Hello my lovely readers,
I know post a lot of educational and technical stuff, and I bet you wonder (if you don’t know me in real life) what I am actually like. Honestly, I’m a normal (albeit, busy!) person. So here is a bit about me, and an action for you to take.
Probably my biggest passion is musical theatre. I have been on stage since I was 11 years old, and continue to find my happy place on stage especially when I am dancing. Last year, among my jobs I was in 4 musicals, and a short film. Acting, dancing & singing are my personal anti-depressants.
One of those musicals, Hairspray, was especially meaningful in regards to my practice (for those who think this musical is just “fluff” - look deeper!).
Here’s why it was so meaningful to me:
One major theme in this show is body acceptance. The main character, Tracy, and her mother, Edna, are very overweight. This causes bullying and rejection in their lives (anyone else been there?), but they learn that their clothing size does not determine how far they can dream. The learn how to love themselves as the amazing women they are and rise above the criticism to prove to everyone that size does not determine who you are or what you can achieve.
“I’ll eat some breakfast then change the world.” - Tracy, Hairspray
Another important theme in the show is racism. In addition to rejecting people of larger sizes, the (1960’s set-show) white characters reject the black characters and try to prevent integration on TV. This was supposed to be a historical context, but unfortunately our world is still proving the relevance of needing to learn to accept everyone for who they are.
It is never ok to judge someone by the color of their skin, the size of their body, or by other trivial means! Thankfully, the show has a happy ending (sorry, spoiler alert!) and by the end of the show everyone is singing and dancing together on television, proving that it takes all kinds. This is the kind of show I love, it sparks hope for the future.
If you haven't seen Hairspray - watch it for some inspiration (the movie version with Zach Efron is good).
So, obviously I don't act every day. And I often have people ask me (especially when they find out I am majorially self-employed) What are my typical days like?
Well, “typical” is a stretch, as I feel like no two days are the same, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Normally, a few days a week I go to a coffee shop for several hours and work on my business (including writing these emails), If not at a coffee shop, then my home office (but it is harder to work from home). I actually really enjoy this work, and often 4+ hours slide by before I even think to look at the clock. It takes a lot of work to keep up the website, write emails and blog posts (looking for guest bloggers - btw!), posting and responding on social media, coming up with video ideas/scripts, responding to client emails, answering journalist requests (check out the articles I have been quoted in HERE), and all of the tiny tasks of running a business.
I see clients most days of the week, some days only 1, or up to 8 on fridays! I take dance classes, watch netflix with my dogs, clean the house/run errands, sleep in when I can, and eat pizza frequently (hubby recently got a pizza oven - we have been eating a lot of pizza!).
Why did I just tell you all of this?
To show you I am a person, just like you. I’m not a machine, or “wonder woman” as one client called me. I am a complex, passionate, (and lately tired) human being.
I am not defined by my body.
Neither are you.
Who are you without the labels others put on you? What are your passions and hobbies? What gets you fired-up? What would life be like if you didn’t use food as a crutch to hide behind?
Are you ready to re-define yourself?
Share who you really are on the Not Your Average Nutritionist facebook page or Instagram with the tag #MoreThanILook
I can not wait to hear who you are!!
In the words of another powerful musical (Newsies):
“Now is the time to seize the day,
Stare down the odds and seize the day,
Minute by minute that's how you win it,
We will find a way,
But let us seize the day.
Courage cannot erase our fear,
Courage is when we face our fear.
Tell those with power safe in their tower,
We will not obey!”
Love, Your complex Dietitian,
As a RD, I have gotten so many questions about the fad diet du jour: the "Keto" or "Ketogenic" diet. I finally decided to just write down the research in a reader-friendly version. Additional video on the history and use of the ketogenic diet at the bottom of this post. Here you go-
The ketogenic (or “keto”) diet is just another fad diet.
