habit-forming… like crack, only better for you.

I recently had a grueling conversation with a friend regarding my black-and-white-all-or-nothing personality – particularly when it comes to my health.  I’ve always been that way…  If I’m doing something, I’m totally DOING it.  But if I’m not going all-out, then I don’t bother…  Moderation?  Umm, yeah… she’s a stranger to me most of the time.

So anyway, this conversation went on for a bit and then my friend suggested that I test the waters and try setting a couple of really small goals…  things that wouldn’t make me a rock-star, but did move me in the direction of a healthy lifestyle.  If you’re not an all-or-nothing kind of gal like me, then you probably can’t imagine the mental battle I had with myself before committing to do this… but in the end, I decided to focus on forming two small and simple healthy habits.

For the last four weeks, it has been my daily goal to get 30 minutes of exercise/activity and take my vitamins.  No medals to win here… but the long-term benefits are worth it – especially because it’s something I can stick with over time.

I’m already doing a fair amount of walking each day while in the city, so 30 minutes of exercise is really pretty easy to accomplish.  Even when I’m at home, I’ve been able to get out and walk on trails or around downtown, fast-and-furiously clean the house, do yard-work, etc. to easily account for 30 minutes of mild sweat-inducing activity.  I have to talk myself off the ledge on days when I feel guilty that all I’ve done is that 30 minutes, but that “easy to accomplish” 210 minutes of exercise works out to be 3.5 hours per week… which is more than I’ve been able to consistently stick with in quite a while, so I’ll take it.

Surprisingly, I’m having a tougher time with the vitamins.  I don’t have trouble swallowing pills (shut up), but I get about 5 minutes of intense nausea within 10 minutes of taking them… every!single!time!  I take them with my breakfast – eat half first, take the vitamins, eat the second half, drink lots of water… but I still get that wave where I feel like I’m going to hurl.  I thought it would wear off after the first couple of weeks, but no dice.  I’m taking 6 pills – 1 women’s multi vitamin, 2 fish oil capsules, 1 vitamin D, and 2 magnesium.  Any idea what the heck it is that could be making me hurl-ish?

Anyway, I’ve managed to remain pretty consistent over the last four weeks, only missing my vitamins a day  here or there.  But I wonder when it will become as automatic as washing my hands after I go to the bathroom (which you better be doing or your cell phone is probably covered in fecal matter like they talked about on the Early Show this morning – ew).  Most of the studies I’ve read say that it takes 3 to 4 weeks to form a habit… but I think that’s more a matter of you adjusting to the habit, not it becoming automatic.  A few studies that address this same idea suggest that it depends on the habit and the person, but on average – maybe about 3 months?

Regardless of how long it takes, creating these simple new habits for myself is worth the time and energy investment… and now, maybe Moderation and I can hang out some times.

Have you ever consciously formed a new habit?  If so, what was it and how long do you think it took before it was automatic?

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