Forming healthy habits

My cup at work and my CamelBak "sippy cup" keep me drinking water all day long. Before I got home today I had consumed a little more than 100 ounces of water. So I just had a little with dinner and have now cutting myself off, otherwise I will be waking up a lot during the night.

From a Mayo Clinic article: The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate water intake for men is about 3 liters (~13 cups) a day and for women it is about 2.2 liters (~9 cups) a day. 

As I have talked about before, my company has a Wellness Program. Throughout the year challenges are created for us.

Some of Go Fit Girl!’s Monthly Challenges are inspired by my work challenges. Though I do try to add my own twist to them.

One of the challenges right now is to Challenge a Friend. (Which I may steal for a future GFG! Monthly Challenge.)

I challenged a friend, who doesn’t get enough water in daily, to drink six 8-ounce servings today. He did it before we even left work. Let’s hope he can keep this up.

He and I were talking on the shuttle ride in to work today about how long something becomes a (healthy) habit.

We’ve heard the myths, right?

How about 21 days?

This article from UCL Health Chatter says: 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.

US News Health blog post by Yoni Freedhoff: … Changing behaviors and creating new habits takes an awfully long time. While you may well be able to establish a comfort level with a new behavior in just 21 days, my experiences have taught me that habit formation requires years of consciously reminding yourself of your new choices. True, the longer you sustain a behavior, the less frequent the need for conscious reminder. But I can’t help but wonder how many people’s best intentions were lost because they believed they’d forged a habit, when really they just planted a new behavior.

I liked the idea of planting a new behavior. Because living healthy is a lifestyle, it is a choice. And it is one that I have to encounter and choose almost every day.

Yes, it would be easy to skip the gym or yoga. It would be easy to have a glass of wine or open a beer every single night. I would rather have KFC for dinner than cook my healthy zucchini “pasta” and brown rice. It would be easy to ditch the water and drink carbonated sugary drinks all day. But I don’t.

Why? Because I like feeling healthy. I don’t like how I feel even after a few days of going off the wagon of healthy, conscious eating. I don’t like the guilt of not regularly hitting the gym and yoga studio. I don’t want to have to buy new clothes or only wear the few pairs of “fat” pants I have. I am excited to have a little tone in my arms.  And let’s just be vain, I like looking and feeling healthy, fit and thin. I get compliments regularly and I know my hard work is showing and that is part of the reward.

Every article I read tonight, including Women’s Health Research Institute, pretty much debunks the 21-day habit myth and explains where this came from. I am sharing this because I find it rather fascinating and strange. The myth seems to have originated in the 1960 book, Psycho-cybernetics, by Dr. Maxwell Maltz. The plastic surgeon turned psychologist noted a 21-day time frame in which patients got used to their new face, amputations and the like. He extended the idea to other things and said this is the amount of time to get used to a new home for example.  Somewhere along the line, this was translated into “a habit requires 21 days to form.”

This Livestrong article gives some great tips on how to start healthy habits. The only one I might alter is the suggestion of exercise. It suggests starting your exercise at five times a week. For a beginner I think that is a little high and I think it will be difficult to maintain and the beginner might get discouraged and quit.

I say for the first month start at three times a week and build up to five. And I wouldn’t start some hardcore workout. I would start off easy and slow, like with walking. When I am healthy (I am recovering from a cold and I don’t exercise when I am sick) I exercise six to seven times a week.

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