Brain Lift Book Club Discussion: The Power of Habit


February 25, 2013 by nicolerothier

The Power of Habit by Charle Duhigg

The Power of Habit by Charle Duhigg

Hello my fellow Nerdazons (get it, nerd + amazon) I know, I’m super smart.  It must be all those buh-oks! Speaking of those, it is time to discuss the wonderful book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. For the past month, I have been nose deep within these pages, absorbing as much information as possible. And, trust me, there sure is a lot. The first thing that came to mind when I finished? “Oh my god, he is right.”  So put on your glasses, get out your pen and paper, and brace yourselves for a whole lotta nerdiness:


Charles Duhigg starts out explaining the habit loop, and provides us with pretty little pictures to facilitate our understanding (how sweet). Not only are the pictures cute at times (note the happy monkey with his juice), but they are also simple. If Chemistry teachers around the world had taught with pictures similar to these, we’d all be geared towards becoming master Chemists. Regardless, the great thing about the habit loop is just one “formula” can be applied to all sorts of habits such as smoking and overeating. One formula to rule them all!


Basic Habit Loops consist of a cue, the routine, and the reward.


Happy Monkey sees the cue, pulls the lever, and gets “happy juice” on his face. Hmm…

So, in the case of an overeating loop – you are bored at your desk. You automatically get up, walk to the cafeteria, buy a cookie and talk with others who are also in the cafeteria, resulting in a rewarding feeling. Now, four months later, your pantyhose are a little tight or you’ve ditched your belt. Those cookies are sometimes monsters

That break you take where you get your cookie and socialize with others – what is driving that? Duhigg suggests experimentation: if you are bored, go for a walk or socialize away from food; if you are hungry, eat an apple. Figure out what is really driving your routine and what will satisfy you without consequence. What a solution. See more habit-changing solutions here.

As Darlene and I excitedly discussed this book in Hu Kitchen (the Paleo-ist of New York), we delved deeper into the implications of what Duhigg was bringing up. Between intermittent exclamations from Darlene “THE FRENCH KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING,” (she’s reading a book about French food culture) and some Facebook breaks, we responded to Duhigg’s message:

First and foremost is the conditioning of food to be a reward, band-aid, friend, therapist, and even an enemy. Why do we consider food a reward? Often times I find myself thinking, I have been working so hard, I deserve this Starbucks (filled with crap, but oh so yummy) hot chocolate. But why? Food is (or should be) a nutritional substance we put into our bodies in order to function. A reward is a shopping spree (at least to me), not something that will take away from all the hard work I put in leading me to deserve this “reward” (what a habit loop that is). We need to move away from food as much more than something nutritional – it keeps us alive and kicking – does it really need to do more than that?

I then began thinking about other ways the book rang true to me, even in my personal life. Duhigg talked about toothpaste and how companies discovered that people associated a tingly feeling in their mouth after brushing their teeth as “clean.” Similarly, shampoo and soaps that lather give us a clean feeling – we know it is working. My mom uses super natural, organic toothpaste. Whenever I use her toothpaste, I have to brush my teeth several times, and I still feel as though my teeth aren’t clean. We need that tactile feedback. How are these products tingling and lathering? Well, those god forsaken chemicals. These little demons are in our toothpaste and shampoo, making us “clean,” or rather, chalk full of chemicals. I wouldn’t want to brush my teeth with nuclear waste, so why would I want to brush them with additives. It made both Darlene and I think, what “benign” (or not so) chemicals are in other seemingly harmless products. Yikes.

christ toothpaste

Buddy Christ wants your teeth pearly white and glowing.

From toothpaste on steroids, to murders and gamblers, this book seriously covers all bases. One of the people mentioned in the book becomes addicted to gambling, the casino offering her a line of credit and free nights at the hotel. She slowly squanders all of her money on blackjack, leaving her and her family in heaps of debt. On the other side, a man who frequently sleepwalks goes camping with his wife. In the middle of the night, he believes someone is trying to murder her, so he strangles the intruder. Yet there was never an intruder, and instead strangles and kills his own wife in a bad fit of sleep-murder. Both of these reactions and habits come from the same place, the basal ganglia. So I leave you with this question: who is guilty of a crime, the gambler or the murder? Duhigg found that the majority of people felt more sympathy for the widower who strangled his own wife than for the wife who couldn’t seem to get a grip and control her need for gambling for her family’s sake. However, not everyone had this reaction.

