most — just for practice, before looking around to find someone else to make a commitment to.

Although adherence to a self-promise is great, flexibility is important too. Say you’re used to having a nice jog in the evening. But it’s raining. There are puddles and the pavement might be slippery. It’s getting dark, visibility is low, and drivers can’t see well. Maybe it would be better to forget about it, just this once. Or, how about this — be flexible! Put on a raincoat and galoshes and get out there for a nice brisk adventure on the sidewalk instead.

Go for a goal

Starting with a specific goal is widely recommended, but even if your dearest wish is to avoid or escape obesity, the goal does not have to be a digit on the scale. In fact, using a specific number of pounds as a goal may not be such a good idea, because if you achieve that number, it’s quite possible you will then feel like you deserve a little reward, like maybe a whole pizza and a quart of ice cream.

Try a more abstract goal, like “I will lose weight until my knees no longer hurt from carrying around those extra pounds.” When that is achieved, a new goal will present itself — maybe to dig a certain dress out of the back of the closet, and start planning to wear it again. It’s good to be strict with oneself, but not rigid. We need to leave some space for new dreams to appear.

Finding the right social support is highly recommended. It is good to have allies, whether they are a whole exercise class or a single accountability partner. We don’t need to live in a commune to partake in a community. Some are ready-made, like classes at the Y. Often, locating like-minded people is ridiculously easy. If you have kids, and they do sports, you might find a workout group or partner among the other parents. It is helpful to have co-exercisers who are slightly better than you, but not so far ahead that their success will discourage you.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Image by Michael Coghlan/CC BY-SA 2.0

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OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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