By Barbara Broggelwirth, RDN, CDN
Do you begin a new exercise routine going full-out, every day, only to stop abruptly when the first hiccup prevents you from getting to the gym? If so, you may be an exercise perfectionist. In any perfectionistic behavior, we set ourselves up for failure by taking an “all or nothing” approach. However, behavioral specialists will tell you that the key to long term adoption of a new behavior requires creating new habits that are easy to incorporate and therefore more sustainable.
Be patient with yourself. Research shows that making a new behavior automatic can take 18 to 254 days, with 2 months being the average (1). It is important to take time with each step. Remember, you are making shifts in your routines and behaviors, not drastic changes. One tip is to find an activity that is both easy for you and enjoyable. Forcing yourself to do things you don’t enjoy because you think you should, never works.
Consider writing S.M.A.R.T. Goals. Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. For instance, instead of making your goal “get in shape”, try “join a gym and work out for 45 minutes two days a week”. By setting a series of short – term goals, you build on your success momentum. Next, consider self-monitoring your new behavior. When you log your activity you can begin to notice trends and then correct if needed. Remember, observe your behavior without judgment. Relapse is part of any behavior change. Lastly, reward yourself. Frequent small rewards, earned for smaller goals, are more effective than bigger rewards that require long, difficult effort.
Positive affirmations such as “We are what we repeatedly do” and “Excellence is not an act but a habit” will help you through difficult moments in your process. Be kind to yourself!
- Harrison, A.D. (2014). 3 Steps for Changing Any Bad Habit or Forming Any Good One. Psychology Today. http://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thriving101/201408/3-steps-changing-any-bad-habit-or-forming-any-good-one.
Barbara Broggelwirth is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who is currently working with Bariatric and Medical Weight Management patients. She works with patients to help them achieve their health and weight loss goals.