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How long before habits change?

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Old 02-10-2010, 05:55 PM   #1
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Default How long before habits change?

I just brought home a McDonald's grilled chicken sandwich and cut it in half. I save the other half for another meal. With my home cooking, I've gotten really good about portions and measuring, but with old habitual foods like this grilled chicken sandwich there's still a moment's hesitation where my hungry tummy tells me I should just eat the whole thing. I have to remind myself that a normal portion of chicken is half a breast and that it WILL fill me up. After I'm done I am indeed filled on just half a sandwich.

So when do you suppose that changes? Will I ever cut that sandwich in half without really thinking about it? It scares me that my courage and will power will not hold out for life.
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:30 PM   #2
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I wish I knew!

I struggle with old habits all the time. But, it sort of makes sense... I spent 25 years or so finely honing those skills into habits... so they're not going to leave me overnight I guess.

You did the right thing by recognizing that a half a sandwich is plenty. You had a reason for the decision that you made. If you'd eaten the whole thing, there would have been a reason for that, too. Today, I've desperately wanted to buy something from the vending machine in my office, and the only reason I want to do that is because I am bored and eating breaks up the monotony for me. It is NOT because I'm hungry.

By recognizing that you really only wanted the second half of the sandwich out of habit (not because you were still hungry), you took a very powerful step in the right direction. I don't know how long it will take your new decisions to turn into habits, but you are definitely on your way! Just keep going!
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Old 02-10-2010, 06:44 PM   #3
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What a big question! I feel that at least for me, I'll never "naturally" not want the second half of the sandwich. I think that it will be something that I'll always have to be vigilant about.

This is something that's discussed a bit in the Chicks in Control forum--I was binge free for 83 days-- yet I still feel off the wagon--that amount of time wasn't enough to "break the habit" of binging. I think that this is because, at least for me, when it comes to food, it's not necessarily about habit, but a deeper issue involving my relationship with food.
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:08 PM   #4
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I think it probably takes me anywhere from one week to a few weeks to transition into a new habit. Some new habits are easier than others: For example, standing up at my desk at work was pretty easy to implement, whereas quitting coffee was/is very difficult for me (when I let myself start up again). Getting to bed "on time" is something I will always have a problem with, whereas avoiding sugar is pretty easy for me. Portion control is pretty easy for me overall, but being motivated to do "formal" exercise is pretty difficult.

But it can take that little time to transition OUT of a good habit and back into a bad one, too. When I start drinking coffee daily, within a few days I am back to loving, adoring, wanting, and needing that habit. When I start not getting to bed on time, I have to drag myself kicking and screaming back out of sleep deprivation.

None of us is ever going to be "perfect" with our good habits, or to be able to stop thinking about them, or to not have to put some kind of effort in. I'm OK with that. Being healthy does take some effort, but it's not an every-waking-minute kind of thing, now that I've got a lot of great habits established--maintaining them is easier than building them was to start with.

I took a break from active weight loss from June to January and didn't gain any weight back--just maintained--due to my good habits. I didn't track calories or try to do anything extra other than just eat and move the way I had been previously. And it worked.
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Old 02-10-2010, 07:21 PM   #5
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Here comes a fat woman who does work on health behavior.... Long term studies with real, live, human beings show it takes at least 6 months for a change (giving up an unhealthy behavior or acquiring a healthy behavior) to become a habit. Even then it is normative for us to relapse back into old behaviors without doing all the things that those in maintenance know about - monitoring, support, consistency, catching slips before they get out of control.

5 months into my bazillionth time around, and I still don't think eating healthy and being physically active are firm habits for me. But I'm working on them.

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