How Long Did It Take You?

Over the years I’ve read that it takes about six weeks to make something a habit. In some ways I can see that. We’ve moved quite a few times over the course of our marriage and I have noticed that it takes me about six weeks to consistently remember where I put the dishes in my new kitchen.

In other ways though, I feel like it took me a lot longer than six weeks to fully embrace my new eating habits as my own. And it definitely took longer than six weeks for my exercise routine to become a habit. After all, when I started walking for exercise I could barely make it down my driveway without getting winded. For the exercise habit to become cemented it took the better part of six months.

Even though I’ve been living this healthier lifestyle for many years, I still occasionally find myself heading to the pantry when I’m stressed or looking for some chocolate when I’m bored. Most of the time I resist those urges, but it makes me wonder if all my old food habits are ever truly broken. For me, I think not. Better under control – yes. But completely conquered without some dedicated work – no.

I just wanted to get your take on healthy habits. As you’ve changed your life and your food choices, have you ever thought about the fact that you are creating new habits? Habits that can take you successfully into maintenance and beyond?

So for a quick post and question today –

How long did it take you to make your new lifestyle a habit – or are there still things you are working on cementing into your life?  Diane

34 thoughts on “How Long Did It Take You?

  1. Sharon says:

    In July, 2006, I was accepted to participate in a “walking” study conducted by a grad student in the Exercise Science Dept. at the University of Tennessee. I committed to walking no less than 10,000 steps per day for six months. I had to report in my number of steps and if I didn’t do it, was eliminated from the study. I completed it and the habit remains firmly intact four years later. After losing 60+ pounds, thought I had my eating plan firmly in hand as well, but a few weeks of lost focus can undo a habit pretty quickly. I agree with you. It takes about six months to fully cement a new habit, but for those of us with eating issues, we can never fully let down our guard.
    .-= Sharon´s last blog ..An Irony In My Life =-.

  2. vickie says:

    The first 6 mos was half way effort – I worked on getting off the couch and exercising daily. But did not work as much on food.

    Then, teaching myself to eat and live healthy took me another full year. And there was a lot of crying and an enormous amount of focus and effort in that year.

    Then another full year to get the last of the initial weight off.

    Then two years of maintenance and taking care of a lot of secondary/chronic conditions I had ignored for years and real attention to the inner stuff that needed fixed/dealt.

    Then 6 mos to drop the last few/20 lbs – it was physical focus for that 6 mos.

    now back in maintenance and back to working on the inner stuff again.

    and this is all very much a balancing act for me – keeping myself level. holding my weight (I hold within 2 pounds) is sort of a bi-product of all the other work. In the very beginning the weight was the focus. But as I have moved along, I have really embraced the fact that the weight/fat is just the part that is visible and there are a lot of other factors that have to be addressed/fixed/dealt too.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..Wednesday’s Therapy Appointment =-.

  3. Jules - Big Girl Bombshell says:

    I was told last year during a weight management class through my healthcare that your body changes, actually plateaus, every 8-12 weeks. It gets use to the new and needs to “stall” itself to actually let it settle in, so to speak. I have also heard that it takes 21 days to change a habit. I believe it takes as long as it takes…some habits have more things intertwined. Reaching for the chocolate, wasn’t just my body craving the response it would get, it was also my thoughts, my emotions. It took me a long time to give up soda but it first got farther and farther in between Autopilot responses.
    Great question Diane! I believe for me changing my lifestyle will be an everyday thing for the rest of my life.
    .-= Jules – Big Girl Bombshell´s last blog ..What If…You Joined the Taking Names FUN Day =-.

  4. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    This really made me think! When I started my last “diet” and deemed it a lifestyle change, I went longer than 10 weeks without cheating even once. I thought that was long enough. But then I started some little slips. Some parts of the lifestyle change, like eating more vegetables, may now be good and ingrained. But others, like not snacking after dinner when I am not hungry, I still struggle with most every day. I am eager to reach the place in my life when it is all habit and I just don’t think about it anymore!
    .-= Karen@WaistingTime´s last blog ..PB and K =-.

  5. Hanlie says:

    I am all for creating new, healthier habits. And you’ll know that it’s a habit if you continue doing it even if circumstances change…this is still hard for me. Stepping out of my comfort zones causes me to come undone in some ways. I’ll just keep on plugging away.
    .-= Hanlie´s last blog ..A quick and healthy dinner =-.

