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Don't Fall Back into Bad Habits

How to keep a good thing going

Going Easy on Yourself

Too often, people take an "all-or-nothing" approach to sensible eating and working out, which can lead to giving up altogether, says Debbie Mandel, MA, author of Changing Habits.

"If you can't do an hour workout today because you are tired, do 15 minutes instead," she suggests. "See how that goes, and then see if you can do another 15 minutes. Sometimes 15 minutes is good enough, and other times you'll find yourself completing the whole hour."

According to Mandel, it takes about 21 days for a new habit to take hold, so don't be hard on yourself if the first few weeks are a struggle. To help the process along, Mandel offers the following advice:

  • Take one small step at a time. "A small change is manageable," says Mandel. "Too many changes at one time can be overwhelming."
  • Don't be unkind to yourself. Enjoy the day off from working out or savor that special meal or treat, then be eager to get back on schedule the next day.
  • Don't overdo. Too much exercise can lead to fatigue and even injury; too little food can actually slow your metabolism down.
  • Change your routine. Vary your workout and your meals. "Introduce fun into your life!" she says.
  • Get group support. Work out with a friend, join a league, start a lunchtime fitness group at work.
  • Post affirmations and motivating quotes inside and outside the refrigerator.

Finally, expect to fall back from time to time, says Weingarten. Then you won't be derailed when you do.

"Remember that it takes time for new habits to become routine," she says. "After all, you didn't know how to tie your shoes once upon a time, either.

"You will have bad days. But that doesn't mean it's all over."

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Reviewed on September 02, 2005

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