Habit Chain 090820

How to Use a Habit Chain to Break Your Addiction to Sweets

This month’s blog is inspired by an email I received and a recent, real-life patient encounter.

I have been researching success stories about good habits, and I came across an approach that Jerry Seinfeld has been using to maintain his cutting edge and timely observational humor. The technique he uses is called “Don’t Break the Chain!”

When I looked up the “Seinfeld Strategy”, I found this, as reported by The Writer Store:

… each January, [Jerry Seinfeld] hangs a large year-at-a-glance calendar on his wall and, for every day he wrote new material, he had the exquisite pleasure that can only come from drawing a big red ‘X’ over that day.
Drawing those Xs got to be pretty fun and rewarding, so he kept doing it. Eventually, he began to create a chain of red Xs.

The idea was to never break that chain.

Not only does this approach program the body and mind to sit down and write daily – it also motivates him to continue that beautiful string of big, red Xs. If you don’t write one day, you don’t get to draw the X.

It doesn’t particularly matter what you write. Blogs, articles, scripts, your memoir. It can be anything, as long as you’re actively and routinely pushing yourself.

It’s no wonder Jerry Seinfeld has fresh, new material all the time.

Real Life Application

Shortly after reading about the Don’t Break the Chain technique, I had an encounter with a patient named Betty. She has been struggling to lose weight for many years. Just as she gets close to her goal, things slip out of control. She tells me she struggles mostly in the evenings after restraining herself all day, then she starts snacking.

Can you relate? Most of us can.

When counseling Betty, I thought about ways she could apply the Don’t Break the Chain technique to her challenges with food. I suggested that she place a calendar in her kitchen and draw a large red “X” on the day if she has made it to bedtime without snacking, then I encouraged her not to break the chain.

Betty is motivated to change. She has read my book, The Power of 5, and has a good understanding of what to do. She is challenged by a habit that needs to be reformulated. I also believe she could consider using the Power of 5 Journal to help in addition to the Don’t Break the Chain technique.

How Journaling Can Maintain the Chain

One of the advantages of using a journal as part of your habits strategy is to visualize your progress. Journaling holds us accountable and requires us to monitor exactly what we have done. Doing so has allowed me to see a few errors in my food choices — I had previously thought they were acceptable choices! Eliminating these errors has had a significant impact on my body weight.

So what are the action steps?

  1. Employ a new technique to address any gaps in your Power of 5 formula. Find something that will work for you.
  2. Track your progress on a calendar or in a journal.
  3. Find an accountability partner.

These steps will help you create new habits and integrate them into your lifestyle. By using the Don’t Break the Chain technique along with the Power of 5 Journal, you will have a greater chance of succeeding in developing healthier habits and a stronger self.

Good luck!

To a Long and Healthy Life,

David Bernstein, MD