Habit Hints Can Change Lives, Continued

Some advisors speak of rewards, but beware, because that notion may backfire. Sure, give yourself little rewards — but a new hairbrush, rather than a cupcake. Be very cagey about it, and watch out for hidden traps. Our bad habits are so bossy and rude, they can trick us into thoughts like, “I went on that hike, now I deserve an order of fries with catchup” — which is utter nonsense. The reward you deserve is the self-respect that comes from keeping the promise you made to yourself.

Avoid triggers. Like, avoid the fast-food joint, even if that is where your friends hang out. Make some new friends. Measure your progress, but don’t get crazy about it. If weight loss is at the top of your agenda, maybe mount the scale twice a week, not twice a day.

Get regular

In the realm of giving and receiving advice for self-improvement, the word “routine” shows up a lot — especially with the adjective “daily” attached to it. Establishing a routine takes conscious work, and the sooner we get over expecting it to be easy, the quicker we can transition it to unconscious habit.

A routine is more than just itself. Once established, routine is a foundation we can build on. New good habits are more viable when attached to ones that are already established. Good habits like to hang out with each other and reinforce each other. They can act in concert and remind you of each other with cues like time, place, and circumstance.

Remodel the top floor

An almost universal recommendation is to look inside. The mind is the laboratory of life, and with help and application, we can trace down a mental wrinkle that is keeping us obese, or track the twisted root cause of some destructive habit.

A surprising number of people allow their bodies to accumulate weight as a form of self-defensive armor. Columnist Caitlin Johnstone recently revealed that she suffered violent sexual assault at age 19. The backlash was the gaining and retention of many pounds of body fat. “Made me feel secure. Invisible.” Johnstone is an incredibly intelligent woman, but in that particular area of life, getting her head together took decades.

We are advised to reflect on our habits, goals, motives, hangups, etc. For someone unaccustomed to self-observation and self-analysis, it can be a fascinating practice. Doing the brain work promotes a buy-in on the deepest subconscious levels, and once a conviction has been planted, it likes to cultivate other convictions, for company.

It is pitifully easy for humans to fool ourselves, but that tendency can work for us, too. “Mind games” have a rather negative reputation, and should not be imposed on another person. But the mind games we play with ourselves are fine, if they lead to a positive outcome. Pondering our situation can lead to results, like maybe a new willingness to change and adjust. Ultimately, the mind is the source of all progress.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “I Was 19,” CaitlinJohnstone.com, 07/05/23
Image by Katrina Wright on Unsplash 

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

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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