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The Path to Good AIP Habits

based on The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin


Developing new habits isn’t easy, especially when trying to break old habits at the same time. Through her research, Gretchen Rubin discovered that there are four Tendencies that people fall into, based on how they react to inner expectations and outer expectations.

While reading her book Better Than Before, I quickly realized that becoming aware of how we react to expectations is extremely important to those of us following the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) because it will allow us to set ourselves up for success.

The four Tendencies are Obligers, Questioners, Rebels, and Upholders. The image below details how each Tendency responds to inner and outer expectations.


(Image credit:  Better Than Before , pg. 17)

(Image credit: Better Than Before, pg. 17)

If the descriptions in the image didn’t cause you to immediately say “That’s me!” and you would like some help figuring it out, Rubin has a quiz on her website to help you determine your Tendency.  You can take the quiz at

Each Tendency has its own challenges and advantages when creating new habits. I’ve outlined tips for each of the Tendencies to help you build habits that will support your AIP journey. The tips can can help you build habits for more than just the food component of AIP; they can also help you build habits around exercise, sleep, and stress management, which are all very important to your success while following AIP and your health in general.

One of the most important lessons of Better Than Before is to not beat yourself up for your natural reaction to things. If you ever thought “Why can’t I do things for myself when I do what everyone else wants me to do?” (Obliger) or “Why can’t I be more like Jane and make a spontaneous decision and follow through instead of needing to spend hours researching first?” (Questioner), know that it’s in your nature to do so. As they always say, knowing is half the battle. Once you know why you react to expectations in a certain way, it will allow you to notice those reactions and potentially make different decisions. This mindfulness and the good habits that you build for your AIP journey and beyond are very important stepping stones on your path to wellness.

Keep reading to learn tips on how to build good habits for your AIP journey and for a bonus section on Abstainers and Moderators that applies to all Tendencies.




Meets outer expectations, Resists inner expectations

Obligers readily meet external expectations, but resist inner expectations and therefore it is hard for them to self-motivate. If you often feel like a people pleaser who can’t seem to do anything for yourself, even if your health depends on it, you are likely an Obliger.


Good habit forming tips for Obligers


Use outside accountability

Because Obligers resist inner expectations, accountability is extremely important. This accountability needs to include consequences to be successful. A movement buddy makes a great accountability partner because they are counting on you. One strategy Rubin suggests is to make a rule that your movement buddy cannot workout unless you do. This consequence means that their health relies on you exercising as well.

I myself am an Obliger, and I have discovered that the best possible accountability buddy is my dog. He loves to go for walks and when I made it a goal to walk with him every day, he very quickly expected to go on that walk each day. He tries to lead me to the garage where his leash and walking harness are stored, and if that doesn’t work he gives me such a look of concern until I take him out. The fact that his happiness and health rely on me taking him for a walk has me slipping on my walking shoes even when I really just feel like sitting on the couch. Best walking buddy ever.

If you don’t have a dog (and you like them), check to see if the local animal shelters and rescue groups allow volunteers to walk the dogs. Knowing that the dogs and the shelter rely on you to get the pups out of their kennels for a brief period every day might be just the accountability you need to get moving on a regular basis.


Obligers need a health coach/trainer/accountability groups more than any other Tendency

Accountability works better if the accountability partners are not likely to say “that’s okay” if you don’t make it to a planned activity or appointment or skip a workout. Tough love is a good thing here, especially since regular movement is so important for you health! A health coach, a personal trainer, or an accountability group committed to helping members stick to their workouts would be extremely helpful for Obligers.


Obligers are easily influenced by others.

You’ll have to practice being aware of outside influence so that you’re not carried along by the excitement or influence of others. How many of us have had another bite/cookie/drink/etc because someone said “just one more?” Once you become aware of it, it’s easier to recognize when it happens and be able to graciously say no thank you. This is especially important while doing an elimination diet. “One won’t hurt you” or “a cheat day won’t be a big deal” are just a few of the things that misguided loved ones might say. Being mindful of this influence will make it easier to stay on track.