The Keto diet is an amped-up Atkin’s diet (that we all know now was/is terrible for your cardiovascular system, and not a sustainable way to keep weight off) where the majority of what you eat comes from fat, and carbohydrates are extremely limited (In contrast, a healthy diet should be a much more balanced macronutrient distribution of 20-35% protein, 45-65% carbohydrate, and only 10-35% fat). This skewed macronutrient distribution is actually very dangerous for the human body for several reasons -
#1, We use carbohydrate as fuel for our brain. Glucose is needed for cognitive function, and many people on the Ketogenic diet experience brain fog and difficulty focusing. Ketone bodies (specifically: beta-hydroxybutyrate (built up in blood serum), acetoacetate (found in urine), and acetone (responsible for that bad breath)), which are created when carbohydrates are not present, are not as effective (or healthy) for our brain. This may also cause metabolic acidosis which is characterized by a reduced pCO2 and/or lower pH (we need to stay in balance!).
#2, On a ketogenic diet, your intake of fruits and vegetables is extremely limited (if eaten at all) and we all know how important the fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other compounds in fruits/veggies are. On that note…
#3, The keto diet is extremely low in fiber! Fiber is not only protective against many gastrointestinal cancers, it is also a big factor in fullness and weight loss. Furthermore, constipation is very common on low-fiber diets like the Keto diet.
#4, Ketosis/ketoacidosis is what is happening in the body/brain on a chemical level – this is the body making fat into something the brain can use when carbohydrates are not available. It's a lot of work for the the body to produce, not as efficient as carbohydrate, and can be incredibly dangerous for diabetics. Additionally, we have some cells with few-to-no mitochondria. These cells are carbohydrate-dependant and must be fueled by glucose. These cells include certain cells with no mitochondria in our blood (erythrocytes), eyes (cornea, lens, and retina); cells with few mitochondria include renal medulla, testis, and leukocytes. (https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11883-003-0038-6)
#5, “Keto breath.” Halitosis (bad breath) from (acetone) ketone bodies makes for an acetone-like smell on your breath that no amount of brushing/mouthwash can fix. Medical professionals look for (smell for?) this in malnourished patients.
#6, High blood lipids/cholesterol/blood pressure. It’s a high fat diet- you didn’t see this coming? The body can only break nutrients down at a certain rate, and high levels of fat in the diet may lead to high levels of blood lipids are responsible for blockages (atherosclerosis), and other cardiovascular complications up to death. While you can reverse the numbers, the plaque buildup in arteries is almost impossible to reverse. Not worth it! (note: some people do see lowered blood lipid profiles on this diet).
#7, Following this diet is often a form of disordered eating or may lead to an eating disorder (just as with any restrictive diet). Cutting out whole food groups is not healthy. We need all 3 macronutrients in appropriate proportions (majority coming from carbohydrates) to have a healthy body. Our body needs a variety of foods for best health. The reason this diet “works” for weight loss is that it restricts the types of foods that people tend to over-do-it-on like chips, candy, pastries, etc. Any diet that cuts out your favorite foods will cause weight loss, but at what cost (physically and mentally?)
#8, Not all fats are created equal. Most people starting a Keto diet are not differentiating between saturated (solid at room temp, and not something we want in large quantities) and unsaturated fats (liquid at room temp, and “healthier”). Getting this wrong also increases complications from the diet. Additionally, many people who followed a diet high in medium-chain-triglycerides (MCT) experienced undesirable digestive issues.
#9, It may mess with your thyroid and other hormones – lowering your metabolism (isn’t the point of this diet weight loss? That’s counter-intuitive…), energy, and fertility. Every time we lower our metabolism through dieting it lowers the “set-point” of our metabolism, making it harder and harder to lose weight. This is an adaptive response for mammals in famine, but not what the average person wants nowadays.
Who it the Keto diet appropriate for?
The only population that the ketogenic diet is scientifically proven to be beneficial (and safe) for is a select group of people with epilepsy (seizure disorders). This is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The Keto diet especially sucks for athletes (and people working out to lose weight)
Since our preferred fuel source is glucose (carbohydrate) from either blood glucose or glycogen (fancy term for carbohydrate stores in the liver and muscle cells), running exclusively on fat slows athletic performance as the body works much harder to break down fat (dietary and adipose storage).
