Have you heard the myth that new habits can be formed in 21 days?  Yup – that’s right.  What is commonly accepted as a cold-hard fact is actually an urban legend.  The concept evolved in the 1960s when a plastic surgeon named Maxwell Maltz noticed that it took people who had an arm or  leg amputated approximately three weeks to lose the ‘phantom limb’ sensations and adjust to their new situation.  He applied that information to his own ‘adjustment period’ for everyday habits and hypothesized that it took 21 days for your brain to lose a previous ‘mental image’ and apply a new one.  This theory got repeated in self-help books and eventually accepted as fact by the general population. (Source)


A new study studied habit formation and kind of blew the 21 day concept out of the water. The study followed 96 volunteers as they applied an eating, drinking, or activity behavior to carry out daily, and then researchers polled them to determine how long it took for the new habit to stick.


The results?  It takes people anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form new behaviors – a huge variation!  On average, it took about two months.  The variation was dependent on a lot of factors – the habit itself, the personality of the individual.  But the upshot of the study is that you’ve got to be realistic – it probably won’t take 21 days of effort to really create an entirely new habit.  It may take two months… or maybe even most of a year!


So… this leads me to my Commitment Week #3 update.  Yup – it’s already been three weeks since I made a commitment to get back on the health bandwagon.  I think this week was the week that it really began to STICK.  The healthy habit has been mine for so long that I don’t think it will take 254 days to really get back into the swing of things!  But I’m enjoying holding myself accountable through these updates.


Here are my workouts – my goal this week was to run more.  I can’t remember what day I did what workout, so I’m just going to list them in order.


Workout 1:  1 mile of speedwork on the treadmill + 30 minutes on the stairclimber + strength training

Workout 2: 3 mile run

Workout 3: 2.5 mile run (SO HOT OUTSIDE)

Workout 4: 4 mile run


My goal for next week is to continue to run more and to do a longer long run.  I’d also prefer to workout 5 days a week, but this past week was pretty busy with our out-of-town guests.


Healthy eating is going well, too.  I’ve stopped buying so many pre-cooked freezer meals and cookies from the grocery store… that was a bad habit that I really started to slip into last month, and I’m slowly digging myself out by doing more food prep.  I’ve also been snapping more pictures of my meals (mostly just for myself on my iPhone).  I tend to repeat meals a lot, and the photos are a nice reminder that I’ve already had dessert today.  Hah.


To sum it up – feeling good, feeling motivated, feeling healthy!  It’s a nice place to be in.  I’m glad that I made the decision to re-commit myself.  This is the place that I’d rather be in.


How long does it take YOU to form a new habit?



  • Breanne May 12, 2014, 3:18 pm

    This post couldn’t have better timing! I’m currently in the middle of a 21-day challenge to incorporate more veggies into my diet (that I’ve dubbed 3.0 since it’s the 3rd time I’ve done said challenge). The first time I did it, I fell back into my old ways after the 21 days pretty immediately. The second time, I actually continued most of the principles from the challenge afterwards with ease. This third time, I’ve found that it’s still a challenge (and the reason it’s dubbed so), but that most of it feels like my regular habits.

    So while I did mine in 21 day “spurts,” forming the habit took a good half year or so to really get into the habit.

    I definitely agree that it depends on personality and the habit itself. Growing up Catholic and having done many Lenten 40 day habits/changes, I feel pretty confident in asserting that some habits take way longer than 21 or 40 days to become true habits and not mindful practices.

  • Eileen May 12, 2014, 3:36 pm

    I knew 21 days seemed too easy! 😉 I’d also like to know how quickly habits can come unraveled, haha. I had a 6 month stretch where I got up 3x/week at 5:30am to head to a bootcamp class. Talk about productive! Great workout, usually followed by a 7am stop at the grocery store (which turned into home cooked dinners) or filling up a gas tank, etc. And then I suddenly had real trouble sleeping, waking up at 3am, falling back asleep at 4:30 or 5am. Made it nearly impossible to get up at 5:30. I had to adapt my exercise routines to stop from just plain failure.

    A year later, I’ve adapted my exercise with basic success, but I have to wonder if I should try flipping back into that 5:30am “habit” again.

    Great food for thought!

  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun May 12, 2014, 4:07 pm

    I honestly 100% agree with the 21 days. I think if you can go 21 days and successfully keep at it then it will become habit to you! It becomes part of your every day routine!

  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More May 12, 2014, 4:12 pm

    I definitely agree that it depends on the habit! I was regularly taking the time to write in my personal journal everyday. I had done it for a few weeks straight and then suddenly missed one day and haven’t done it in WEEKS (maybe MONTHS?).

  • Amanda May 12, 2014, 4:15 pm

    Way longer than 21 days!! I jumped on the group exercise bandwagon last August, starting slowly with 1 or 2 barre classes per week. Decided I really liked them, added spinning classes to the mix, and worked my way up to exercising 5-6x per week (reached that level about a month ago). Now it feels weird to work out less than 5 days a week, but I nearly fell off the wagon around the holidays, going out of town, etc. I’d say it’s officially “stuck.”

  • Traci May 12, 2014, 5:26 pm

    I feel like it takes me about two SUPER FOCUSED weeks to form a new habit. It really is a brain adjustment issue. As a classically trained musician, I know what dedication habit forming takes, and how to stick to something even when I don’t want to. But taking the first step is the hardest part!

  • Christina @ The Beautiful Balance May 12, 2014, 5:36 pm

    I absolutely agree that it does not have to be 21 days. Anything that is done consistently can be considered a habit. More power to you, I think its awesome what you’re doing. You are one of the very first blogs I ever read and inspired me to start my own. You are amazing, keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs May 12, 2014, 7:12 pm

    I agree that it depends on the habit, your personality, etc. Some habits were pretty simple for me to adopt (my resolution a few years ago was to make the bed everyday, and it was no problem because it’s a really easy thing to do!), but others take more time. When it comes to one’s diet & exercise habits, I guess it depends where the starting point is, and how much you’re trying to change — for example, adding a day of cross training into your schedule is a MUCH easier change than starting exercising from ground zero, you know?

  • Tricia May 12, 2014, 7:45 pm

    I am currently doing this too. I returned to work 4 weeks ago after maternity leave for 5 months. I was doing great with exercising and healthy eating while at home when I could fit it into my day very neatly. I gave myself a few weeks to get settled back into working with workouts sporadically when I could manage. Afternoon/evening workouts just won’t work the majority of days, so I am getting up at 5am 2-3 days a week. I think it’ll be great once I get into the habit. Hopefully it forms soon!

  • Kate May 12, 2014, 9:55 pm

    Is that a cream cheese and cucumber sandwich? YUM.

  • Runner Girl Eats May 13, 2014, 6:20 am

    It usually takes me about a month to form a real habit. Tracking progress and talking about it regularly helps keep me focused.

  • Carla May 13, 2014, 7:33 am

    not as long ((SAD FACE)) as it takes to break the bad ones.

  • Carolina John May 13, 2014, 11:56 am

    That last picture kind of looks like you spilled a pill box; oh wait that’s sidewalk chalk. My pills tend to be really huge.

    Good job getting all of those runs in!

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