Over the summer I posted that I was going to try clean up some bad eating habits I’d fallen back into (http://wp.me/pnw73-Lk). I received some great feed back, got some good real-world tips and in doing some research stumbled across a trick that I thought I’d try.
Studies show that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so my first task was identifying the one habit that I wanted to break. (Note: tackling one habit at a time is much easier than an entire overhaul). So my plan was to eliminate my little penchant for sweets. A “kiss” from the office candy basket, a cookie (or more) in the afternoon, a treat from the coffee shop all add up to unnecessary sugar, calories and fat.
In order to track my progress I affixed 21 post it flags along the side of my computer monitor. On each flag I put the date (8/5, 8/6…all the way to 8/25). At the end of each day I would pull a flag off the monitor. Sounds too simple to work, right?
Well, the funny thing is that it mattered to me that I was able to pull off a post it note with a clear conscious. I substituted my processed sugar fix with fresh fruit. I enjoyed pineapple, juicy peaches, melons and berries.
But wait! Fruit has sugar, right? That’s true but fruit has fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and a host of other benefits. And let’s be really honest. I don’t know ANYONE who is overweight because they have a problem with apples.
About halfway through my experiment I was starting to notice that my processed sugar cravings were ceasing. Sure I would have a hankering for a cupcake or a cookie but I was able to let the thought roll through my brain without it becoming actionable.
At the end of my experiment I was able to look back on my 21 days with some serious pride. I can say without a doubt that my cravings had dropped and I no longer went on auto-pilot when muffins were served at a meeting or a cookie was in view.
Was I able to abstain for the full 21 days? In truth there were 2 or 3 days where I slipped up but I was able to course-correct and move forward.
The bottom line is that maintaining a new, healthy habit requires attention and diligence. One needs to keep working that new “habit” muscle so that the old, firmly established habit doesn’t pop back up.
So if you need to break an old habit or create a new, healthier habit, give the 21 day post it note experiment a try. Let me know how it works for you!
Now go run!