You probably know that a healthy diet and regular exercise help you feel better and healthier. These choices can lead to fewer health issues and a longer life. If you set a New Year’s resolution to improve your diet and find that your motivation is waning, you may need more help.
Change is difficult, but an inability to change often comes from not knowing what lasting changes help you in the long run. Another thing to remember is that results are not instantaneous and that maintaining habits can take quite a while. For something to become a habit, especially something you find difficult, you have to know how long it takes to form. This article aims to give you a better idea of how long it takes to form healthier dietary habits.
Allow Your New Dietary Effort Time To Become A Habit
According to health professionals, it usually takes 21 days to create a new habit. Other research on behavioral change shows an average of 66 days for a behavior to become habitual. That said, it can take between two to eight months for a habit to form. The time it takes, however, truly depends on the individual and the changes they want to make. You also have to factor in whether or not the changes are new to you or if they are building on existing behaviors.
Drinking more water each day usually becomes a habit more quickly than adhering to a regular exercise routine. How long did it take to form your current pattern of eating habits? You have to rewire old pathways in the brain, but this is done more efficiently if you break a big change down into smaller steps.
Separate Your Eating Habit Changes Into Smaller Steps
It is very difficult to make an all-or-nothing dietary change last. Instead, nutritionists recommend tackling one change at a time. Once you have success with one change, you’ll get a boost of confidence to tackle the next change you want to make. Realistically, changing your diet all at once is not effective for long-term change. You will most likely give up if you take that approach.
One way to make smaller changes is to adopt an addition mindset, as opposed to a restriction mindset. Figure out how you can best add to your current diet to begin a healthier journey, instead of cutting out entire food groups. Start by aiming to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. You don’t have to worry about other aspects of your diet yet. It’s easier to add more nutritious foods to your diet instead of focusing on what you can no longer eat.
Once you have a more balanced diet with nutritious foods, you’ll find that it is easier to avoid sweets and other less nutrient-dense foods. There is no restriction to those foods, and you can now notice how your body feels after eating those unhealthy foods.
Helpful Tips That May Aid Lasting Change
Now that you understand how to better manage your expectations and break up changes into smaller steps, the following tips may aid lasting dietary changes:
- Identify your why: Connecting your goals to deeper motivations makes it easier to stick with your goals. If eating healthier can help prevent diabetes or get you off medication, let that be your motivation. Perhaps you have grandchildren and want to live longer to be able to enjoy more time with them. Find your “why” and you may form habits more quickly.
- Find community: Typically, you can form habits more easily when you have people supporting you in your corner. Additionally, you may benefit from forming an accountability group, so that you all hold each other accountable to the same dietary changes. You may also find that a wellness coach or nutritionist can help you as well.
- Make change a part of your identity: It can help to link your new dietary changes to your identity to promote intuitive change. Let’s say that you want to improve your and your family’s health. This can become easier when you identify as someone who prioritizes health to be a great role model for your children.
The main thing to remember is that eating healthier takes time, but it can help you live longer and feel better. It may take longer than a few weeks to form these habits, but anything worth achieving usually doesn’t come easy. Break things into smaller, more manageable steps and you’ll find that forming dietary habits is much easier.