Additionally, the lower protein intake and change in hormones in the body with a keto diet lower the ability to build and maintain muscle mass. If “mirror muscles” like biceps are not motivating enough to keep you off it- remember that our organs like the heart are also muscle tissue that would be broken down by this diet, causing organ damage or failure.
It’ll get you, mentally and emotionally
Ketogenic diets cause headaches, brain fog, and often irritability and obsession with food. This type of diet will very likely make you think about food an unnecessarily large amount of time, and make it difficult to be social (not being able to eat at the same places as your friends; oh, and that bad breath!).
You may feel more depressed (especially if you are already prone to depression and/or taking antidepressants) as serotonin (the “happy” neurochemical) is produced from carbohydrates. If you take an SSRI know that this class of medications work directly on serotonin that is present, and the diet requires a minimum about of carbohydrate (as we learned from the works of Ancel Keys in his starvation study) to allow the SSRI medication to work.
So, what’s the verdict?
In case you didn’t get it from the above – the Keto diet sucks. Not only is it a fad-diet (aka – not suitable for long-term weight loss/lifestyle), it can be very dangerous.
If you need help figuring out what to eat, contact a Registered Dietitian. In the meantime, if you do need some structure, balanced eating like the Mediterranean diet or DASH diet is a better way to go.
For a YouTube video with more information on this diet: click the image below
Don’t give up the foods you love. There is room for all foods in a healthy diet. We just need to keep proportions and variety in mind to fuel our body optimally.
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NYAN is growing fast, and I would love to share RD business knowledge/ED counseling knowledge in exchange for some help.
Looking for people to:
-Write blog posts
-Create social media posts/graphics
-Do research for articles/videos
-Help come up with ideas for YouTube educational videos
-EXPERIENCED COPYWRITER for sales pages (this can be a paid contract position)
-Other things I haven't thought of??? I'd love your creative ideas!
Ideally, upper level nutrition or psychology students; but the most important part is personality and philosophy that mesh with the business. More details (click button)
I can't wait to meet you!
I am thrilled to have this guest post about vegan nutrition!
Many of my eating disorder clients have adopted a vegan diet, for better or worse, and are not meeting their nutritional needs. Vegan and vegetarian diets are very healthy when done correctly, but if the whole purpose is to cut more things out in the name of restriction, then malnutrition is almost certain.
If you are vegan, or contemplating starting a vegan or vegetarian diet, read-on to learn about plant-based sources of certain nutrients that are often hard to get when animals are off the table.
The Vegan Diet - A Guide to Nutritional Needs
By: Emily Baird
Emily is a 1st year nutrition student at Cal Poly who plans to become a registered dietitian. She has been vegan for 2 years, and plans to incorporate that into her career.
Every year more and more people are making the transition to a vegan diet, and for good reason! The vegan diet can have so many health benefits for our bodies including disease prevention, weight management, and protection against cancers. But with being vegan, also comes the common questions about: “How do vegans get enough protein?” “How are they getting any B12 in their diet?” “How to vegans get calcium if they don’t drink cow’s milk?”. And although these are valid questions, a well-balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and carbohydrates is all a vegan needs to fulfill their nutritional requirements.
Iron is an important component of the red blood cells that carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, as hemoglobin. Think of it like the engine to a car; the engine provides the car with the power it needs to make it move. Similarly iron allows hemoglobin to have the needed strength to get oxygen where it needs to go. Without it, the body cannot make hemoglobin, which means organs and tissues won’t get the oxygen they need.
There are two types of iron - heme and non-heme. “Non-heme” iron is found only in plants foods and is harder for the body to absorb than “heme” iron which is only found in meat products, so we need to eat more plant-based iron to truly get the same amount as if we were eating meat.
