For New Year's, you vow to drop all your bad eating habits and start a new regimen of the healthiest eating imaginable. And it works... for a few days, at least. Next thing you know it, it's Lent and you vow to give up your biggest guilty pleasures. And it works... for 40 days, at least.
But real change? The kind that reaps those big benefits and leaves you looking fit and perky? That takes time — and baby steps.
That saying that Rome wasn't built in a day applies to your body and habits in the most exacting way. You can't suddenly make a huge shift in a day. It has to happen deliberately and gradually — like building a coliseum.
No one sets out to change with a plan to fail, but if you make your expectations and time frame too ambitious, that could be the ultimate effect. "Behavior change takes time. Moving toward a healthier lifestyle is all about replacing old habits with new, healthy habits. Focusing on too many changes at one time is likely to lead to failure," says Heather Mangieri, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, the owner and nutrition consultant for Nutrition CheckUp, LLC. She's also spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Instead, focus in on one change at a time, no matter how tiny.
"When we focus on small changes, one at a time, they are much more likely to stick. Over time, all of the small changes lead us to a healthier life. It's important to remember that living a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination," says Mangieri.
When researchers at Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab launched the National Mindless Eating Challenge (NMEC), they found that if participants kept to their little eating changes for at least 25 days in a month, then they saw their weight decline. "Of the 504 participants who completed at least one follow-up survey, more than two thirds (42 percent) either lost weight or maintained their weight (27 percent). Weight loss was highest among people who made changes consistently," reports Medical News Today. The study was published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.
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