Weight Loss
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How long does it take to create a new habit?


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I heard that it's usually 21 days/3 weeks.

But my real question is, how long does it take until the new habit becomes your lifestyle. How long until you can be "defined" as a healthy person. After 3 weeks I can't really say that I am "healthy" even though I have been for the past 3 weeks, because I know that it is very easy to slip and fall down that horrible downward spiral. How long until the habit becomes a solidified thing?

Does it take until you reach your goal weight? Months? Years?

What do you guys think?

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Here is a good answer from Clare Josa in How to Feel Happier:

So how long does it take to break an old habit or start a new one?

My conclusion?

It’s instant.
Breaking an old habit or starting a new one is “done” as soon as you make a true commitment to yourself that it’s what you’re going to do.

Why didn’t giving up coffee work for me? Because I didn’t really want to. I was doing it because I felt it was “the right thing to do”. So my heart wasn’t really in it.

As for getting up early each day, that’s working well because I really want to do it. Those who know me will know how precious a commodity sleep is for me(!). But I know how much more centred and chilled out I feel when I’ve taken that time each morning. So some days I’ll get up to meditate and then go back to bed afterwards! It’s almost easy, because I’ve committed to myself to do it.

So you can break a habit in as little time as it takes you to make a decision.

Yes, after the decision, willpower and action is still needed. But it’s the strength of that decision - why it is important to you - that will make the difference between success and failure.

Someone once told me 21 times of said action...I dont know how much truth is in that

I would say it takes about six to eight weeks.  But the true test is whether you're still making conscious decisions or whether it becomes automatic and unthinking.... Once you get into 'automatic and unthinking' then you can say it's your new habit.

There was a study done on eating habits to measure how long before a "lifestyle change" becomes permanent.

I think this was the article. Good article anyway.

http://www.nwcr.ws/Research/default.htm

It found that people who changed eating habits needed 3 years(!) before it became a habit. I always heard the 3 week thing mentioned earlier. I've been eating and exercising differently for over a year and I feel its now my new "habit" so I doubt the 3 year thing.

In cows it only takes 3 days.........Smile

It takes 72 times of repeating the same thing for it to become a habit. 

thhq
Aug 01 2009 15:17
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Regarding weight loss and maintenance, my personal experience is never.

The physical evidence: after 2-1/2 years I continue to wake up at 5 AM daily looking for something to eat.  If eating and exercising in a healthier way had really become a habit I would have gone back to normal sleep patterns.  And based on my continued ability to overeat and pile weight back on at 5 lbs a week, I conclude that my old habits are not broken.

Maybe as Mike suggests 3 years will be the magic point where I start to sleep until 9 AM.  I hope so.  But until then eternal vigilance is the price of, uh, weight maintenance.  I don't trust my habits, only my diary.

"Does it take until you reach your goal weight? Months? Years?"

 

I would think that it takes a couple of years.  And I'll tell you why.  I've gone on diets that have lasted anywhere from a couple of days up to 9 months.  On the 9-month thing, I passed the 3-week point.  And 3-months...  Things got whole lot easier as time passed because I REMEMBERED what to eat and what I needed to do to burn it off.  I learned when I could cheat and how much.  I even managed to make it through the hardest time of the year... the holidays.  But!  I reached a point at 9-months, where it just all fizzled out (in the Springtime).  All it took was me getting depressed for an extended amount of time and all of my work just went out the window.  Or so I thought.  I just started working on losing weight and improving my health again.  This time, it all seems to be a lot eaiser for me.  I basically know what to do and have just gone back to doing what I know I need to be doing.   I've also learned that I have more to learn!  So, it's an ongoing process.  As to the 3-week habit thing.... I used to work as a maid and I hated it so much in the beginning!  I was in a great deal of pain (back, knees, legs, and feet) and I tried to quit about 3 days into the job.  I was asked by the Executive Housekeeper to just give it 3-weeks and if I STILL felt like quiting....then quit.  Well, I gave it the 3-weeks.  At the end of that time, most of the physical pain had subsided and I had learned the routine.  So I didn't quit.  I was still there 3-months later.  By then, I had not only adjusted, but I excelled at what I was doing.  So, I think the 3-week thing is true in some things.  To an extent...  Whether or not that can be applied to a lifestyle change or not... I don't know.  I'm still learning myself.  But I would think, from my own experiences, that it takes a couple of years.  And a whole lot of committment and determiniation to stick to one thing.... TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF.  You can do it.  Good luck to you.

Original Post by texmom52:

It’s instant.
Breaking an old habit or starting a new one is “done” as soon as you make a true commitment to yourself that it’s what you’re going to do.

^This.  I instantly went from being a smoker to a non-smoker ten years ago even though I had literally just put out a cigarette.

I ate healthy and worked out for 8 months and couldn't make it a habit. I relapsed :(

 

Original Post by texmom52:

Here is a good answer from Clare Josa in How to Feel Happier:

So how long does it take to break an old habit or start a new one?

My conclusion?

