All posts tagged: behavior change

First Week

Like many people, I took advantage of a lot of opportunities to indulge over the holidays. Nearly every event was centered around food. The wine, beer and cocktails runneth over. My rambunctious brother was visiting and stayed at our house for a week. So yeah.

I think we all “give ourselves a break” during the holidays. Normal lives may be filled with order, boundaries, regime. Especially if your routine changes, like you are off work for a week, you are kind of vacationing from reality. You feel entitled to freedom, freedom from standard “proper” actions and freedom from guilt in your own mind. Like I said, I did it. Celebratorily. Gladly.

For the first week in January though, I came up with some “get back on track” rules for myself. (I know this could sound silly to some, but creating these rules on a weekly or monthly basis have been truly crucial to my personal health and fitness, the key to goal-setting.)

The rules for January 1-7 were simple:

  • No candy
  • No soda
  • No fried foods
  • No alcohol

One could certainly set stricter rules, and in the past I have. But in this case, I only wanted a solid week off from the top four offenders in my diet. These were the specific foods and drinks I noted I was consuming too much of in weeks prior. I had to cleanse!

Tuesday, January 2, I came home from work after a hazardous day. Here was my thought process…

  • Gosh, today was tough, and I’m exhausted.
  • I wish I could treat myself, to feel better, as consolation.
  • I really want two mini Milky Way bars that I got in my stocking.
  • I had a good day by the rules, did not have soda, fried food or alcohol.
  • Maybe that’s what I should do instead – just allow myself one thing from the No list each day.
  • Cool! I will have the candies.
  • Chomp. Chomp.

A minute later, I felt terrible. I had just set these rules for my First Week, and I broke one immediately. I thought, what the heck is wrong with me? I realized I wanted to write a blog post about this experience right then. I wanted to document my own journey and failure. If this happens to a health and fitness expert, then it most definitely happens to those unpracticed and unaware. My problem was talking myself into that candy. I rationalized why I could have it, why I deserved it. This thinking was not in line with my goal. The person who lost here was me.

This is what my clients go through every day when trying to be active and eat healthy. They set goals. They make themselves promises. They welch on the deal. Because behavior change is not instant. It takes having “I want the candy” moments followed by “I ate the candy,” “I know eating the candy does not get me to my goal,” and I resolve to not do that next time” moments.

We are all learning more, all the time. The better we recognize and analyze our behavior, the more likely we will change it and make positive, healthy lifestyle decisions.

Fitness Director,
Aarika Johnson


Aarika JohnsonFirst Week
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Behavior Change Revolution

I was listening to a podcast from Freakonomics Radio entitled “How to Launch a Behavior-Change Revolution.” It relates entirely to my everyday struggle as a health and fitness professional, and covers an underlying issue for client success in Healthy Weight Lifestyle Programs at Doctor for Life.

Behavior change is a big ask. Experts understanding thinking and decision-making is tough. The average person understanding his or her own influences and patterns is tougher. And that person actively choosing to change and diligently fulfilling that path is the toughest of all. I say to clients all the time, “Knowing what to do and actually doing it are two different things.”

The podcast representatives state that human nature is to “repeatedly make decisions that undermine their own wellbeing” and that “people rarely behave as rationally as economic models predict.” They believe that studying and trying to implement behavior change is the most worthwhile pursuit for any scientist, that it is wise to help people make better decisions for themselves and for society. I agree.

With the staggering and growing statistics in obesity and chronic disease, particularly a lifestyle-related disease like Type II Diabetes, I do not doubt that the general public is ignorant to the fact that all these per-day and per-meal unhealthy decisions add up. Of course, it is much more convenient to eat a fast food cheeseburger today than to worry about how that affects many tomorrows and premature death.

This podcast focuses on a group of researchers, a dream team, coming together to work on the Behavior Change for Good Initiative. Their mission is to determine best practices in three realms – number one being Health (smoking cessation, healthy eating, increasing exercise, reducing alcohol consumption). They are partnering with large organizations for participation and funding of real-world experiments, helping scientists discover insights that could address the pressing social problem of self-destructive humans and establish long-lasting behavior change.

The Behavior Change Revolution has been happening for decades – in academia for a while, and creeping into government policy shops and commercial firms more recently. But it is hardly mainstream yet. Institutional and societal change, when it happens at all, usually happens slowly and with a lot of pushback. So this team’s ambition is quite lofty (and time-consuming, and expensive).

Will it take a nudge? Will it take expanding or shrinking choice sets? Will it take redesigning how incentives in given situations are set up, via smart algorithms or old-fashioned human touch? The ultimate goal is to help people get satisfaction they’ll need in the short-term and outcomes they’ll want in the long-term.


Fitness Director,
Aarika Johnson


Aarika JohnsonBehavior Change Revolution
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