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Put in the Time to Build Good Habits

By Matt Cavallo

You may have heard that it takes 21 days to build a new habit. According to Phillippa Lally; a health psychology researcher at University College London, a new habit usually takes a little more than two months — 66 days to be exact — and as much as 254 days until it’s fully formed.

So, if we are trying to build good new habits, such as a new diet or exercise routine, and experience set-backs within the first 21 days, don’t be hard on yourself. It takes time to build new habits. 

I am in the middle of this process myself. I recently shortened my morning walks and was not eating right. I felt myself getting heavier and more out of shape. At my peak, I was at 245 pounds and every meal I ate made me feel ill and every step I took seemed like a marathon. I knew I needed to make a change, but I had fallen in on some bad habits.

Today, I am down to 226 pounds and my morning walks are rigorous and long. I am in week four of my new habit building. Let’s look at how I got here. Here are my tips to building positive, new habits:
  • Set a S.M.A.R.T. Goal (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time bound). For me, my specific goal is to get to 200 pounds. I can measure it on my scale. It is attainable by good diet and exercise habits. I believe it is realistic if I follow through on my habits. My time bound is nine months which would equal five pounds a month. So far, I am exceeding my goal, but I found that once I put it on paper, I was bound to it.
  • Expect setbacks. The first two weeks I stayed on intermittent fasting, meaning I only ate during a specific time window. During that time window I only ate fruits, vegetables, and proteins. I cut out all breads, pastas, rice, and sugar. During week three, there were some easy excuses to break my diet and I took them. We had to travel for our kids’ cross-country meet and while on the road I had a sub and a donut. I am allowing myself that setback and I will not let it define my new habit building. 
  • Find an accountability partner. Making a change by yourself is hard, but when you have an accountability partner it keeps both of you honest. Luckily, I live with my partner and we decided to take this journey together. We check in with each on our progress and have made it a point to discuss the week’s menu and food shopping lists so that we only get the items on our list. 
  • Don’t give up. I started seeing results about a month after I started on this journey. While eating right and exercising more doesn’t feel quite that automatic yet, it is slowly becoming a habit. I have wanted to quit many times in the past couple of weeks, but I haven’t.

This is how I have been going about forming new, healthier habits. If you are looking to incorporate good habits into your life and make a positive change, remember you are worth it and you deserve it.