Many plant foods are naturally high in iron, but there are also many packaged foods that are now being fortified with iron. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is between 8 - 18 mg (depending on age and gender, up to 27 mg during pregnancy). Be sure to include a source of vitamin C with your iron for better absorption.
VEGAN SOURCES OF IRON
1 cup soybeans: 8.8 mg
2 tbsp flax seeds: 4.1 mg
½ cup cooked lentils: 3.3 mg
½ cup fortified total whole grain cereals: 8 mg
(For a complete list click here)
Calcium is responsible for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. When the body isn’t supplied with sufficient amounts, it increases the risk of developing disorders like - osteoporosis, hypercalcemia, kidney disease, and even alzheimer's. Calcium can be included either by nutrient dense foods or by incorporating calcium fortified foods. Most breakfast cereals, milks, breads, and juices contain added calcium, but be sure to read the nutrition label to be sure. The RDA is around 1000 - 1300 mg. Vitamin D intake is essential to adequate calcium absorption.
VEGAN SOURCES OF CALCIUM
100 g calcium set tofu: 350 mg
¾ cup calcium fortified plant milk: 240 mg
⅓ cup cooked kale: 110 mg
¼ cup dried figs: 95 mg
(For a complete list click here)
Zinc is essential for the body’s immune system to function properly. It also works in cell division, cell growth, the breakdown of carbohydrates, and wound healing. Although it is so important for our bodies, not much is actually needed; the RDA for zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women. Even though plant sources of zinc are not absorbed as easily as animal sources, vegans were shown to only have a slightly lower amount of zinc.
VEGAN SOURCES OF ZINC
Tofurky italian sausage: 9 mg
½ cup hummus: 2.3 mg
1 tbsp nutritional yeast: 2 mg
¼ cup roasted pumpkin seeds: 2.3 mg
(Click here for a complete list)
Your body must have vitamin D in order to properly absorb calcium in the body. Vitamin D is not typically a problem for vegans during the summer months, but those living in colder climate may be at risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. The RDA is 600 - 800 IU. Just about 10 to 20 minutes (depending on skin tone) in the sun per day will provide the body with sufficient levels. But those living closer to the northern hemisphere, may need to include more vitamin D rich foods in their diet.
VEGAN SOURCES OF VITAMIN D
1 cup portabella mushrooms: 634 IU
1 serving instant oatmeal: 180 IU
1 cup fortified soymilk: 120 IU
1 cup fortified orange juice: 100 IU
(Click here for a complete list)
SHOULD I BE INCLUDING SUPPLEMENTS?
Eating a healthy variety of plants and grains will ensure that the body gets sufficient levels of nutrients. The exception to that is vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is not as easily accessible through plant based foods, so it can be important to include a supplement in your diet. If you are overwhelmed by what kind of B12 supplement to choose, check out this article. Nutritional yeast is an example of a vegan food that does naturally contain B12. It is usually used as a cheese replacement or topping, and can supply 2.4 mcg per 3 tbsp (which is the RDA).
A well-balanced, plant based diet will supply the body with all the nutrients that it needs to thrive. There are many people who question the vegan diet and believe that vegans are lacking essential nutrients, but with the right knowledge of nutritional needs, a vegan diet can be very beneficial.
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In 2012 I started my private practice with one client, a pad of paper, pen, and a business license.
5+ years later I have a thriving business of clients, online work, contractor positions, and my own office; but it took some work to get there and figure out all the details along the way.
In this article, I am going to give you the quick guide of necessary things to do/get and what to skip to get your practice up and running without taking out a loan.
Assuming you are already a licensed professional (RD):
1. Get malpractice insurance. You want to be covered if any lawsuits come up (RDs are very low risk). As a sole-proprietor I think I paid $99/year, now I pay $118/year as an LLC (I will explain what these are below). If you have worked elsewhere you might already have malpractice insurance. For RDs, "Mercer Proliability" is the main company used.
