It Takes 21 Days to Break A Habit

In September of 2009, I came across a blog post about breaking poor habits in which the author wrote that according to scientific studies, it takes 21 days to break a bad habit. She invited her readers to join her on a journey of self-improvement, and promised to post daily affirmations and quotes for encouragement.

When I read about the 21-day habit-breaking challenge, I suspected that this approach might also work to build a healthy habit. I wasn’t ready to change my eating habits, but thought that I might be able to start a habit, a healthy habit such as exercising.

Earlier that spring, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol during my annual physical examination. At 5’ 2” and 236 lbs, my body wouldn’t be able to sustain my unhealthy lifestyle much longer, and my doctor made that very clear. Thirty years of excessive eating and lack of exercise had finally taken their toll; still, after the initial shock of the news wore off, I resumed my unhealthy lifestyle.

And so began my transformation journey as I made a commitment to get out and walk for 21 consecutive days – rain or shine. I started conservatively with a quarter mile the first week to 1 mile by the end of the challenge. Quitting wasn’t an option and I viewed it as my one chance to become healthy. When the 21 days were over, I decided to continue the journey and registered for a 5K in December 2009. Without fail, I walked every day from Sept. 9 – Dec. 17 that year, and felt more powerful than I had in decades. By the end of the year I had graduated to daily walk/runs of 3 miles.

At that point, I had only eliminated the breads I ate with every meal and the nightly pint of ice cream, yet since I had never been a yo-yo dieter, my metabolism was strong and the pounds started melting off.  Twenty-five pounds lighter by Christmas, I decided to reassess my overall eating habits.

With the help of the registered dietitian at my work’s gym, I started an 1800 calorie balanced eating plan which resulted in additional weightloss. When I hit a plateau in the spring, we further reduced my intake to 1650 calories per day. She  taught me how to eat without deprivation and with one day per week when I could indulge.

Today, all my weight-related medical issues are under control, my BMI is a healthy 24.1 and I have exceeded my goal of losing 100 lbs. (in fact, I have lost 104!). I try to exercise at least 3-4 times per week and have a new passion: trail-running. By the grace of God and a chance encounter with a 21-day blog challenge, I have regained control of my life and am confident that I will never become the unhealthy person I was just 18 months ago.

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