  6. Marcelle says:

    Oh Diane what a brilliant question…I am maintaining for one year now and still think nothing is a habit but my mind making sure I stay on track….I have to remind myself to drink water…its not a habit as yet!!

  7. Cynthia (It All Changes) says:

    The food officially became my way of eating about 6 months after when I realized I couldn’t just go back after I had lost the weight. I did start eating back to “normal” and I realized without my new normal I would gain it all back.

    Exercise took a lot longer. I had to find something I enjoyed. I didn’t find walking to be exercise so until I found circuit training and then running it didn’t feel like I was a real exercise even though I made the effort every day.
    .-= Cynthia (It All Changes)´s last blog ..Cleaning House =-.

  8. emergefit says:

    For me, I was in excellent shape before I got out of shape, so I created bad habits which I had not previously known. I wish I had never created those habits because their underlying framework still lingers. “Habit” has now become a synonym for “temptation” in my life, and the guard must always be kept up — though that guard is not always bullet proof, hence my post for tomorrow…
    .-= emergefit´s last blog ..Smile and say, “Cheez”… =-.

  9. Tish says:

    I think it’s a life-time challenge. Habits certainly have helped me. I’ve been working at losing my weight for two years, this time. I’d lost before, and gained it back. The difference this time is that, even tho my initial weight loss started creeping back, I retained many of the good lifestyle habits. I kept going to my WW meetings. I kept up my gym routine and kept up running/walking three times a week. My meals were on track for the most part, but portions were way too large and I gave in to temptations to snack on unhealthy foods between meals. I have tried to weed out the bad habits and I believe my framework for lifestyle (food & exercise) is good now, but I will continue to make small changes for the better and hope to develop all these small habits that will stay with me for life.

  10. Hope @ Hope's Journey says:

    Oh man, now that’s a loaded question! 🙂

    It probably took me the better part of a year to really cement the new habits! But I still have MANY MANY times where I reach for food when the going gets tough. So, I consider myself a work in process, and I’ll probably be “in process” for the rest of my life, but I’m taking it one day, one decision at a time. 🙂

  11. Brenda says:

    I saw on Oprah yesterday that if you do something good 21 times, it will become a healthy habit. I thought that was interesting! I don’t know how long it took to make the healthy changes we did. Maybe 6 months in it just all took effect?
    I still find I’m learning new things as I go though, I don’t think I will ever stop learning
    .-= Brenda´s last blog ..My summer wheels =-.

  12. sian-girlgetstrong says:

    I still have a problem with the eating thing….I just love my chips and hotdogs and I have a really hard time getting away from them. No problem for me going to the gym…just the darn food. I will starve myself and than eat whatever is in site and I do mean whatever!
    .-= sian-girlgetstrong´s last blog ..New Balance Rock&Tone Shoes Review =-.

  13. Laura Jane says:

    I’ve wondered about this a lot. For me, the healthy lifestyle does not really feel like a habit. It still feels somewhat like I’m forcing it. I’ve wondered if it ever will feel more like a natural habit. I feel like exercise which I’ve been doing off-and-on for the last 5-6 years, but fairly consistently for the last 2 years, is finally really becoming a habit. But the healthy eating, not so much. It think the longest I have actually kept up with healthy eating and food journaling is about 12-16 weeks, and that certainly wasn’t long enough for it to become a habit.
    .-= Laura Jane´s last blog ..Surviving Social Events =-.

  14. gcx says:

    agree fully with Laura Jane above. And even still, there’s a bit of inertia about all my habits. Its easier to stick to whatever I’m doing consistently, but with a bit of distraction, several really long days at work for instance, then I’ll slip back into older habits and those will get really ingrained until something big comes and interupts that particular inertia (like my sister packing my gym bag and dragging me there :-).

  15. Melinda Neely says:

    When I lost about 30 pounds in my twenties, it look me 2-3 years. It was a LONG, slow process. To adopt healthy eating habits that stuck, it took even longer. I had to get to the point where eating fried or creamy food actually tasted bad (and made me feel bad). This is the point at which I knew good habits had arrived for good.

    That said, I always have a weakness for sweets and Kettle chips. This is where I practice moderation, something that was foreign to me in years past.
    .-= Melinda Neely´s last blog ..Clear the Clutter: Time for a Cupboard Makeover =-.