2. Depending on where you will be practicing, you need to go to the city or county for a business license. This has an annual fee as well, but it establishes you as a business. There are a few kinds of business structures, but as a one-person business you really only need to know about 2 of them: "Sole-proprietor" and "Limited Liability Company" or "LLC." I am no legal expert, so I won't go too deep into this, but here are the basics (google "sole-proprietor" or "LLC" or "business legal structures" for more info):
A sole-proprietor is what most RDs choose/start as. This is what I chose to start with, and it was easy. It has the lowest fees, and for legal/tax purposes you and your business are one in the same.
LLC is a step-up from sole-proprietor, in that it separates you from the business and adds a buffer of legal protection. LLCs can be single-member, or multiple "members." The cost and taxes are higher/more complicated, but you can hire employees.
3. Choose a "Doing business as" name (aka: "DBA"). This can be your own name (easy) or a business name. Make sure your name has not already been taken. Wherever you register your business they can guide you in how to search names, and the requirements. Chose carefully - this is how the public sees your business; but it can also always be changed later (I did this. It was a hassle, but worth it).
4. Separate your personal money from the business's money. When I started my business I opened a business checking/savings account (which I recommend doing as soon as your business name/license go through) and put $3K of my own money in it to get started (you can probably do this all with $1K, but I didn't know at the time). The fact that that money was basically my whole savings made it so I couldn't fail - it was my money on the line. I recommend this for starting a business. Take a risk on yourself and prove that you can succeed.
5. Get the bare office essentials (you probably have most of this): notepad and pens (I like to use legal pads) for taking notes during a session; hanging file folders; a way to lock up client notes (filing cabinet with lock or locking briefcase - I got a locking briefcase for $20 that became my traveling "office" the first 2 years); cards and stamps (it's nice to handwrite thank you notes to clients - I aim to send one to all my new clients).
6. Business cards: don't bother getting more than 250, you will change your info/logo/etc once you figure your business out more. You don't have to have business cards, but it looks/feels more professional.
*bonus tip - skip other physical marketing materials (flyers, banners, rack cards, newspaper ads) when you are just starting out. They are expensive, and really don't work that well. This comes from my personal experience. I spent 100's of dollars on marketing materials that got me maybe 1-2 clients. NOT WORTH IT until you are in the big-time (and maybe not even then).
7. Have a website - even if it is a work in progress! Everyone looks online nowadays, this should be listed on your business card, and potential clients can look at it to see a photo of you and services you offer/philosophy/etc. There are several free (starting) website builders out there. I use Weebly, but Wordpress is very popular, as are Wix and Squarespace. See what you like/seems easy enough for your skill level. I like weebly because it is drag-and-drop, but it doesn't have all the features that something like Wordpress has with "plug-ins."
Things you can wait on:
Ready to go start your practice? I hope this helps you get started with lower start-up costs!
If you have questions feel free to shoot me an email. I am contemplating taking business start-up clients for mentoring (there is a cost for this).
I am so excited, because an idea I have had rolling around in my brain for months has finally come to fruition!
Yesterday, January 8th, I opened for enrollment my course for performers,
"Whole Health for Performers!" This course is "A scientifically-based mind-body approach to get the most out of yourself, so you can focus on creating the performance of a lifetime."
This class is aimed at non-pro level actors, dancers, singers, musicians, directors, drama teachers, and techies who get their heart rate up on (or back) stage.
We cover: Physical fitness, Eating healthy, even when you are busy, Avoiding digestive issues on stage, Hydration, Vocal health, Mental health in the theatre, Better coping skills, and more, with step-by-step "homework" with each module so you actually TAKE ACTION on your goals!
It is being offered at a low cost of $97 for beta testing. This means you get to be a voice in the creation of this course! I will be tweaking the course based on your suggestions, and will be offering free live Q & A sessions to overcome personal barriers in a private facebook group for those who sign up. I normally charge $125/hour for individual counseling, so this is a steal!
Keep your eyes peeled for more educational courses coming later this year! I have some free education available on the online education page under "services" - check them out too
(I admit they are my first online creation, and not the prettiest!).
If you are in the performing arts, and want to take better care of your body on and off stage, what are you waiting for? Go to the course now!
