Monday, May 4, 2009

The Habit of Irresponsibility: Stealing Calories

Journal Entry: Weight = 177.0 lbs; Coinage = $.15, all pennies; Glass bottles retrieved = 6; Ground scores = 6. Walk was cut short by the encounter with Jack Curry, writer of the Times-Picayune. Such encounters are rare at 6:30 a.m., but Jack is worth the interruption. For years his “feature” in the Venture Section of the sports page provided education and insight into the world of biking, canoeing, hiking, and similar out-door pursuits. For a sample of his writing:

Feature Entry: When walking in search of coins and an occasional “paper” find, I note that some people have “habits of irresponsibility” when it comes to money. I find money in the same relative spots over and over. One example is a parking lot reserved for employees of a local fast food restaurant. The spot nearly always yields a score. My theory, one of the employees is careless getting in and out of their car. As he/she reaches for car keys, whether from pants pocket or purse, money is accidently pulled out with the keys and falls unheeded to the asphalt.

Nearly all of our behaviors are habit driven. Habits can be both good and bad. Walking is a good habit because it results in weight control; overeating is a bad habit because it causes weight gain. Recently, the MoneyWalker was asked how I maintained my weight? My answer was quick, I steal calories. Here are several of my secret habits. These points involve both exercise and thought control.

• For errands close to my house, I walk rather than drive
• For drives, I leave early and park in the farthest spot in the parking lot
• I avoid parking garages and park several blocks from places such as the doctor’s office
• I avoid elevators for destinations lower than six floors
• In social situations, I take small portions of fattening foods or avoid them totally
• Coffee does not need crème or sugar to taste good
• Avoid drinks with sugar especially colas and fruit drinks

In short, I monitor my bad habits. Interesting work by J Quinn, A. Pascoe, W. Wood and D. Neal of Duke University ( have documented that individuals can “override” bad habits such as overeating by engaging in attention management. With college students, they found that “…participants who used a strategy of vigilant monitoring and focused on possible mistakes, thinking “don’t do it,” were better able to inhibit unwanted habits and give the desired response.”; in the case of food, avoidance or portion control.

Bad habits are difficult to break and good habits are difficult to establish. I have broken the habit of irresponsibility in terms of fitness and weight control with this formula: weigh daily and record in a journal; eat a healthy breakfast; exercise by walking one hour or more five days a week; and practice portion control while eating. Still I need external motivation and nothing works better for me than the searching for lost coins while zooming along the historic streets of New Orleans.

That steak is tempting, but "I'll take the skinless chicken please!"



  1. Your pointers are good ones, most have already been incorporated into my daily life.

    Can you please do a post on how to painlessly resist chocolate? Or big, thick sugar cookies? Or those new caramel/chocolate candies by Werthers that were just advertised on television?

  2. Can't help you with that one but perhaps you can suggest how I can cut my nightly indulgence of two glasses of red wine down to one.