The best way to break an unhealthy habit is to pause five times a day and ask yourself two questions: "How am I feeling?" and "What do I need?" So says Laurel Mellin, a nutritionist and the author of The Pathway : Follow the Road to Health and Happiness (Collins). Pinpointing the emotions that fuel the behavior you're trying to change—overeating, say, or smoking—is the crucial first step in a program Mellin calls the Solution. Then you learn to cope with those emotions by developing self-nurturing and limit-setting skills, such as the ability to form reasonable expectations, instead of turning to "external solutions" like food, alcohol, or cigarettes.

"If you practice this consistently, over time the desire to eat too much or drink too much or spend too much disappears," Mellin says. The Solution grew out of a weight loss program that Mellin ran at the University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine. To locate a grassroots Solutions group in your area or take a free test that assesses how strong your self-nurturing skills are, call the Institute for Health Solutions at 415-457-3331.

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