Lifestyle Management


Catalog Description

Students learn about process improvement, human behavior change, quantitative methods and critical thinking.  In the course, students make resolutions (e.g. maintain a healthy diet, exercise more, etc.) and analyze their own lifestyles to see what is causing and preventing success.  Each student maintains a diary and analyses it (using statistical control charts) to see if there has been a significant change in their rate of success.  Students also use quantitative Causal Analysis to identify constraints preventing and causes leading to success.  Students prepare multi-media to tell their success.     

Course Objectives  

Upon completion of this course the student will be able to:

  1. Use narrated story boards as an oral communication to a group of people
  2. Organize and develop system solutions
  3. Articulate causes and constraints of behavior
  4. Analyze validity of attribution of behaviors to different causes.
  5. Monitor patterns in successful change in entrenched habits.
  6. Think critically. Reason and defend conclusions using quantitative statistical tools.
  7. Use a system analytic view of everyday lifestyle events
  8. List published risk and benefits of different approaches to weight loss, exercise, smoking cessation, and substance abuse harm reduction
  9. Describe theories of relapse prevention
  10. Use Bayesian causal modeling to analyze diary data
  11. Use Time-between Control Charts to detect changes in lifestyles
  12. Report success and failure in bringing about changes through multi-media presentations (narrated slides posted to the web)

Required Textbooks

The following books are required reading:

  1. Steven Sloman.  Causal models:  How people think about the world and its alternatives.  Oxford University Press, 2005.  Available at University Bookstore or online.  Buy►
  2. Farrokh Alemi Ph.D. and Duncan Neuhauser PH.D.  A Thinking Person's Step by Step Guide to Weight Loss & Exercise Program.  Available at University Bookstore or online. Buy► 

See course web pages for additional recommended reading. 

Presentations and Course Tour

Following presentations will assist you in understanding course structure and assignments:

  1. Introduction to lifestyle management course  Slides►  MS 2003 Slides►  Listen►   SWF►  
  2. There are two major assignments in the course, one on personal improvement, the other on analysis of diary data.   Slides MS 2003►  Listen► SWF►
  3. Take a silent tour of online open courses  Tour►
  4. In both major assignments, you will need to prepare narrated presentations.  To complete this task, you need to have a microphone, narrate your slides, convert your narrated slides to video file (using 30-day free Camtasia or similar software) and post your work on the web.  If you use a MAC, please let me know if you have access to a software that can convert narrated slides into video. Narrate Slides   Post without conversion►

Course Requirements 

To benefit from this course you need to have the following:  

  1. Computer, modem, microphone, speaker, phone line and Internet connection. A fast computer and modem will save considerable time in this course.  Computers are available at the University laboratories.
  2. Previous background in analysis of data and working knowledge of Microsoft Excel is needed.  If you do not have experience with use of Excel, please take free introductory courses available through the University prior to or concurrent with enrollment in this course.
  3. Microsoft Power Point is needed for viewing some portions of reading and preparing project presentations.   Students need to have a microphone on their computer to record their presentation.  They will need to convert their presentation to video format and submit to the instructor or available web sites.
  4. Flash reader is needed and provided in the course site.  

If you are not sure you meet the course requirement please contact the instructor. 

Course Evaluation

Students are evaluated based on two semester long projects: 

  1. Analysis of Causal Diary & Written Report:  A written report on analysis of semester long student’s diary.  Students select a habit that they would like to change and maintain a diary on their success in bringing about the change.  Every two weeks, the diary is analyzed using Bayesian Causal Networks and a new set of data is collected.  At end of semester, analysis is reported in a brief paper. 
  2. Personal Improvement Project & Oral Report:  Narrated slides, posted to the web, about the student’s effort in changing a habit.   The narrated slides should not contain the student’s name or identifying information.  It can be posted at You-tube or other public web site and the URL should be mailed to the instructor.   Alternatively, students can mail their report on suitable media to the instructor.  The report should contain the PDCA cycles of improvements the student engaged in and a control chart showing changes in the habit.  Students are not graded on their success or failure in changing their habits.  The grade applies on following steps recommended and does not require success. 