Obliger-rebellion is something to watch out for

When you feel burned out or taken advantage of, you will suddenly stop doing something, even if others are counting on you.

A good way to avoid this with your movement buddies to make sure that everyone has to expend the same amount of effort to get to the workout, otherwise you might decide one day “I’m tired of being the one that has to drive all the way to the gym when Jane lives next door to it. I’m not going any more.”



Resists outer expectations, Meets inner expectations


Questioners always feel the need to ask why and to find more information before they determine that an expectation makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense, they will not meet the expectation or follow the rule.


Good habit forming tips for Questioners


Clearly state WHY it’s important to you

You question everything, even your inner expectations!

For this reason, you must clearly state what you’re doing and WHY it’s important to you. This is more important to questioners than any other Tendency.

Before doing anything, you search for more information about it than most other people you know. You probably researched AIP thoroughly before deciding that it’s right for you, even if it came highly recommended by your doctor, family, or friends. This can be a great thing because once you determine that something is important and worth doing and can clearly state why, you will stick to it.


Be careful of Information Overload

Questions are highly likely to suffer from Information Overload, especially with all of  the information available at our fingertips. Information Overload can cause you to take no action at all, so set limits on the amount of information that you gather before making a decision.

Monitor your progress

Questioners love data, so monitoring your progress will give you a sense of satisfaction. Some options include using a calendar to mark off days that you move more than 20 minutes, or keeping a sleep journal to track what time you went to sleep and when you woke up, plus how you felt when you woke up. BUT don’t get too detailed with it or it may become a stressful obsession. You don’t need to know how many calories that you burned while exercising or the exact second you fell asleep.

A tracking device such as a Fitbit or smart watch would be helpful here because it would count your steps and some even track the length or your workout, so it would do the work for you and you can view the results on your computer or smart phone.


Work with a Health Coach

A Health Coach can help provide you with the information that you seek and be able to talk it through with you when others are either overloaded with the info or don’t want to talk about it anymore. They can also help you monitor your progress so that you don’t become bogged down in information overload while tracking your progress.




Resists outer expectations, Resists inner expectations


Rebels resist all expectations, even their own. This makes it difficult to build habits because rebels like freedom. Deciding to do an activity every day rather than making it a habit works better for most Rebels.


Tips for Rebels



It comes back to the Why - why is this important to you? How does it have value for you? Once you’ve determined this, the daily choice to do something becomes easier and as a Rebel you will likely have to decide to act on a daily basis.



Rebels reject scheduling, so you need to make it as convenient as possible to do things on a whim. Set up a permanent meditation space in your home, leave your walking shoes by the door - or even buy slip-on shoes so you can be out in a second!


Give it your personal stamp

Celebrate your individuality when building the healthy habit! It’s not necessary to do things the exact same way as everyone else. Making it work for you is what’s important.

Be aware if your resistance is up

Awareness is an important tool for Rebels. Knowing that you’re resisting just because someone told you to do something or even merely suggested it will allow you to recognize that you’re resisting outer expectations. It won’t necessarily mean that you will change your mind, but it will help you examine the situation and decide if the suggestion is something that would be worthwhile to you after you put your personal stamp on it.




Meets inner expectations, Meets outer expectations

Upholders are the one Tendency that meet both inner and outer expectations. They’re determined to not let anyone down and are the most likely to follow the rules.


Good habit forming tips for Upholders


Be clear

Be very clear about what your habit is and how you want it to fit in your life. You can’t meet an expectation if you don’t know what it is!


Make scheduling work for you

If something is on your calendar, you will get done. Make appointments for exercise and meditation to help you get into the habit of both. Block out time for cooking to ensure you have plenty of time in the day to prepare nutrient dense food, and add other self-care activities that support your health.


Schedule, but don’t OVER schedule

Make sure that everything on your calendar is important to you. Remember, if it’s on your calendar, you will get it done, so don’t schedule time for things that aren’t in line with your goals and values.

