It’s been four weeks since we; stubbed out our last cigarette, scarfed our last overgrown cupcake, corked the bottle, and put on sneakers. How are we doing? Have there been some slips? Have there been any results? Well there’s some bad news and some good news. Bad first? Well, three weeks is when a new activity really loses its aura of novelty. The excitement of starting something has ebbed. Now it’s just doing the activity. If you haven’t seen immediate or significant results you might just be thinking; “one donut never hurt anyone.” You may have started a convincing inner dialogue of “Ya know four weeks is a long time. I showed I could do it if I put my mind to it. This is just a bad time for me. I’ll pick it up again when…” And you’d be right. January is a dumb time to change physical behavior. So are you ready for the good news? A new behavior becomes habit at five weeks. That’s right, you are almost at the sweet spot. This doesn’t mean that in one week you will awaken to a svelte non-craving new self. It means that it will no longer feel like a virtual living hell on earth to engage in your resolution behavior.
Instead of simply enduring this last week of drudge, let’s use it to tweak ourselves.
If it’s tobacco that you are trying to excise from your life, do you have proper support? Have you seen a doctor (who might suggest nicotine patches/gums?) Do you have a (smoke-free) buddy you can talk to/hang with? Have you cleaned and made uncomfortable all your smoking spots? Have you eliminated or altered smoking triggers (that after dinner coffee, those work breaks, the commuting)? Are you putting your cigarette money somewhere visible? Have you earmarked your new wealth for something? In just one week you are going to feel incredibly proud of yourself! You’ve made real and considerable strides in prolonging and improving the quality of your life. And your skin is going to look so much better.
If comfort foods have made you much too comfortable you may be questioning your resolve right about now. It’s January! A long dark month quite simply designed for massive doses of carbohydrates. But we’re four weeks in, so dammit it’s full steam ahead. If you’re interested in losing more than 20% of your body weight, you’ve seen a doctor, yes? Have you banished all processed/sugar infused/empty calorie food and beverage from your home/bag/car/desk/pockets/nightstand/locker? Good. Do you write down any and everything that passes your lips? You must. Food amnesia is the single biggest weight loss sabotage. You may be eating/drinking at times and not considering the calories. That overpriced latte? It’s not coffee it’s a hot milkshake. The glass of wine (or two or three) after work/with dinner total real calories. The birthday/retirement/fertility office party cake? Eating with people you don’t particularly care for does not burn calories. There’s nothing wrong with overpriced coffee, wine or cake. There’s only something wrong with mindless eating. It will get you. Now have you found a nice substitution for the afternoon snack/wine? Perhaps some flavored teas? Maybe lighting a scented candle is all the sensory comfort you need. The only way permanent behavior change works is if it doesn’t feel punitive. Consider adopting one or two new (or forgotten) behaviors that would feel rewarding.
Have you noticed that your workout clothes aren’t being washed as much as they were a few weeks ago? Is all the treadmill/stair-master/soul cycling very dull? Does real life get in the way? You’re not a failure; you’re just not a hamster who is perfectly enthralled with walking to nowhere. It’s time to find what makes you happy. No really. There was probably once a time you enjoyed playing/moving. Did you love to dance? Was it double-dutch that made your heart sing? Figure it out! Find the adult 21st century equivalent and do it. No one is watching and no one cares. The only way this is going to work (and it will work) is if you enjoy what you’re doing. Maybe you love learning new things? Use that to your fitness advantage. Take on new and complicated activities on a regular basis. Fitness is not a chore it’s time for yourself and a wonderful way to feel (and stay) alive.
Changing behavior in any real and lasting way is not easy. (If it were the world would be a much nicer place.) We all want (in our heart of hearts) to be our best selves. Often our best intentions are stymied by the pesky existence of others. But we do have complete control over how we treat our bodies. Physical behavior change that will lead to a healthier (and perhaps happier) you is attainable and within reach.