It’s instant.
Breaking an old habit or starting a new one is “done” as soon as you make a true commitment to yourself that it’s what you’re going to do.

Why didn’t giving up coffee work for me? Because I didn’t really want to. I was doing it because I felt it was “the right thing to do”. So my heart wasn’t really in it.

As for getting up early each day, that’s working well because I really want to do it. Those who know me will know how precious a commodity sleep is for me(!). But I know how much more centred and chilled out I feel when I’ve taken that time each morning. So some days I’ll get up to meditate and then go back to bed afterwards! It’s almost easy, because I’ve committed to myself to do it.

So you can break a habit in as little time as it takes you to make a decision.

Yes, after the decision, willpower and action is still needed. But it’s the strength of that decision - why it is important to you - that will make the difference between success and failure.

 As the wise woman said ^^^.

yep, i agree with the above.

i also think that part of it comes from just knowing it has to be done.  i knew that when i started my new job, i was going to have to get up at 5am in order to have the kind of morning i like, give the dog a decent walk, etc.  if it took six weeks for that to become "habit" i'd have a real problem, wouldn't i?  can't be late for work for six week.

whether or not that's a habit, i don't know.  it's just what i do.

same thing with weight loss.  there came a point where it just had to be done, because the alternative was to continue to gain three or four pounds a year until i was obese (and beyond).  i changed my habits because i believed absolutely that it was necessary.

I don't mean to sound like a meanie, or a pessimist but, once an addict, always an addict.

The people responding to this post seem to be struggling with two very different issues:

1) How long does it take to change a habit?

2) When do I stop feeling like I want to go back to my old ways?

The answer, in my opinion to item 1 is "instant." The article posted above is spot on -- as soon as you make a real commitment to breaking the habit you'll be successful in breaking it and moving on. Several people mentioned smoking -- I, too, was a smoker for about 12 years, and I actively tried to quit for about the last 3 years I was smoking. One day about 2 years ago I just decided to quit and I haven't picked up a cigarette since. It's funny I always THOUGHT I was committed when I tried to quit before; I always "wanted" to quit, but it was just a different feeling when I made a real commitment. I'm sorry that sounds campy, but it's true. Real commitment comes from a more visceral realization that you don't want to continue to do something.

The answer to the second item, "when do I stop feeling like I want to go back to my old ways" is variable. It's been two years now since I stopped smoking and I still get an urge every once in a while to light up. The good news is that the urges are more rare as time goes by, and they're easier to resist because you start to change your self-image. It's easier to resist doing things that don't agree with your self-image. For example, in my self-image now, I'm not a smoker, so it's easier MUCH easier to resist lighting up -- it's just not who I am. I feel the same way about eating healthier. I've been at it for a lot less time, but I already feel that it's getting easier to resist the temptation of candy in the afternoon or finishing off an overloaded plate of food at a restaurant.

It just takes time for the urges to subside, and that's where the commitment comes in. If you don't have it -- the urges are impossible to resist. If you do have the commitment it's still hard, but it's possible to resist and it's possible to get back on the wagon if you fall off. Hope this helped!

The thought manifests as the word.

The word manifests as the deed.

The deed develops into habit. 

And the habit hardens into character.

It is like geturdone said if you make an honest commintement to do something it could happen in 1 second.

It could be 1 second or 1 year it is up to you.

thhq
Aug 04 2009 16:55
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The OP was not interested in the point at which the lightbulb went off in her head and she thought "I must lose 20 pounds".  With all deference to the smokers who have quit cold turkey, the idea itself does not break the habit in one second.

I agree with ednasilem.  If nicotine, alcohol or sugar were not available to feed a habit you would really find out how long the habits last.   Addictive substances are a lifetime habit for most people.  Motivation is a daily battle, not a one second snap decision.  If you give up the old habits come right back.

 

It takes 27 days to form a habit. However once the habit is formed it needs to be incorporated as a lifestyle choice otherwise it takes half that time to loose the habit too


after 2-1/2 years I continue to wake up at 5 AM daily looking for something to eat.  If eating and exercising in a healthier way had really become a habit I would have gone back to normal sleep patterns. 

Why not get up at 5 AM, then?  Have a light breakfast, get some exercise, and start your day.  Why fight the urge to wake up at 5 AM if that's what your body wants to do?

Original Post by pgeorgian:

whether or not that's a habit, i don't know.  it's just what i do.

This quote is perfect.  Whatever we do in life is just what we do.  The choices we make give us the results we experience.  If we make the "right" choices repeatedly, we'll probably get the results we want.  Just keep doing the things you really want to do (eating only the foods you really want to, engaging in the level of activity you know is good for you, etc.), and you'll get the results you want, whether or not you call it a "habit" or a "lifestyle."

Every moment is an opportunity to make a better choice.

It took me 7 months to reach my goal weight (as of last week).

I still don't have ideal eating habits, but it took about 3 months for my food choices to be automatically healthier instead of an irritating chore that was a part of dieting.

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