Don't just take my word for it, a wonderful article about this course was written by the creator of OnStage Blog. Here it is for more info:
I am hosting a 5-day challenge for those of you struggling with disordered eating, who want to kick-start making peace with food and your body.
The challenge will include:
-Daily emails from me with inspiration and a recovery task
(typically takes 10 minutes or less to do).
-Daily facebook live videos where I will talk about the topic of the day,
and you can chime in with questions and comments
that I can answer in real time.
Wait, how much does it cost?
This challenge is totally FREE!!! - I want to support you in your recovery!
September 11-15, 2017
Sign-up before the 11th at: http://eepurl.com/c14CMb
Make sure to "like" and "follow" the facebook page: Not Your Average Nutritionist
(btw- this is my first automated email sequence, so I apologize for any flubs, we are going to learn together! Your first opt-in to the email will only have you confirm that you are on the list. I won't send an email about this until September 10th.)
Something I talk about frequently with my clients is the concept of "normal eating." We are all born with the innate ability to tell when we are hungry and when we are full. Our brain and gastrointestinal sensors help us to desire a variety of foods that will nourish our body... but somewhere along the way society can confuse our senses of what eating is supposed to be like. So....
In the dietetics and eating disorder industries, a quote about normal eating has become the gold-standard. Leading child eating-behavior-expert, Ellyn Satter's quote is as follows:
What is Normal Eating?
By: Ellyn Satter, MS, RDN, MSSW
Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it -not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.
In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.
This quote came directly from: http://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/hte/whatisnormaleating.php
©2016 by Ellyn Satter published at www.EllynSatterInstitute.org
For more about eating competence (and for research backing up this advice), see Ellyn Satter's Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family: How to Eat, How to Raise Good Eaters, How to Cook, Kelcy Press, 2008. Also see www.EllynSatterInstitute.org/store to purchase books and to review other resources.
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A common myth I hear from people is that we need to "cut out carbs."
No, we need the majority of our daily calories from carbohydrates.
Yes, different conditions require different amounts, but we still need quite a bit.
If we are eating the correct amount of calories for our needs our composition should be broken-down roughly into the percentages shown below.
I created a quick cheat-sheet for you about how much Carbohydrate/Fat/Protein we need.
(originally posted 10/16/2016. libbysfitnutrition.com)
The Power of Habit: A Review
Author Charles Duhigg is a graduate of Harvard Business School (MBA) and Yale University (history major), and is a “Pulitzer-prize winning, investigative reporter for The New York Times” (1) since 2006 (2). Since writing The Power of Habit (New York Times Bestseller List for over 60 weeks!1), Duhigg has written another book, Smarter Faster Better, has appeared on NPR, as well as other well-known media platforms, and has spoken at colleges (including MIT), companies (like SC Johnson), and is available to speak at events by request (2).
The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life And Business, is a book written for consumers to figure out how to change habits they do not like, such as smoking, or create new habits, like daily jogging after work. The book uses a simplified “habit loop” to teach readers how to break down their habit into three sections - the “cue” or trigger, the “routine” or habit, and the “reward” or reason for doing the routine. Duhigg uses examples of famous people and companies to illustrate why certain patterns develop, and how changing certain patterns can influence more than one area of work or life.
In Chapter 1, Duhigg describes “The Habit Loop”: where a “cue” triggers us into our “routine” which produces the “reward” (1).
The habit is built from doing something that gives us a “reward” (positive reinforcement). Once someone has experienced the “reward” in correlation to the “cue,” memory starts to connect the two in the basal ganglia of the brain (a primitive part of the brain near the spinal cord). The “routine” part of the equation (how we get from the cue to reward) is formed into habit that requires less and less thought every time we do it. This is how fast food chains get us. They keep everything the same so every time you visit the restaurant, whether in Minnesota or Tennessee, you have the same visual, auditory, and verbal “cues” prompting a sense of routine or habit to the reward of cheap/ easy/ tasty food.