The evaluation is based on the following criteria:

  1. Appropriate Use of Information Technology:  Students are expected to complete data analysis and post multi-media reports (that do not include personal name or images) on the web.  Students are graded on effectiveness of communications they have posted to the web.
  2. Accurate Quantitative Reasoning & Statistical Analysis:  Students are expected to use statistical tools to support their reasoning.  Students should use a statistical process control tool such as Time-between Control Chart to analyze their success in keeping up with their resolutions.  Students will be graded on accuracy of the analysis and not on the success in maintaining their resolutions.  In addition, students are expected to maintain a diary and analyze it using Causal modeling – including Bayesian Network analysis.  Students will also be rated on accuracy of the analysis.
  3. Knowledge of System Change:  Student projects will be rated based on their understanding of theory of System Change.  Most students attempt to bring about a change through more effort.  In contrast, lasting changes require ecological and lifestyle changes.  System Change model requires students to analyze their lifestyles and make changes in their daily routines or environment that could sustain their resolutions.  Students understanding of system change versus more effort will be tested by examining the types of changes they have pursued in their personal improvement efforts.  A standardized questionnaire will be used to evaluate changes pursued by the students.

Distribution of the grade

Letter grades will correspond to the following numerical grades:






A -



B +











Weekly exercises & peer evaluations


Personal improvement effort 20%
Online diary and analysis 25%
Final exam 20%
Learn one, do one, teach one 15%


Oral presentations are rated by the course faculty based on three criteria:  appropriateness of images, effectiveness of the communication, and diligence in maintaining privacy.  In addition, oral presentations are rated by peers using a rubric provided by the instructor. Analysis of diary and personal improvements are evaluated by the faculty based on the accuracy of the analysis.    Students’ success in making lifestyle improvements does not affect grades. 

Teaching Methods

Students learn through several different methods:

  1. Interaction with Faculty. Course faculty are available online and in-person. Recorded lectures are available online.  Students questions are answered within 48 hours online so all students can benefit from the answers.  Lectures include hands on data analysis.
  2. Learn one, do one, teach one. Students learn better when they teach the concepts covered in the lectures. For selected assignments, students are asked to comment on the work of their colleagues using a rubric provided by the instructor.
  3. Use of educational technology. Students are expected to be familiar with Internet use.  Some assignments require use of software, provided through the course.  Student reports are required to be presented using multi-media (narrated slides or videos).  Numerous relevant web sites are found throughout the course. These links provide additional resources and a means of information exchange, professional networking, and project collaboration.   Students are expected to produce and upload media to the web. 

Topical Outline

  1. Introduction to the course
    • Read introduction to “A thinking person’s weight loss and exercise program”  Pages 1-6  Slides► MS 2003 Slides►  Listen►  SWF► 
    • Introduction to assignments  Listen► SWF►
    • Contact the instructor and obtain a unique ID code you need to use in all of your communications to the instructor and on the web.   Email►
    • Before you proceed, you need to be aware of the information we collect about you (e.g. did you succeed in getting to your resolution) and the risks and benefits you face by participating in this activity.    Please print the form and physically sign and send it by facsimile to 703 993 1953.  Consent►

  2. Introduction to personal improvement  More►
    • Read chapter 1 to “A thinking person’s weight loss and exercise program”  Listen►   SWF►
    • Read about storyboards More►
    • Make a resolution: Decide what is it that you want to accomplish and why.  To think through your resolution, use Figure 1 in Chapter 1 in the book: Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program.  More►
    • Start your storyboard

  3. Improvement teams  More►
    • Read about improvement teams in Chapter 4 of the book Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program. Slides►  MS 2003 Slides► Listen► SWF►
    • Put together a team.  Even though the goal is to change you, the solution is likely to involve "process owners,"  people who live with you and who help you carry out daily living activities.  Test if the person you have in mind is a process owner by completing Table 1 in Chapter 1 of the book Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program.  More►
    • Comment on resolutions of others More►

  4. Understand your life:  Flow charts and lists of existing routines  More►
    • Read “Chapter  5:  Tools for Understanding complex projects” in  “A thinking person’s weight loss and exercise program”  Pages 66-79.  Slides► MS 2003 Slides► Listen►  SWF►
    • Describe life processes.   Take a scientific approach to accomplishing your resolution.  Start by understanding your habits and events that trigger them.  Make   sure you are aware of how you live and how various parts of your life are interconnected.  Complete Table 3 and Figure 2 in Chapter 1 of the book Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program. 
    • Create a cycle map for your habit.

