I have been losing and gaining the same 10 pounds for months now, and I had just about convinced myself that I just can’t do this weight loss thing. Then I came across this article about how habits are formed blogs.ucl.ac.uk/hbrc/201
. Since I do understand that losing weight is all about forming life-long healthy life-style habits, I immediately gave this article my full attention.
The part of this article that resonated with me (think hitting yourself over the head with a hammer) is this paragraph: “The bottom line is: stay strong. 21 days is a myth; habit formation typically takes longer than that. The best estimate is 66 days, but it’s unwise to attempt to assign a number to this process. The duration of habit formation is likely to differ depending on who you are and what you are trying to do. As long as you continue doing your new healthy behaviour consistently in a given situation, a habit will form.”
That makes perfect sense to me, and the words give me renewed hope. I have formed many healthy habits, but one - and it is a major one - has escaped me. I know that if I am going to successfully lose - and keep off - the weight, I need to eat less and move more. As they say, it is not rocket science. So what is my problem? Eating less - staying within my calorie range consistently - is my issue. That is the one habit I have had a devil of a time dealing with. Some days I do well, some days I don't. My longest streak was 61 days once, so that tells me I can do it. As the article pointed out, some habits just take longer to develop. My thoughts: In all honesty, I really have not thought this one through as well as I should have and I am - or was about to - give up too soon.
I must give myself credit because I have successfully developed healthy lifestyle habits. There is no reason why I can’t be successful with this one. Those healthy habits I have formed (drinking 8+ glasses of water, moving more, eating at least 5 fruits and veggies each day, for example) are pretty solid and are constantly in the forefront of my mind each day. I do them now as automatically as brushing my teeth. They are definitely firmly embedded habits. So, how did I do that? I broke them down into small steps (starting with the possible) and kept building from there. I worked through the obstacles. My idea of exercise when I started was 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week. I built on that and now I am 45-60 minutes per day, 7 days a week. I have more to do with this habit, but I have made significant progress, and I didn't give up. I just need to give that same level of effort to the eating less habit.
The article talked about habits built on habits. I think part of the reason I was not seeing the success I wanted in terms of being able to consistently stay within my calorie range was that I had not identified the foundation habits that were first necessary. Seems obvious now that I put this thought in writing, but I totally missed it.
So, exactly what foundation habits do I need to develop in order to get to the point where I can consistently stay within my calorie range? Tracking is, of course, the most obvious step, and the one I have identified and blogged about and worked on. However, I have really just been spinning my wheels and pretty much have stayed in one place. I have managed tracking 8-10 days at a time, but then let it slide for days (many days...). Apparently, I have strongly developed the “let it slide” habit. Wrong direction. Clearly, I need to identify and work on the foundation habits for tracking and staying within my calorie range.Though limited, I have had some success in my attempts to build this habit. The things I did do that did work must be those foundation habits that I need to work on first. I think that if I can build these habits, I will reach my desired habit:
1. Spend a few minutes each night reviewing the day’s tracking, adjusting as needed, and planning for the next day.
2. Accept NO excuses for not doing so
3. Identify and come up with a plan for any obstacles that can be anticipated for the next day (eating out, company coming, traveling, etc.)
4. When you can’t figure out calories, substitute nutrition info for similar items or break down the components and give the nutrition info that.
5. Carefully plan shopping lists - and stick to them - that make sure I have everything I need to make healthy choices
For whatever reason, I did not see these individual steps as a means to the desired end and did not grasp the importance of working on them. Now I do, so that gives me a new direction and action plan.
Note to self: Stay strong and don't give up.