21 days to a new habit

Don’t have the time? If not, then your resolution probably won’t stick.

Raise your hand if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution to lose weight? Mine’s raised, yet I’m still munching on the leftover cookies, candy and goodies lingering from the holidays. It’s sad that it takes only days to break our good health habits and weeks or months to make them stick.

When it comes to keeping that resolution to lose weight, diets routinely fail, said Maji Koetter-Ali, dietitian with Norton Weight Management Services. She said that’s because we focus on the quick fix and not on a permanent lifestyle change.

The best diet is one we can stick to

“Be realistic and try to incorporate a diet that will suit your personal needs and can last for the long term,” said Koetter-Ali, who counsels patients at Norton Health & Wellness Center.

That means making a plan to change behaviors instead of depriving yourself. This way, you’re less likely to fall off the wagon and into the fast-food drive-thru.

Making small changes on a consistent basis — 25 days or more per month — can lead to substantial weight loss, according to research from Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab.

Here are examples of small changes you can make today:

  • Keep counters clear of all foods but the healthy ones.
  • Never eat directly from a package — always portion food out into a dish.
  • Eat something hot for breakfast within the first hour of waking up.
  • Avoid going more than three or four hours without having something small to eat.
  • Put down utensils between bites to slow down your eating. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to tell your stomach it’s full, so slowing down will help you eat less.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Koetter-Ali says don’t try to make too many changes at once. This can leave you feeling overwhelmed to the point of giving up. She suggests taking one step at a time, one change at a time and being in it for the long haul, because quick fixes are few and far between.

After all, it takes at least 21 days for a new habit to stick — and up to two months for some people. Try one small change today and stick with it for a couple of weeks before adding another.

Be kind to yourself

Now that we know how to get our resolution in focus, don’t be hard on yourself if you give in to weakness now and then. Follow the 90/10 rule: Try to eat the right things 90 percent of the time, and give yourself a break the other 10 percent of the time.

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