  16. 'Drea says:

    It did not take long at all for the exercise to become a habit. As far as the food, I have to take a look at it more often. Also, I feel that I am tempted more by food whereas I’m not tempted to skip workouts very often.
    .-= ‘Drea´s last blog ..Throw It All Out =-.

  17. Amy says:

    Reading all the comments and thinking about this question for myself, it seems it depends on the particular habit. Some of them have a deeper hold than others. I’m like Drea above – I am really good about sticking to my exercise but have a harder time with diet.
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Birthday Boy! =-.

  18. Cheryl says:

    For a habit to truly become internalized? I think it takes longer than 3 weeks for sure, and depends how deeply ingrained the old/bad habit was that is being changed. I would have told you a couple months ago that I was now officially a ‘nutritarian’, a person who naturally prefers healthy food. But, the truth is that while I’m not totally immune to ice cream and potato chip binges, my diet is FAR healthier than it was even a year ago.

    I love your site, its so encouraging and inspiring to me to see you and others who have accomplished what I’m working on and who no longer have to think about wise choices all the time. Thanks for all you put out here for us/me!!
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..Herb Heaven . . . And A Recipe! =-.

  19. Sandi says:

    I think after six weeks it is easier, but I’m not so sure about it being a habit. I’m amazed at how easy it is to slide back into bad habits. I wish it was as hard to back-slide as it is to move forward in a good direction. I think it takes constant vigilance to keep the good habits in place and fight off the bad ones.
    .-= Sandi´s last blog .. =-.

  20. Jenn says:

    Unfortunately for me, I think this will be a lifelong struggle for me. It is easier now then it was at first, but I find that I still fall into old habits. Like turning to food when I’m emotional or laying around on the couch making excuses instead of going to work out. This is a constant battle for me, but it’s worth it.
    .-= Jenn´s last blog ..Lime and Coconut Chicken =-.

  21. ivoryfrog says:

    Thank you so much for being the first to comment on my blog, I never imagined that I would have someone visit me so soon. 🙂 I think with my walking I need to get some in without my kids also so I can work a little harder. They can walk pretty slow sometimes especially at the end of a school day. 🙂

    As for habits, well I am trying to form new habits, healthy ones…and break the old ones as I go too. Its a battle, but its one I am determined to win this time.
    .-= ivoryfrog´s last blog ..Thursday 24th June 2010 – stats and journal =-.

  22. Andrea@WellnessNotes says:

    I agree, it takes a while for a new habit to form and stick. And it is easy to go back to old habits once in a while… I used to be a stress eater, and I have to be very mindful during stressful times… I have found that what works best for me is to make changes gradually. I think making “little adjustments” is easier to stick to than making lots of major changes. When I lost 30 pounds it was really due to many little adjustments over a period of time. Nothing extreme. And the “little adjustments” produced results and became habits that stuck! 🙂
    .-= Andrea@WellnessNotes´s last blog ..Still Working On Finding “Balance” =-.

  23. PhluffyPrincess says:

    Hi Diane!!!!

    Well…I still don’t think my “healthy lifestyle” has become habit yet. I still scare myself when I do get off-track with how FAR I go off track. And I’ve been at this much longer than 6 weeks. So I am still working on it becoming the norm for me. But for me, its definitely going to take much MUCH longer than a few months.
    .-= PhluffyPrincess´s last blog ..I promised you NUMBERS…. =-.

  24. Miz says:

    great post. It took me a while as I was trying to find this new lifestyle while in college 🙂
    to CEMENT the changes? Id say at least a year…and Im still striving daily for some of them.

  25. Jess says:

    It didn’t take me long to adapt to my diet (this one), maybe a couple of weeks. Then again, meat was always my weakness, and now it’s being used to my advantage. :>

  26. Paramjit says:

    You are speaking in the context of exercise and a healthy diet. I have a slightly different view on this. I believe that everyone needs to cross an exercise threshold. This is the point where the mental pain of not exercising is more than the physical pain of exercising. Once this threshold is crossed, exercise becomes a firmly ingrained habit. Also after this point people start eating healthy more and more because they have already invested time and effort into exercise.
    .-= Paramjit´s last blog ..People Start Dying After 40 =-.

  27. John says:

    It honestly too me about 3-4 months to change habits. And I was still eating like crap. It took that long at the end of last year to prepare myself mentally for this year’s push to get healthy and fit. Once I started though I’d say 6 weeks in I was fairly set in the new ways.

    Wish it didn’t take me 3-4 months though as I added on a good 30lbs getting ready!

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