Chapter 2, discusses how marketing moguls created new habits to sell mass quantities of products like toothpaste and Febreze. Creating new habits comes from creating a “craving” as the “cue” or trigger.
By creating a trigger to do something you can create a habit every time that trigger emerges. Duhigg uses the example of marketing toothpaste: the trigger is removing the “film” of plaque you notice as time elapses (usually over several hours, or a day), feeling this film (which naturally occurs) causes a cue to want to clean it off. The action? - Brushing your teeth. The reward - clean, film-free, teeth. This is the habit loop as explained in chapter 1. While people had always had this “film” on their teeth, the advertiser brought attention to it, and made a craving for “clean.”
The moral of this? Find a cue that comes up naturally to elicit a habit response. The author makes the example of: after work you put on your running shoes and go run, afterwards you reward yourself by watching tv. By choosing a specific cue (after work = run) and reward (run = tv), the habit is more likely to occur.
Chapter 2 also covers anticipation of rewards being a driving force to action. When one has experienced a reward for doing something enough times, the anticipation of reward makes the action automatic. The anticipation of the endorphin rush can make it easier for someone to continue exercising on a regular basis, but the first time it occurs will not be enough to develop the reward loop to create the habit. This must be repeated several times before the reward is worth the action. The expectation of the reward must be great enough to drive the action when the cue is presented.
Chapter 3 shows that to change a habit, the cue and the reward are kept the same, and the routine is changed. Routines are hard to change, so what makes it possible? Believing. Chapter 3 details how Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) works, not through scientific method, but through belief in a power greater than oneself to change the routine of an old cue. This is done by creating a list of triggers for the old routine (like triggers to drink, example: get off work), and the reward desired (example: socializing) and change the routine by addressing the desire for socializing by meeting up to talk to their sponsor. Belief that God (“as we understand him”/ a belief that things can get better/ belief there is something bigger than ourselves) will give strength to change the routine, when the triggers arise, is the premise of AA.
Groups are another major catalyst for maintaining change in routine. Whether it is seeing something as being for the greater good of the group, having accountability, or changing the status quo of life, groups give people a network of like-minded individuals to help them stay on course. As Duhigg put it,” Belief is easier when it occurs within a community”(1).
Chapter 4 looks at “keystone” habits that influence everything else. By finding the small habit that affects others, and changing it, you can make huge waves in the system. By creating a routine that builds on other routines, you can prepare yourself with small “wins” that make the bigger “victory” just the logical next step. This chapter uses Michael Phelps, Gay Pride, and safety in the workplace as examples of changing one, seemingly tiny, action to create big victories. Another example from this chapter is writing down what you eat to lose weight. As people make food journaling a habit, without being asked to do anything else, they start changing their diet to be healthier because they notice patterns emerging.
Chapter 5 tells us that self-discipline (willpower) is a learnable skill but, like a muscle, can be worn out over the course of a day and works best when rested. This means that we have less willpower to do hard things/ detailed work after a long day of using willpower and making decisions, than if we had a day where we did not have to think too hard. Strengthening willpower and discipline in one area of life makes that more automatic, and will spill over to other areas of life. A favorite quote from this chapter is, “That’s why signing kids up for piano lessons or sports is so important. It has nothing to do with creating a good musician or a five-year-old soccer star, when you learn to force yourself to practice...you start building self-regulatory strength”(1).
Planning ahead is another skill that foresees progress towards a goal. People who think through potential obstacles and how they will deal with them, in detail, are able to push through hard times and make the most progress toward their goal. Likewise when people are empowered to do something because they enjoy it or have it explained how it will help someone else, they use less willpower than if they were forced into doing something.
Chapter 6 shows how crises situations can change organizational habits. Vignettes of companies that had major crises showcase how big problems can lead to big changes.
