How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Healthy Habit?

How long does it actually take to adopt a healthy habit? And what are the actions that can accelerate or derail you as you pursue your best life?

As with all things related to wellness, the answer depends on who you ask. Even among experts, you may hear variations, or see different timelines spelled out on sales pages or in marketing:

  • 30 Days to a Brand New You!
  • 7 Days to Financial Freedom!
  • Stop Sugar Cravings In Just Two Weeks!
  • 21-Day Jumpstart to XYZ (fill in your favorite sales message here!)

Let’s break down the key difference, which is adopting a healthy habit (consistently doing or not doing something for a series of days) and changing the habit itself into a way of life.

How Long Does it Take to Adopt a Healthy Habit?

James Clear may have the most comprehensive answer. The author of Atomic Habits says that building a new habit takes a very specific amount of time:

“66 days to be exact,” says Clear.

Citing a study run by Phillippa Lally, a health psychology researcher at University College London whose research team published the results of a study in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Clear goes on to add some caveats:

“How long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally’s study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behavior into your life — not 21 days.”

Dr. Gina Cleo learned about habit-forming during her dietitian training – noticing that inside of her programs, clients would lose weight, regain their well-being, but see those habits fall away after just weeks.

(She was so motivated to help break the cycle, in fact, that she hit pause on her clinic to pursue a PhD in habit change!)

Dr. Cleo agrees with Clear and Lally regarding the 18- to 254-day mark and adds that the variable that leads to success is quite simple: consistency.

Why do we keep bad habits?

Sally Helgesen – leadership expert and best-selling author (“How Women Rise”) – outlines 12 behaviors that keep women stuck in bad habits or negative mindsets. They include:

  • Failing to enlist allies from day one
  • The perfection trap
  • The disease to please
  • Expecting others to spontaneously notice and reward your contributions 

Is it possible to start forming healthy habits (plural) in less than 66 days? Of course, and this is what Metabolism Makeover is all about.

Notice that it is not about perfection in our “you-do-you” weight loss program. In fact, we’re working hard to help women all over the world prove that it is possible to get well, increase energy, lose weight, and LOVE food — all while living, breathing, partying, Netflix-binging and being human in a diet culture world.

A few things to get you started with building lasting healthy habits:

1) Download our FREE guide: “5 Healthy Habits to Break to Lose Weight”. Do you stress about food 24/7? Are you fighting a sugar addiction? Have you tried a million diets just to end up in the same spot you started? This guide will set you on the path to success, one habit at a time.

2) Set realistic goals. Trying to overhaul your entire diet or start practicing meditation for an hour each day may be unrealistic — especially if you’re just starting out. Instead, focus on making one or two small changes at first, and gradually add more over time.

3) Find a support group. Enlisting the help of friends or family members who are also trying to adopt healthy habits can be a great way to stay accountable and motivated.

{Picture the Metabolism Makeover community’s hands raised high for this job – we’re here waiting to lift you up and cheer you on!}

4) Celebrate your successes. When you do manage to stick to your new habit, be sure to celebrate! This will help keep you motivated in the future.

5) Get rid of distractions. If you’re trying to form a new habit, it’s important to create an environment that supports your goals. This means putting away your phone and laptop, avoiding tempting foods, and steering clear of negative people.

How to start building lasting healthy habits: 
- set realistic goals
- find a support group
- celebrate your successes
- get rid of distractions

Maybe the most important habit to break now? The negative self-talk. Whether it takes you 18 days, 254 days, three years, or just 48 hours, putting in the effort and pursuing the best you is always worth the investment.

Stumble? Get back up. Fail? Take a breath and start over. Adopt a healthy habit and then suddenly fall off the wagon? We’ve been there, babe.

You’ve got this. And we’ve got you.

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