My family easily gets addicted to anything: people, places, food, feelings, cars, trees, rocks. Yup, anything. When I read (and compared) these two stories, I would consider myself to be on the less “popular” side. I wholeheartedly believe the gambler is a victim. The casino played on her uncontrollable addiction, unfairly coercing her to spend every penny she had. They knew her weakness, they targeted it, and shot until she had nothing left to give them. Maybe it is because of the environment and family I was raised, but I found it very interesting the different situations we sympathize with considering our past.

Please (please, pretty please) share your thoughts on either the book, our response, or even rainbows – we just want to hear from you! Also, please join us next month on our new nerdy adventure into The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan. Power to the nerds!



One thought on “Brain Lift Book Club Discussion: The Power of Habit

  1. […] stuck in your head now. Also! Check out my guest post on our first book club discussion over at Urban Amazon! Now, on to the more helpful […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


Yesterday was a grind. Even though it was the fastest race I've run, it was in some ways the most difficult. . . I came in wanting to win my division, which meant trying to compete with more experienced athletes. When it became obvious that I wasn't going to beat the winner (I took second) it became a mental game. I was feeling defeated. I wanted to let up and cruise to the finish. I wanted to just walk for a while - until I remembered why I do this. . . . I do things like this because people with #hEDS are told we "can't" do things, or we "won't" do them again, or we "shouldn't". We're told by doctors and physios and our scared families. And it's so hard to believe you'll never be able to do something you want to do. Once I remembered all the times I've been told I "won't", I remembered that I'm already winning. I'm winning because I didn't believe them. . . . Whatever your personal Everest is: don't give up. Keep fighting. Keep healing. Set a goal and work. You've got this. And I believe in you. . . . #EhlersDanlosSyndromes #iamnotmyillness #sprinttri #hudsoncrossing #hudsoncrossingtriathlon #HYPERMOBILITYeds #athlete #trainerlife #teameqx #teamgw
It's important to look back. So you can see your progress. So you understand your process. So you can check in on what you've learned. . . A year ago I was preparing to go to Thailand to study with @luna_alignment_yoga and @talswissa - I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was I was called to go. At the time I felt so broken and exhausted. I couldn't have guessed the great adventure that was waiting for me... yes, the trip, but also the deep exploration of myself! . . This is one of my favorite selfies, taken the last morning there. My cat had died overnight (4 days before I could make it home), I'd been crying for days, I'd barely slept, but I also felt stronger than I ever have before! Every time I see this picture I'm reminded of my own beauty and resiliency. Even though my heart hurt. Even though I was so tired, I KNEW it was all going to be ok. . . What in your life reminds you that you are strong and beautiful? Share in the comments! . . #strongandbeautiful #bighair #curlyhair #kohphagan #thailand #islandlove #islandlife #selflove #selfcare #internalstrength
In fad diets and infomercials about "personal improvement" I see claims all the time about "the secret" to weight loss, success, and happiness. . . Want to know the REAL "secrets"? There are 2, and I'll give them to you for free: . 1) believe change is possible. If you've been telling yourself the same old story all along (that you aren't good enough, that diets don't work, that you're unattractive, whatever!) Guess what? You're right! Because you're building your reality. But if you change what you believe - and I mean REALLY change it, not just platitudes and bullshit, then your actions will change with you. . . 2) Consistency is what counts. When clients and students try to tell me that something doesn't work, 9 times out of 10 it's because they were inconsistent. That inconsistency comes from misalignment beliefs that we then work on together. (The other time is typically a deeper problem one or both of us didn't realize exhibited yet.) . . . Moral of the story: examine your beliefs and change your mindset to change your life! I believe in you. . Questions? Post them in the comments. . With me? Post 🙌 in the comments. . #lifegoals #selfdevelopment #selfcare #growth #belief #foundationalbeliefs #ibelieveinyou #wisdomwednesday #ww #wisdomwednes #wisdom
Whether you woke up feeling like a rock star, or you feel like this morning was forged in hell, I'm here to tell you: you've got this! . . . I've spent the last year partly absent from Insta because I felt like I had nothing worth posting. I was struggling- with fatigue, with burn out, with my self image. Some of it I'm still working on; but one of the most important things of learned is that we each make our own reality. The stories I tell myself about myself build my actions and therefore my future. . . . If you woke up struggling today, it's time to rewrite the script! You're beautiful. You've got this. Take 5 deep breaths, release the bullshit, and start building some wins for yourself. . . I believe in you. . #mondaymotivation #naturalbeauty #mm #loveyourmug #realtalk
The view from GW this afternoon. #letitsnow . . #equinox #teameqx #greenwichaveeqx
Just a reminder. . . #clearmindopenheart
%d bloggers like this: