sports nutrition

New year, new habits?

heartappleIt’s a new year, time for new adventures.

For me, it marks the end of my year with the Lean Eating program at Precision Nutrition. (See my assessment here, Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating Program: A Year in Review.) Tracy is trying it this year so I’m sure you’ll hear more about it from her.

I waffled for awhile about what next. To continue with the program? At $99-$149 a month, that wasn’t seriously in the cards. But I’ve learned a lot and found a pretty supportive community there and a group of us have stuck together through social networking. We’re working at finding the tools we need to further entrench lean eating habits on our own.

The habits aren’t anything rocket science like.  Eat slowly, mindfully, to 80% full. Eat lots of protein and veggies with each meal. Pay attention to hunger and plan lean eating compliant meals.

I talk more about the habits here, Habits versus Goals.

So my lean eating group, using our second home on Facebook, is using the Lift app to continue working on lean eating habits.  Lift is reviewed here on Lifehacker.

Fans of Seinfeld’s Productivity Method, also known as “Don’t Break the Chain,” know that the key to building good habits is to just do the things you want to do every day. Lift is a simple iOS app that keeps you motivated and shows you how well you’ve been sticking to your goals. Lift relies on psychology and the satisfaction you get of crossing off a day where you accomplished a task. It’s all gray, and the only colors are the green boxes and checkmarks that appear when you log your activity or look at your activity report. Enter the habits or to-dos you want to do each day, and check in to that activity in Lift when you do them. You can then review your weekly report and see a progress bar based on how many days per week you completed the task. Work out every day all week? You’ll see a bright, satisfying green full status bar. Miss a day and you’ll see four of five boxes filled.

I’ve long been a believer in establishing healthy habits as the way to go. But one interesting question is how long it takes to establish new habits. Almost all web sites on habits assume 21 days but it appears that’s for no good reason other than that it’s catchy.

Brain Picking reviews the book, Making Habits, Breaking Habits which takes an experimental approach to the question. See How Long It Takes to Form a New Habit.

“The simple answer is that, on average, across the participants who provided enough data, it took 66 days until a habit was formed. As you might imagine, there was considerable variation in how long habits took to form depending on what people tried to do. People who resolved to drink a glass of water after breakfast were up to maximum automaticity after about 20 days, while those trying to eat a piece of fruit with lunch took at least twice as long to turn it into a habit. The exercise habit proved most tricky with “50 sit-ups after morning coffee,” still not a habit after 84 days for one participant. “Walking for 10 minutes after breakfast,” though, was turned into a habit after 50 days for another participant.”

Think I’ll read the book. I’m also looking forward to Gretchen Rubin’s new book on habits. She writes about it here.

First, I too have noticed that weirdly, it’s often easier to do something practically every day than to do it once in a while or four times a week. The more you do something, the more it becomes a part of your ordinary day. It doesn’t make you nervous, it doesn’t feel intimidating, it doesn’t feel like a special burden or extra credit. Also, one of my habit strategies is the Strategy of Starting, and I’ve noticed that while starting is hard, starting over is often much harder. Once we’ve started down a positive path, it’s very, very valuable not to let ourselves stop. Because starting over is hard. Another strategy used here is the Strategy of Scheduling. Whether daily, weekly, or whatever, just putting a task into your schedule–finding an exact place for it in your calendar–makes it easier to get it done. There’s an odd power to the schedule.

To find out more about my motivation to seek out coaching in the area of nutrition, see “Nutrition is the foundation of health and fitness. You simply cannot out train a poor diet.”

And for why I care at all, see Fat, fit, and why I want to be leaner anyway

I’ll check in from time to time and let you know how we’re making out on our own, without a formal coach.  If I do find myself in need of extra help, I’ll likely find a sports nutritionist locally. I blogged a bit about sports nutritionists here.  In the meantime, wish me luck.


7 thoughts on “New year, new habits?

    1. Yep, she’s terrific! I know Jennifer from CrossFit and I’ve worked with her before…

  1. Hi there — I found your blog over the weekend when searching for reviews of the Lean Eating program. I am on the pre-sale list and set to sign up tomorrow. I need to go back through your history in 2013 but it sounds like you had a pretty positive experience. Looking forward to hearing what 2014 has in store for you! 🙂

  2. Hi Sam– thanks for the pointers to some literature on habits; I’m keenly interested in this re my own heath/activity goals (as well as writing ones). Will look at them, and look forward to hearing (and maybe blogging) more about them in 2014. I’m doing a positive psychology web 30-day course right now (a friend is a life coach, getting a certificate, and called for volunteers for a course she is running, so I signed up). She talks about Kaizen changes (small incremental ones), which the positive psych people seem to like. But I think the literature on this is mixed. Will look forward to more in this anon.

  3. Interesting! I think setting the bar at “every day” makes it easy to fail (ex: I’m trying to floss more… but to go from “um, rarely” to “daily” seems unrealistic) but “every X” seems possible… like to set a schedule and try to be really strict about sticking to that. Ex: floss every Sunday? At least it’s better than what I’m doing now!

    Thanks for all the links!

  4. I`m goal oriented, especially since reading Stephen Covey`s “Seven Habits” book. Thanks for the Lift App-downloading it as I type. I need all the help I can get.
    Wishing you luck too, and looking forward to following your progress in the year ahead.

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