How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

We all want to be healthier. Making better food choices is a big part of that but changing the way we eat is hard. How long does it take to change a habit?

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?
How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

So you’ve started on a journey to change your ways.  You’ve decided to be healthier, eat better, ditch the take out and cook your own healthy meals at home.  It doesn’t take long to realize that it’s harder than you thought it would be.

It takes longer than you thought to research meal plans, find what you want in the grocery store, to prep and put together your meals every day.  And, unfortunately, you’re still craving your favorite frozen pizza.  It’s enough to send any (previously) sane person, screaming, to the nearest drive-thru.

Now, I know you’ve heard this before but it takes time to feel comfortable after making changes to your life, especially big ones.  But how long do we have to wait for this to get easier?  How long does it take to change a habit?

First, let’s break down some of the specific reasons we’re having problems.

How to Create a Healthy Meal Plan

Create a Healthy Meal Plan
Create a Healthy Meal Plan

Creating a meal plan seems like a chore at first, especially for those of us who are used to flying by the seat of our pants in regard to mealtime.  Who has time to find recipes, write out a menu and set up a shopping list for the next couple of weeks??  How would you even know what you’ll want to eat all those days in advance???

Ok, just calm down.  This process is completely malleable.  I’ll tell you right up front that I can’t plan my meals more than a few days ahead of time, either. But what I often do is keep an eye out for recipes online.  When I find something that I’d like to try, I print out the recipe or email it to myself.  This gives me plenty of ideas of what I’d like to try sometime in the future.  If you join the email lists at a few sites, they send the recipes to you!

If the ingredients in a recipe are shelf-stable, freezable or have a relatively long refrigerator life span, I’ll buy them on my next shopping trip so I can have them on hand when I’m ready to make it.  This is a form of meal plan because I already have the recipes and ingredients when I’m ready to cook.

Now for the shopping list.  I have a notes app on my phone (I’m sure you have one as well) so I keep a running shopping list.  If I need something or want to acquire ingredients for a particular meal, I just whip out my phone and add to the list.  When I buy something, I just remove that item from the list.

Sounds easy enough but now you have to face the grocery store.  When I first started on this journey, you can be sure that I knew where they kept the hot dogs and frozen dinners but where the heck are pine nuts?   It’s true that it will take you a little bit longer on your first few trips but you’ll get the hang of it soon enough.  Remember that it’s ok to ask for directions!

For more tips on this subject, check out this article!

Prep. Cook. Repeat.

I love to cook.  I am often at my happiest when I can spend the afternoon creating a complex meal for myself and/or other people.  I understand that not everyone loves (or even likes) to cook and that’s something I can understand on a certain level.

For me, cooking is an undertaking, a project.  I do not enjoy feeling rushed or pressured when I’m cooking and I don’t like to cook when I’m feeling tired after a long day.  And, let’s face it…I usually don’t have an entire afternoon free to make a meal.  So, in that respect, I often don’t like to cook.  But I still gotta eat so what’s a girl to do?

The first thing to do is check your local supermarket.  These businesses recognize the increasing desire of their customers to eat healthy, whole foods while having increasingly less time to spend cooking.

I’m happy to say that they’ve stepped up to the plate by offering a large selection of items that are prepared and/or ready for cooking.  This includes produce that is peeled and cut into various shapes and sizes, both in the produce department and the frozen section.

Check out the meat and frozen food aisles to find proteins that are already deboned, ground or sliced.  Other areas can supply you with sliced or grated cheese, hard-boiled eggs, chopped nuts and many other things to reduce your time in the kitchen.

Another thing I do is take advantage of the opportunities I do have to cook.  Most dishes will last in the fridge for up to 5 days and can also be frozen in serving-sized portions for a minimum of 3 months, sometimes longer.  This means I can make extra portions and eat them throughout the week or freeze them for later.  Here are some additional thoughts on this subject!

But Wait…I Still Want Pizza

I Still Want Pizza
I Still Want Pizza

You’re eating healthy and you should feel better, right?  You should be enjoying the benefits of fresh food and craving some more of that awesome, nutritious stuff that your body needs…except you’re actually dying for a drive-thru sandwich.

You know you shouldn’t.  It’s unhealthy and it’s detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t even taste that good.  And yet, here you are.  You could be in line right now, waiting for your turn to get one of those nuggets of death and berating yourself for being so weak.

