“The phrase “It takes 21 days to change a habit”, is true – because 21 days of reinforcing new wiring in our brains “locks in” the changes. Try sticking to your new program for 21 days straight, and you will improve your chances of success.”
It takes 21 days to form a new habit. We’ve all heard this phrase before but I really do think it works.
My typical life before I decided to make some changes was spending a lot of time on my couch, eating. I knew I couldn’t tackle both the exercise and food components at the same time so I did one at a time. I started swimming a few times a week. I did this for a month. After one month going to the pool three nights a week became the “norm” in my weekly schedule. It was just part of my life. Now? Years later and 100 pounds lighter, my exercise routine is ingrained in my daily life and I don’t even think about it–I just do it.
The food component was definitely harder for me. I counted my calories for one day without making any changes to see where I was starting from. Seeing the insane amount of calories I consumed just by lunch time was the wake up call I needed. Making the changes I needed to make to stay under 2,000 calories a day was HARD. But after about a month it got easier.
Counting calories became so ingrained in my brain that it feels weird NOT to count my calories. I don’t even really think about it, I just do it. I see a slice of pizza and in the back of my mind I think “350 calories.” I grab a banana for a snack and I think “100 calories.” This is my norm now.
It doesn’t have to be a life-changing, huge event to make a difference. If you’re trying to lose weight, it could be something as simple as “I will count my calories every day for a month.” Or “I will stop buying junk food and not have any in the house.” Or “No Candy At Work.” Sometimes the small changes are the ones that make the biggest difference.
“Motivation is what gets you started.
Habit is what keeps you going.”
Do One At A Time
Too often when it comes to weight loss, we try to tackle everything at once. That can be overwhelming. My suggestion to people just starting out on a weight loss journey is to pick one thing to do first. When I first started my journey I chose the exercise as the first thing to change. I started swimming and was swimming for over a month before I even attempted tackling the food issues. After I was consistently swimming a few times a week, I started counting my calories. It was easier this way for me.
Write It Down
Be accountable to yourself. If you are choosing to count your calories for the next 21 days, write it down. Make a list of your goals. Tell your friends and family so that they know. Ask for support. Be specific and realistic when you write it down, too. Don’t just write “I want to lose 100 pounds.” Instead, write something like: “I want to lose 10 pounds in two months and make healthier choices in my life” or “I want to exercise 3 days a week for the next two months.”
Identify Your Weaknesses
Make a list of obstacles and triggers. For example, an obstacle might be “My birthday dinner next month”. Make a plan early. Choose a restaurant that provides calorie information and make better choices. Or ask your family to skip the birthday cake and instead buy a small number of cupcakes (and only eat one!). Going into these upcoming situations with a plan will help.
I’ve talked a lot about having positive rewards for reaching goals. And when I say rewards, I don’t mean food. Rewarding your good diet habits with a trip to Ben & Jerry’s is sabotaging yourself.
Why not go for a hike instead of to the movies where you’ll want buttery popcorn? How about a pedicure? Or massage? Or a day trip with girlfriends to the beach?
Don’t Slip Up
In the journey to lose over 100 pounds I had many challenges, setbacks and plateaus. It’s the nature of the beast. But in the first 21 days, it’s important to stick to the plan and NOT slip up. It takes 21 days to change a habit. If we slip up that 21 days should start over, right? Breaking those bonds with the bad habit needs consistency.
If food is what you struggle with, remove yourself from situations that will be challenging to you.
For example, I stopped going out to happy hour with friends. I knew I would be tempted by the deep fried bar foods and high calorie alcoholic drinks–all empty calories that would derail my efforts. I just stopped doing that. I hung out with friends but in healthier situations that didn’t involve my triggers.
QUESTION: Are you willing to give the 21 Days to a New Life a try? What are you going to try to change in 21 days?
Great post! Since I am a constant eater, putting myself on a food schedule was the biggest help and now I am patterned. My wife and kids know the pattern too….lol
Chris recently posted..September? Already? Stat Updates
Isn’t it amazing how easy something can become a “habit”? Now if they are just the “good habits”, you can make amazing changes!
Hi Lisa. Love this post, particularly Jim Ryun’s quote. I had a “habit” epiphany on the weekend. I realized that eating properly has become a habit. I was in a couple of social situations, and the deep fried foods just didn’t appeal. Made me realize that over time, eating in a more healthy balanced way has become engrained in me. I think it took longer than 21 days, but seems like I’ve got there!! Hope you have a great day!
Roz@weightingfor50 recently posted..I am a lucky girl!!!
I think it takes longer than 21 days too. It took me probably 2 months of counting calories and swimming on a regular basis for it to become a habit that was part of my routine/schedule.
Great blog post Lisa! I think you offer a fantastic guide line for sticking with a weight loss plan (you should expand all of that and write a book!)
Your tip that spoke most to my heart was “Write It Down”. At our site we give users a free venue for doing just that. We’ve had several folks who’ve been working to lose weight and been successful using many of your tips. I though you or some of your users might be interested in using the free service – or at least reading how it’s been useful to others.
Both of these women had success using the very same principles you’ve written about here. Congratulations on your weight loss!
Writing it all down makes a huge difference for me. Thanks for reading!
I love this post! 21 days to a New Life is exactly right.
I’m currently struggling with rewarding myself with things other than food. I’m constantly looking for things that can be used as rewards. I always come back to food. :/
Nicole recently posted..Monday Rundown
That’s a hard one because it’s natural to think “I did so good this week, I should treat myself!”
I liked to reward myself with things like pedicures, new books, new clothes…trips are good too!