What are your weight loss habits? These tiny daily habits can make a huge impact on your success

  • 2 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Small habits go a long way toward weight loss. Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg, offers practical strategies for successfully creating new habits.

Weight loss habits

Weight loss habits: small changes work

Are weight loss habits difficult for you? Not because you don't know what to do, not because you lack motivation, but because habit changes take effort and can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, successful weight loss (or other lifestyle changes) can be built on small habits you can start today.

Tiny Habits book

Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg, Ph.D., is an excellent guide to creating new habits, including weight loss habits. Dr. Fogg, a leading behavior change expert at Stanford University, presents behavior change in simple, practical steps based on his 20 years of research.

Dr. Fogg's model of behavior change explains that behaviors only happen when three key elements: motivation, ability, and a prompt, occur at the same time. B=MAP is an easy way to remember this, and is represented in the graph below.

Motivation: Dr. Fogg explains that while some degree of motivation is needed, motivation can vary from day-to-day. We can't rely on motivation alone to build a habit.

Ability: Obviously, a behavior that takes a high level of ability or effort is less likely to happen. I may be very motivated to climb Mt. Everest, but my current lack of ability would make this behavior difficult (ok, impossible).

A behavior goal that requires less ability (a tiny habit) is always doable, even when my motivation is low. I may not be very motivated to go for a 6-mile walk when it is freezing outside, but I can do 5 jumping jacks even with a low level of motivation.

Prompt: Dr. Fogg notes that a prompt is crucial. A successful habit is built by linking the new behavior to an existing behavior. He gives a quirky, yet effective, personal example of committing to doing two push-ups (behavior) after using the restroom (prompt). It apparently worked, as he reports a 20-pound weight loss after building on this habit!

Dr. Fogg provides this simple outline for creating Tiny Habits: After I (prompt), I will (behavior).

Example: After I pee, I will do 2 push-ups.

"People change best by feeling good, not by feeling bad" - BJ Fogg

Tiny weight loss habits are powerful because they are about positive action. Instead of focusing on what you "shouldn't" or "can't" do, tiny habits build on small, positive change. For example, focusing on "not eating dessert" leaves me feeling deprived, while celebrating success with my goal of "after I clear the dishes, I will make a cup of tea" leaves me feeling motivated and more confident.

Tiny habits work because they allow us to be successful. I enjoyed Dr. Fogg's other personal example of committing to flossing "one tooth" after brushing his teeth. Habits don't come much tinier than that! Flossing one tooth won't lead to high praise at your next dentist visit, but by starting with a small habit, you will likely wind up doing more (all of your teeth) and feeling good about your new habit.


Though it may feel silly, don't overlook the importance of celebration in reinforcing a habit for your long-term weight loss success. Dr. Fogg offers 100 ways to celebrate, including "humming a few minutes of a peppy song", " throwing imaginary confetti", and "striking a power pose." These celebrations need to happen right after the behavior to help reinforce the effort.

What are some tiny weight loss habits you can build?

Below are a few ideas for weight loss using the Tiny Habits model:

Bottom line

Powerful habits can be built by adding small behaviors to your existing routines and celebrating your success. Tiny Habits provides an excellent guide.

Learn More

View a video of Dr. Fogg describing his model. The presentation even includes audience members practicing small celebrations.
Read our Small Change Diet book review.

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Weight Loss->Behavior
Mar 2, 2020

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