Chapter 7 shares how companies like Target gather data on individual customers to drive marketing and sales. Retailers note that people tend to change brands of products when they are going through a life change such as marriage or divorce. The biggest life event for change in purchasing? A new baby. New parents will buy anything the need/want in one place because it is easy. If a company can get them to start buying diapers at their store, they know they can get them to buy other things because they are already in the store. Target looks at purchases made and, by looking at common trends, can determine fairly accurately when a woman is pregnant and due. What do they do with this information? Slip in subtle marketing cues next to the familiar. If a woman received coupons for just baby stuff she would get suspicious as to how the company knows, but mixed in among common items it does not see as personalized.
Chapter 8 explains how personal ties and social peer pressure can influence people to do things that they would find hard to choose on their own, at the risk of losing social benefits. “Weak social ties,(1)” as opposed to close friends, tend to have the strongest pull on obligation. An acquaintance could tell unfavorable comments about you to others for not fulfilling an obligation, where a close friend might understand why you would pull out of a commitment.
Chapter 9 looks at the neurobiology of habits and what is free will. Examples are sleep-terrors and gambling addiction. Do people have choice in these scenarios? It comes down to the primitive brain and ingrained habits. The parts of the brain (basal ganglia and brainstem) where habits form are the same parts where sleep terrors stem from. Duhigg believes that any habit that is cognizant can be changed with the decision to change it, and the knowledge of what your cue or trigger is.
The “Afterward” shares stories from people who contacted the author after the initial publication of the book on how it helped them. This chapter discusses lapses and relapses, and not looking at them as failure but as learning experiments.
The “Appendix: A Readers Guide To Using These Ideas” is a step-by-step guide to figuring out your own habit loop and how to make a plan to change the habit.
This book is aimed at readers who are looking to change a “bad” habit they have. It gives real-life case-studies of companies and people that readers have heard of, to explain how a habit change works. By breaking down how habits form, the author explains how habits can be broken and changed into more desirable habits that will get the reader to their goal. The design of the book is similar to a “business-help” book, which might draw in more readers that are in either a traditional corporate or entrepreneurial business sector.
Personally, I loved this book. It was engaging to read how prominent public figures from Michael Phelps to Rosa Parks made small habits work towards bigger goals, as well as how every-day habits, like eating an afternoon snack, are a summation of cues, routines, and rewards.
The strengths I identify in this book are: extensive research - mostly in personal interviews and scientific articles; easy-to-read format; a singular focus throughout the entire book; and the idea of “classical conditioning,” as Ivan Pavlov explained, to describe Duhigg’s “habit loop.” The ideas of “habit loop” and “classical conditioning” are very much the same in a stimulus or cue eliciting a routine that leads to a reward or positive reinforcement3. Another factor Duhigg lists is obligation towards an outside influencer (chapter 8), which authors Rowland and Splane liken to reasons of success in dietary restraint often stemming from religious “diets” such as Lent or Ramadan, or ethical reasons (Ex: vegetarian for animal rights)(3).
Duhigg is very effective at making his main point - the habit loop- clear, through writing that is both engaging, and easy to follow. His extensive background as an investigative journalist allows him to be an effective writer and good at finding necessary information. He shows how to take action on research already known, like the fact that overeating is typically due to cues in our environment triggering intake (4).
The weaknesses I see in this book are mainly from credentials and my perception of potential bias. As a journalist, Duhigg is trained to pick up a story and flush it out to make something people want to read. Science is not usually fascinating to the general public, so I wonder if he took any liberties to elaborate where there was not enough information. Additionally, Duhigg is not a science or health professional. Many of the topics he covers are in neurobiology and psychology, of which, I would assume he has not had formal training.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone, professional or consumer, that wants to make a change in a habit they do, or help someone else figure out their habit loops. It brings insight into why we do what we do, and offers a way to pick and choose which habits we keep and change. It is not specific to any one type of change (such as weight loss), but rather encompasses the skills and case-studies to change any habit. I will be re-reading The Power of Habit soon.
Libby is a non-diet Registered Dietitian focusing on eating disorder treatment and prevention. She approaches health from the inclusive standpoint that any "body" can focus on health regardless of size. She is a ally in diversity.
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