There is some debate on how long it actually takes to build a healthy habit. Some research shows it takes roughly three weeks to become accustomed to something new, while other studies argue it takes longer or varies on the task to be learned. Wherever the timing lies, we know that one thing is critical for building or breaking habits–consistency. Our success is often the sum of the things we do over and over again, not just the great big things done once.
Following are some habits that might be holding you back from weight loss success. Each one can be easily replaced with a few better habits, repeated consistently:
1) Not drinking enough water: Water is critical for good health. Not only can dehydration lead to serious illness or even death, but early signs of dehydration can be confused with hunger and lead to excess calorie consumption. Break this bad habit by replacing drinks that dehydrate you, such as coffee and alcohol, with water. Keep a filled water bottle close by and in multiple locations, including at your desk, in the car, and in gym bags or purses. Think water is boring? Try jazzing it up with slices of cucumber or fresh fruit.
2) Eating for reasons other than hunger: Boredom, anger, stress, or simply just because the food was there. These are all non-hunger cues that lead us to consume more fat and calories than we need, resulting in weight gain. Breaking this bad habit starts with recognition. We all have personal triggers, so be mindful of the next time you feel inclined to reach for a sweet or salty snack. Write down the source of the trigger, and find a new healthy habit to replace the snacking. Go for a walk, call a friend, watch a humorous video, or hit the gym instead.
3) Finding any excuse not to move: After a long day at work, the thought of going to the gym can feel impossible. Instead, we plop on the couch and watch television. Moving doesn’t have to be this all-or-nothing game. Simply walking up and down your stairs, around the neighborhood, or playing a game of tag with the kids can get your heart rate up and calories burning. If exercise tends to be the last thing you think of, trying shifting your calorie-burn routine to the morning, when you’re fresh, or simply build it into your day. Take a walk during lunch or use a bicycle to commute to work.
4) Not getting enough sleep: Improper and inconsistent sleep leads to stress and hunger signals that lead us straight toward unhealthy foods. Make sleep a priority. Try getting to bed at the same time every night, ensuring an uncluttered and quiet sleeping space and avoid taking distractions, such as electronic devices, to bed.
5) Letting stress rule the day: Stress releases hormones that encourage us to go for fatty foods, and is often responsible for the dangerous storage of fat in and around the belly. Recognize the sources and triggers of your stress and try to eliminate those that are within your control. For stressors that feel impossible to change, alter your reaction instead. Talk about your stressors with a friend or loved one, exercise to release natural endorphins that will keep you happy, and go for stress-busting foods like blueberries and lean protein.