Take it down a notch, ok?  It’s not your fault.

Manufacturers have discovered how to use a precise combination of sugar, salt and fat to virtually ensure our overconsumption of the foods they’re pushing. This concoction lights up the pleasure centers in the brain, creating a euphoria that compels us to want more.

It’s so powerful that it’s been compared to cocaine. Yes, you heard me right. Check out these findings put together by Yale University.

The good news?  The longer you hold out, the weaker that compulsion will be.

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?
How Long Does It Take To Change A Habit?

This brings us back to the original question.  How long does it take to change a habit?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that question.  According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it takes between 18 to 254 days and about 66 days for it to become automatic.

Why the wide margin?  Because habits are diverse and affect our lives in different ways.

When you get in your car, you most likely put on your seatbelt without even giving it a thought.  You probably don’t remember struggling to form that habit, it was just something that became a muscle memory after doing it over and over.  Why?  Because, although you know that it could potentially save your life, the seatbelt doesn’t connect with you emotionally.

How about that time you cut your finger with a knife?  I’ll bet it didn’t take you long to form the habit of keeping your fingers out of the way while you’re cutting potatoes.

Food is a different situation altogether.  Eating food gives us pleasure for many different reasons.

We need food to live and so we’re naturally drawn to it.  We also enjoy the different flavors and mouthfeels of these foods as well as the satisfaction of being full.  And nothing compares to the camaraderie of sitting down with our friends and loved ones for a good meal.  Our attitude toward food is wound tightly with tradition, emotion and physical need.

What we eat is a habit that’s much more difficult to change but it can be done.

Here’s my take on the situation.  This is a journey, not a race. You can’t change your entire diet overnight.  Maybe not in 6 months.  Maybe not even in a year.  All you can do is begin.

Ask yourself what you’re willing to change right now.  Maybe you’ll decide to make a smoothie for breakfast tomorrow.  Or trade the takeout one day this week for a super quick and easy tomato and shrimp salad.  Once you’re comfortable with that, maybe you’d like to change something else.

The Best Time Is Now

The Best Time Is Now
The Best Time Is Now

The most important thing to remember is to always be kind to yourself.  There will be hiccups and backslides.  I’ve been at this now for over 4 years and I still have a relapse from time to time. But I’m miles ahead of where I began.  That’s what matters.

So go ahead and get started.  The best time is now.

What’s the first change you plan to make?  Let me know in the comments below!

All my best,

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

Cooking for one person – 14 Questions Answered

So, you’re single and trying to eat healthily but cooking for one person seems like more trouble than it’s worth. You got questions…I’ve got answers!

Cooking for one person
Cooking for one person

When starting down a new path in life, there are always questions.  The problem, at least for me, is I feel dumb when I ask them. I feel like people who would have the answers, those “In The Know” are looking down at me and wondering why I would attempt this when it’s obvious that I don’t even have the most rudimentary skills to make it happen.

Is this the truth?  Probably not but all it takes is that one person to make us feel like we would never be able to pull this off, right?

I’m here to tell you that you can do it and I’d like to help!  I’ve got answers to 14 common questions about how to get started on this journey to eat healthier and be successful cooking for one.

What Should I Eat If I Live Alone?

What Should I Eat When Living Alone?
What Should I Eat When Living Alone?

What do single people eat?

Generally speaking, people who live alone tend to have poorer eating habits than those who don’t, men to a greater degree than women.  I’m not throwing shade here, it’s just a fact.

Why?  Theories abound but it seems most singles agree that it’s harder to keep fruits and vegetables fresh until they can be used and it’s harder to purchase portions of fresh food sized for a single person.

And let’s not forget accountability…it’s easier to eat cake for dinner when there’s no one there to see you do it.

What should I eat if I’m single?

I’m not crazy about the wording of this question because it seems to indicate that there are things we are “allowed” to eat and things we are “not allowed” to eat.

We should be striving to add more whole foods to our diets and cutting back on empty calories as well as processed foods but let’s face facts: There will absolutely be (the very occasional) times when you’re going to eat cake for dinner.  And that’s ok.

What can I cook that’s healthy?

What can I cook that's healthy?
What can I cook that’s healthy? 