  5. System change
    • Read about system change in chapter 3 in the book Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program.  Slides► MS 2003 Slides► Listen►  SWF►
    • List 3 possible solutions to the problem you want to solve  More►
    • Evaluate 5 solutions listed by others   More►
    • One week after the assignment date, you can check the rating of your solution. Redo your work if your solutions are not rated above 50%  More►

  6. Monitor progress
    • Read about data collection and analysis in Chapter 6 of the book Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program.  More► Listen► Slides►
    • You need data to see if changes you have introduced have led to improvement.  Prepare a control chart.  More►
    • Analyze your data and include your  control chart in the personal improvement storyboard.  Discuss your data with your improvement team. 

  7. Control charts
    • Read about data collection and analysis in Chapter 6 of the book Thinking Person Weight Loss & Exercise Program.   More►  Slides►  Listen►  Video► SWF►
    • Assume the data in Table 1 of the web page on Tukey chart; construct a Tukey chart based on this data and compare your control chart to Figure 5.  Email►
    • Assume the data in Table 2 of the web page on Tukey chart; construct a Tukey chart based on this data and compare your control chart to Figure 6.  Email►
    • Check the rating of your solution. Redo your work if your solutions are not rated above 50%  More►
    • Engage in cycles of improvement 

  8. Telling a story More► 
    • Email your storyboard (not narrated)  to the instructor.  Make sure that the storyboard includes a control chart for your data, system rating of each of your suggested changes and a listing of routines  Email►

  9. Introduction to causal analysis 
    • Read  “Causal models” in “Causal models:  How people think about the world and its alternatives.” More►  Slides►  Slides MS 2003►  Listen►  SWF►
    • List the causes and constraints affecting your personal improvement effort in the last week.
    • For each item you have listed show how the cause or the constraint meets the criteria for causes
    • Make 7 diary entries using a causal diary.
    • For more details see the description of the assignment within the session.  More► 
    • Create a list of causes and constraints of your behavior.  Start your causal diary and maintain list of causes.

  10. Measuring the impact of a cause
    • Read about conditional probability on the web.  More►  Slides►  Slides MS 2003►
    • Calculate the probability of sleeping early, probability of exercising and conditional probability of exercise after sleeping late
    • Analyze diary data and calculate which cause is more likely to lead to exercise?
    • For more details see the description of the assignment within the session.  More► 
    • Continue with your diary

  11. Critical thinking
    • Read "Chapter 4:  Causal Models" and "Chapter 5:  Observation versus action" in How people think about the world and its alternatives. 
    • Read lecture on Self Experimentation & Causal Modeling.  More►
    • Email the first draft of your report on the description and test of the causal model for your personal improvement.  Email►
    • Make sure that you have at least 2 weeks of causal diary information before end of semester

  12. Behavioral change theories More►
    • Review the impact of a diet through scholar or PubMed articles
    • Analyze diary data and revise the list of causes and constraints

  13. Review
    • Final exam review
    • Make final draft of personal improvement storyboard
    • Prepare your final report on causal analysis

  14. Presentations
    • Present your personal improvement project as a narrated set of slides.  For narrating slides and story boards, see online instructions
    • Email your final report on analysis of your causal diary

  15. Final Exam

Course Faculty

Farrokh Alemi, Ph.D.


  • Lifestyle strategies for weight control: experience from the Finnish Diabetes Prevention Study.  More►
  • Cardiovascular disease prevention and lifestyle interventions: effectiveness and efficacy. More