Sunday, May 23, 2010

Theory of Treatment

These are some notes on the "Theory of Treatment" chapter in The End of Overeating.

It's about retraining habits, which probably isn't too glamorous compared to some very specific, motivational type diets, but the advice seems sensible. Actually, it seems to me that these steps are useful for retraining ANY bad habit. They're quite similar to what Charlotte Mason lays out in her book The Formation of Character.

The pattern: Cue -->Urge-->Reward-->Habit.

This reinforces itself. The more you repeat the pattern the more habitual it becomes.

Steps toward breaking the pattern:


  • "a conscious knowledge of the risks of a given situation"
  • recognizing "premonitory urges", urges that foreshadow the action you automatically take.

Engage in Competing Behaviors

  • "To resist the pull of the behavior, we need to develop and learn alternative responses that are incompatible with it."
  • To compete successfully with old habits, this competing behavior needs to be planned before you encounter a cue.
Formulate Thoughts that Compete with the Old Ones.

  • "We can introduce ideas that countermand others."
The book says that verbal reinforcements are very powerful.


  • "People often engage in habitual behavior in private".
  • "Support is a way of sustaining and reinforcing our motivation not to engage in conditioned hypereating."

Setting Rules

  • "Rules aren't the same thing as willpower". Willpower is a battle of stimuli against determination to resist, and the battle is very uncomfortable. This can result in increased pressure to give in just to avoid the continued struggle.
Rules are alternate patterns of behavior. .... resetting the programming. The more specific, the better.

Changing Emotional Connotations of Behavior

This takes time, I think, but you can go from having associations of pleasure in a given behavior, to having associations of distaste and aversion, or simple indifference.

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I would love to hear your thoughts on this!