What is a healthy dinner?

There’s no one-size-fits-all healthy meal.  People have different likes, different eating habits and different beliefs on what is ethical food.  Based on what our bodies need to thrive, a meal should consist of protein, fruits and/or veggies, complex carbs and calcium.  And don’t forget that a tad bit of fat helps your body absorb all those nutrients!

How do single people eat healthily?

It’s easier to eat healthy when you have the healthy foods you need right on hand. Whether you like to shop for groceries daily, weekly or monthly, make sure you go with a  meal plan in mind and a list in hand.

Take advantage of the butcher, seafood and deli counters to get the exact amount of product you’ll want to eat.  Shop for loose fruits and veggies in produce and don’t hesitate to ask the clerks in produce and meat if you can get portions smaller than the packages that are on the shelf.  Lastly, check-in the frozen aisle for healthy foods that will keep for a while in your freezer!

How do I cook when living alone?

How do you cook when living alone?
How do you cook when living alone?

What are the easiest things to cook?

There are plenty of simple recipes out there that just take just a few minutes to prepare such as spinach feta pizza and pan-seared scallops.  You could also just Google “simple meals to make” to get some great ideas as well!

How can I simplify cooking?

One of the easiest ways to simplify cooking, in my opinion, is to make something once and use it (at least) twice.  Make creamed spinach for a side to your steak and use the leftovers for eggs florentine. Dill Greek yogurt dip is great for dipping some veggies while watching your favorite movie but it’s also great as a chicken marinade or in egg salad!

You’d be surprised how easy it is to whip up something delightful when you have a good selection of condiments and spices.  Szechuan-style shrimp? Nothing but shrimp, rice and condiments. You can pick these spices and condiments up as you go along so don’t hesitate to invest in a new spice or additional type of mustard. These things have a long shelf life and come in handy when you’re on a mission to “throw something together”!

What should I cook for one person?

What should I cook for one person?
What should I cook for one person? 

What should I make for dinner for one person?

I think too many people feel like cooking for one person is somehow different than cooking for an entire family.  It’s exactly the same. Oh, the proportions may need to be adjusted but that’s it. Spaghetti and meatballs? Just cook 2 ounces of spaghetti (the end of the bundle should equal the diameter of a quarter), top with a quarter cup of sauce and a few meatballs.  Viola! Spaghetti for one.

What should I make for lunch for one person?

My favorite lunch for one is a repeat of what was for dinner.  It was good then, right? Well, it’s good now, too!

What about breakfast?

What I make for breakfast is varied depending on whether I have to work or not.  If I have to be up and out in a hurry (because, let’s face it. We’re always in a hurry in the morning, right?) I’ll go for a very quick smoothie or something that I’ve pre-made on my day off, like a breakfast cookie or overnight oats.

If I have the time, I like to make eggs with…well…something.  It depends on my mood.

Sometimes, (I’ll admit it!) I just grab whatever leftover comes to hand, even if it isn’t technically considered to be “breakfast food”.

I guess what I’m saying here is just have something.  While we can’t always make time for breakfast, we can always grab something healthy and eat it on the way. Not hungry? Grab something anyway because I guarantee that you will be. Your body hasn’t had food in 12 hours or more and, if you’re famished by lunch, I also guarantee that take-out is going to look much better than that salad you packed.

What should I cook tonight?

So, it’s happened.  You were busy, you didn’t take the time to plan, you didn’t take anything out of the freezer.  There’s nothing for dinner.

Really? Nothing?

This penne pasta dish comes together in no time flat.  So do scrambled eggs, peanut butter toast or a hummus tabouli wrap.  Just take a deep breath, open your cupboard and your mind.  I promise there’s something to eat!

What can I cook when I run out of ideas?

This is actually one of my favorite things.  Why? Because I get to try something new. First of all, what do you have for ingredients?  Let’s say you have a chicken breast, a potato and some frozen peas. Just Google it! Seriously.  “Chicken potato frozen peas. Enter.” This method has never failed me.

Still got questions?  Ask away in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!.

All my best

Cynthia
cynthia@cynthiaeats.com

error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word :)

Follow by Email
YouTube
YouTube
Pinterest
Pinterest
fb-share-icon
LinkedIn
LinkedIn
Share
Instagram