It Takes 21 Days to Make A Habit

That’s what they say, right?

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After many, many months of subpar eating habits, I am ready to once again try and get some of this weight off that I’ve gained back over the last three years. If you are a long time reader and are familiar with my old blog (Hi! Thanks for sticking around all these years!), then you know that I dropped a LOT of weight in college. Since then, I’ve probably tried to start over at least 20 times as the weight piled back on exponentially like it unfortuantely does for so many people. It’s amazing how your mindset can do a complete 180 in situations like this. When you’re trying to lose weight, a 1/2 pound gain can completely ruin your week. However, when life is a free-for-all and you are not in “weight loss mode,” you play mind tricks on yourself to avoid dealing with the real problem in right in front of you. You get so used to seeing your weight go up by 5 or 10 pounds every time you step on the scale that you start to convince yourself that it’s okay, since it’s “only  5 pounds.” Well, we all know that all those pounds add up FAST.

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In an effort to keep myself focused and try to prevent discouragement, I am concentrating on smaller, short term goals right now. When you have such a tremendous amount of weight to lose, it is so easy to get frustrated and give up. Currently, I am focusing on staying committed to calorie counting for 21 days. Supposedly, that’s how long it takes to create a habit and it should become easier to stick with a healthy eating regimen after that point. Today is day 13 and despite my frustrations with the scale this week (more on that in a minute), I have to say that I am pretty proud of my progress. I’ve tracked almost everything that I’ve eaten, and drastically cut down on junk food and sweets. I haven’t been getting sugar cravings every night like I used to (side note: I have an entire post coming on sugar addiction so stay tuned for that) and I’ve been in an overall better mood. Last week I worked 12 hours of overtime and by the end of my 8th day in a row of work I still felt like I had energy left to go out and do stuff. Normally I am totally wiped out after just 5 days.

I have also started to incorporate exercise back into my life, and that has been a wake up call in another sense. For one, none of my old workout clothes fit me. I’m a firm believer that feeling comfortable and confident in what you wear while exercising can really improve the quality of your workouts. When you feel good, you work harder. So I bought some new workout clothes (in fun, bright colors to boot) and I look forward to putting them on and heading over to the gym. Additionally, since I’ve been slowly adding back some of the exercises I used to do years ago, I’ve learned that things that used to be so easy are now quite challenging. It’s crazy  to me that I used to hop on the treadmill and run 3 miles on a regular basis, and now 5 minutes on the elliptical gets me out of breath.

Speaking of the gym, Traverse City got a brand new Planet Fitness that just opened a couple weeks ago and I am LOVING it. I’ve been to most of the gyms around here and this one puts the others to shame. There’s only a couple of gyms in Traverse that, in my opinion, could be actual competition for Planet Fitness but a PF membership is a fraction of the cost of those other places. Major win in my book. My sister and her fiancé recently moved back to the area and they also both got memberships at PF. While we have different schedules and don’t work out together every day, it’s nice having a gym buddy on the weekends.

I’ll go into more detail about what I’m eating and what I’m doing at the gym in future posts, but I want to address the comment I made earlier about the scale. So, the first week I started counting calories again I dropped weight FAST. I made major improvements with my food choices but still had a few “cheat meals” and wasn’t really exercising much, and I still lost 5 pounds like it was nothing. Naturally, this week I expected to lose at least another 3 or 4 pounds since I’m doing the same things as last week; plus I’ve started going to the gym again. However, that was not the case and I did not lose one single ounce this week. Of course this irritates me, so I’ve been doing a lot of reading on week 2 plateaus to try and ease my frustrations. From what I’ve been reading, I’ve gathered two explanations for it:

  • Water retention. When you drastically reduce your calories and change the kinds of foods you are eating, your body initially responds with a quick weight loss. However, after the initial loss, your fat cells hold onto water in an effort to retain their shape (fat cells shrink when you lose weight) and this is what causes a plateau. Soon that water will be flushed out and your weight should begin dropping again.
  • Cortisol. This is a stress hormone that is released as your body starts to adjust to exercise. Cortisol also causes water retention, which temporarily halts weight loss. Cortisol is also the reason that people tend to gain weight when they are stressed (with the exception of stress starvers).

Since I am not a nutritionist, nor do I have a background in exercise science, I do not know how valid these explanations are. However, I do have a doctor of pharmacy degree and they both make sense to me from a medical and physiological stand point. Regardless of the reason for the week 2 plateau, it just makes me feel better knowing that there are tons of other people who have experienced the same thing and I’m confident that I will get past it if I just keep working hard. I’ve also been looking at my old weigh-ins from years ago when I lost weight the first time around, and my weigh-ins have always been inconsistent from week to week. It’s not about short-term results; it’s about what happens in the long run. While my weight may have fluctuated over the weeks, I lost an average of 50 pounds a year for two years.

Here are some pictures from the last couple of weeks. I will try to update a couple times a month but let me know if there’s anything in particular  you’d like me to post about 🙂

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Thanks for reading!

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9 thoughts on “It Takes 21 Days to Make A Habit

  1. Krista, I have been following your blog and congratulate you for never giving up the challenge to improve your health. Being a retired nurse and one who reads a lot about exercise and nutrition , I encourage you also to read up on ( and start ) the PFC combination with exercise , and say ” goodbye” to all of the old diets ! PFC is combining protein , fats abd carbs every 3 hours like a baby. This is a lifetime way to eat, energy and focus wiill return and you WILL see results:) your blood sugar will stabilize & insulin levels come down ( insulin is a FAT STORING HORMONE) ! Online check out Renita Brannan from Bismarck, N. D. ( she is the PFC ” guru” 😄👍 God Bless You in your journey!
    Val Strasser

  2. Hi Krista! So glad to see you back. I know it will be hard not to compare to your prior WLJ, but I hope that you are able to appreciate that you’re in a new phase of your life and that this may be a very different experience, yet can still have the outcomes you hope for. Something that helps me is to chart my weight daily, using excel to take a 10 day average. That helps me stop focusing on the little ups and downs (and I’m sure you could do the same thing for weekly WIs); instead it shows me that on average, my weight is going down over time and thats the goal. Or, if it’s not, then I know it is time to change something in my behavior. I also hope that you find sharing your journey to be helpful and rewarding- even when things don’t go as we hope, pretty much all of us can relate and you won’t find judgement (and if you do, kick the meanies the curb!).

    1. Thank you, Allison! Lately I’ve been weighing myself daily, but I am going to try to stop because I think its contributing to my frustration. You’re right about this time being different though – I am a totally different person now than I was back then, and I’m doing it for different reasons!

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