Build in time to just relax - and not just a few minutes! Cut yourself a break, schedule time to read a book, take a bath, lounge in a hammock. This is especially important for those of us with Autoimmune diseases who need to constantly work on healthy stress management since our autoimmune conditions are a constant source of stress on our bodies.


Be careful to not be too rigid

Allow for some flexibility in your schedule so that deviations don’t become stressful events.



Abstainers & Moderators


One of the most illuminating things that I have learned from Gretchen Rubin is that moderation does not work for everyone. While listening to her Happiness podcast, I heard her say that there are two types of people - Abstainers and Moderators.

Abstainers and Moderators are found in each of the Four Tendencies, so this section is helpful for everyone!

How do you know which category you fall into? Ask yourself this: if your favorite food item is in the house, are you able to have a bite or two then not think about it for the rest of the day? If this is the case, then you’re likely a Moderator. If having just having the food in the house makes you think about it constantly and you can’t stay away from it, then you’re likely an Abstainer.

We’ve all heard that moderation is key to sticking to a diet, otherwise you’re likely to binge on what you’re denying yourself. Rubin stated that for some people, herself included, abstaining is much easier.

For Abstainers, moderation is very difficult and takes a lot of mental energy.  You can’t have just one or two, you have to keep going back for more. A few years ago, I tried the trick of allowing myself dessert only once a week, thinking that knowing I’m going to have something sweet would allow me to stop thinking about it on a daily basis. Boy was I wrong. I thought about it even more. I would spend the entire week trying to decide what day I was going to have my dessert and what I would get. Then I would try to figure out where I could go to get the biggest item sold as a single serving. Yes, I didn’t set a portion size limit and quickly found the loophole of getting as much as possible. I spent so much time thinking about that one dessert a week that it was mentally exhausting.

Then I decided that it was best if I gave up sugar and desserts all together to give myself the freedom of not thinking about it. It was so much easier to remind myself that I just don’t eat sugar than it was to play the “how can I get as much as possible?” game. I didn’t feel deprived at all, which surprised me. It wasn’t until a few years later when I listened to that podcast episode that I finally realized why giving it up altogether was easier.

This applies to more than just food. Anything in your life that takes more effort to do/use moderately, you could benefit from asking yourself if you would do better abstaining completely. This is especially important with activities that could cause us to get less sleep than we should - and sleep is VERY important, particularly for those of us with autoimmune conditions!

One prime example is reading in bed before going to sleep. Now, we’ve all heard that using technology before sleep should be cut out completely, but you probably didn’t think that reading a physical book could pose a hazard as well. If you’re like me and many times you’ve said “just one chapter before bed” 30 minutes before bedtime, then 2 (or more) hours later you’re still reading, then you might be a prime candidate for abstaining from reading in bed.

I’m not saying to cut out reading at night, only reading in bed. I found that if I limited my reading to the couch or a chair while sitting upright, I was less likely to read past my set bedtime. Some other tricks I’ve tried include making sure I was ready for bed before sitting down to read and setting a timer for 5-10 minutes before my self-assigned bedtime. That way I could just get up and go straight to bed without doing any activities that could wake me back up and make it difficult to fall asleep.


Thank you & contact info


Thank you for checking out my guide! I hope it gave you a little bit of insight about your reaction to expectations and provided helpful tips.

I learned a lot about habit building reading Better Than Before and I’m grateful that Gretchen Rubin’s endless curiosity about happiness and habits led her to reading the book. I highly recommend reading the book, it’s almost guaranteed that at least once, probably many times, you’ll read a section and think “that is so me!”

If you would like to work with me on building good habits for your AIP journey or have questions about the tips, email me at .



The information included in this guide is intended for educational purposes only.


Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: Lola Lucinda participates in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

The Amazon Affiliate links in this guide will allow me to see how many people decide to purchase Better Than Before via one of my links after reading the tips, which I am very curious about and would have no way of knowing otherwise. Thank you for allowing me to satisfy my curiosity!


Copyright 2017 Lola Cowling. All rights reserved.