Weight Watchers Get Healthy Freestyle Journey Week 24
How Long Does it Really Take to Form a Habit?
It’s MONDAY and time once again to continue our journey into health and wellness. Thank you, for joining me as I reflect on the past week and explore the new! I started my journey January 24th so I will hit the 6-month milestone soon!! With this milestone on the horizon, I wanted to see how long it would take for the changes I had been making to become a habit. How long before my new behaviors become automatic?
Also, if you’ve missed any of the posts in the recent weeks be sure to check them out. Last week, we talked about how gut bacteria influences your weight and weight loss. We’ve also learned the importance of hydration, uncovered where sugar is hiding in your food (aka sugar bombs), and looked at the benefits of shopping at farmer’s markets. In addition to learning the importance of milestones, how to stay motivated, the smart use of free foods, some tactics for dining out, surviving the holidays while dieting, the benefits of a 5% weight loss, diabetes, the importance of exercise, we’ve started an exercise routine, learned some beginner exercises, and gotten safety tips for exercising in the summer heat. Since beginning my weight loss journey in January, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day, and the fourth of July have come and gone.
How the 21 Day Misconception Started
Maxwell Maltz was a plastic surgeon in the 1950s. He began noticing a strange pattern among his patients and wrote about these experiences. He wrote that “These, and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it requires a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” In 1960, Maltz published that quote and his other thoughts on behavior change in a book called Psycho-Cybernetics. The book sold more than 30 million copies. And that’s when the problem started.
In the decades that followed, Maltz’s work influenced nearly every major “self-help” professional from Zig Ziglar to Tony Robbins. As more people cited Maltz they began to omit the part where he said “a minimum of about 21 days” and shortened it to, It takes 21 days to form a new habit. If enough people say something, then everyone starts to believe it.
It makes sense why the “21 Day” myth would spread. It’s easy to understand and the time frame is short enough to be inspiring but long enough to be believable. Who wouldn’t like the idea of changing their life in just three weeks!?
How Long it Really Takes to Build a New Habit
Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London and her research team’s published study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in the real world examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Each person chose one new habit for the 12 weeks and reported each day on whether or not they did the behavior and how automatic the behavior felt. While some people chose simple habits like drinking a bottle of water with lunch, others chose more difficult tasks like running for 15 minutes before dinner. At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analyzed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behavior to automatically doing it.
They found that on average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic. 66 days to be exact! How long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. Thus, indicating considerable variation in how long it takes people to reach their limit of automaticity. For some, it can take a very long time.
If we want to set our expectations realistically, the truth is that it will probably take anywhere from two to eight months to ingrain a new behavior into our life — a new habit is not created 21 days.
However, even though there is no 21 day fix, there is some GOOD NEWS! The researchers also found that missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.
Learn to love the journey. There is no reason to get down on yourself if you try something for a few weeks and it doesn’t become a habit. It’s supposed to take longer than that! Embrace the long, slow path to greatness and focus on each step.
You don’t have to be perfect. Give yourself permission a mistake once or twice as it has no measurable impact on your long-term habits. Treat failure like a scientist and develop strategies for getting back on track quickly.
All of the 21 Day hype can make it really easy to think, “Oh, I’ll just do this and it’ll be done.” But habits never work that way. Understanding this from the beginning will make it easier to manage your expectations and commit to making small, incremental improvements. Rather than pressuring yourself into thinking that you have to do it all at once, embrace the process of change.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how long it takes to form a particular habit. Whether it takes 21 days or 500 days, you have to put in the work either way.
Everything from eating well to responsible spending to task completion and beyond requires habits that make such behaviors part of our daily life. — Jason Selk Forbes.com
Weight Watchers Freestyle Progam – Learn more.
Increasing self-esteem and self-love makes you feel more deserving of good things in life. You’ll self-sabotage less and go after what you want with more motivation and focus
How my freestyle weight loss week went:
I am still having a hard time staying hydrated so this week was spent once again drinking water and eating foods with high water content, and drinking more water. In addition to spending some time working on our blog and tending the garden, I spent several days helping my aunt with her place (The new floor is going in today.) and we did our monthly shopping trip along with two medical appointments. With so much time spent at her place and on the road, I’ve not had time to prepare meals. Several lunches and dinners have been frozen meals or sandwiches. I wish our local IGA had a healthier selection of them. With a busy week and my poor eating, I knew it it was was not going to be a good time when I stepped on the scale. This week I gained the two pounds I lost last week back. Not the end of the world but NOT something I plan on repeating this week either! Until next week… Remember to stay positive and keep looking forward.
OnlinePlus – Put the power of Weight Watchers in the palm of your hand. Learn more.
Make it a habit to leave a comment below or on my Facebook fan page when you stop by.
I am not a medical professional. The contents of this website are for educational purposes and are not intended to offer personal medical advice. You should seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.
DID YOU MISS LAST WEEK’S POST?