The Difficulty of Building a New Habit
The 30-day rule is relative
It doesn’t take 21 or 30 days to build a new habit.
Popular culture says that building a new habit takes 21, 28, and/or 30 days. No such rule applies to all. In reality, I feel like there are too many variables that play a part in how one can even build a new habit. Let’s delve into this and see why.
If habits really take only 30 days to make, then how did I develop binge eating as a habit within a few hours?
I suffered from anorexia for 7 years. I did it to get a flat stomach, slimmer thighs, and slimmer arms. I never reached the goal for some reason (I suspect it’s because of the physical effects of trauma). No, I wasn’t thinking inaccurately because I was anorexic and have a distorted body-image. My body fat always hovered between 28-30%, which meant that I clearly had visceral fat. It was visible for all to see. Those 7 years of anorexia were easy for me - it was an automatic decision to not eat because I really didn’t want to be “the fat kid” anymore. But why was it so easy to get out of it?
People who suffer from anorexia or bulimia struggle to get out of it. For them to suddenly start eating and letting the body accept the food is hard. What I never understood is how I got out of anorexia in 1, 2, 3. One day I decided to binge eat, and that became who I am. I gave up anorexia and thus my goal of achieving a slimmer body within seconds. Was it because 7 years of extreme discipline but never reaching the goal discouraged me? But I thought such habits take time to break and build?
It’s easy to see why I would use weight loss as the prime example for discussing the creation and destruction of habits. I still struggle with my weight today. Though I have lost 25lbs recently, I am seeing myself lose control and starting the binging again. I spent over a month building the habit of just cooking on my own and doing exercise, yet it was that easy to break it. It made me realize that the cardinal rule of “it takes x amount of time to build a habit” is just not applicable to all.
One thing I noticed is that the only way to build a habit effectively is if my mind aligns with that habit. For instance, I really want to lose weight but I absolutely hate the idea of having to restrict. Yet, restricting is the rule of the game to lose weight. I have already stopped restricting carbs, gluten, dairy, processed sugar, and junk just so I can do a simple calorie deficit. It’s still not working. My heart and soul feels like a slave to the notion that restricting eating is the way to lose weight. My entire entity isn’t going to let me build that habit; it’s prohibiting me.
But when I try to build a habit of let’s say writing on Vocal, my mind is like YES! Write! Go! It’s excited for me because it’s the outlet that mends all my holes. I haven’t missed a day in 2 weeks. Even at my worst days where my depression symptoms make me question if I should get out of bed, I can still write 1-2 articles.
If building a habit is really the goal, it needs to be crafted in a way that aligns with us. I love writing and expressing, so I can keep publishing on Vocal even at my worst. I hate being a slave to restriction cause it feels punitive, so I just can’t keep the diet going even after being less restrictive.