Thirty Days Hath November
Learning to break a bad habit or establish a good one in thirty days.
Editor's Note: While this columnist is no longer writing for dLife.com and we have ceased to update the information contained herein, there is much to be read here that is still applicable to the lives of people with diabetes. If you wish to act on anything you learn here, be sure to consult your doctor first. Please enjoy the column!
November 2011 — How do you break a bad habit after ten years?
How do you establish a habit to better your life?
The answer may be in thirty short days.
While I knew about thirty-day challenges, and even had tried a few here and there, I remained unconvinced that they actually work to break bad habits or establish good ones. Each time I made an attempt, I started wavering by the 7-day mark and scrapped the whole idea by the time I could have been halfway done.
That is until a good friend announced the completion of her own thirty-day challenge to eat Paleo-style, immediately followed by thirty days of yoga. Her style meant that she kept her challenge to herself until she was ready — in the case of the first, that meant waiting until it was over; in the case of the second, it meant waiting until she realized she had established a pattern over the course of several days.
It got me thinking, what habit related to my health and to my diabetes did I need to break? What could I establish? Could I put my mind towards one of each habit in thirty short days?
I knew for a long time that I wanted to break the habit of drinking diet soda, the preferred alternate beverage to water after I first learned of my prediabetes diagnosis ten years ago. Even though there are limited beverage options for people with diabetes, choosing beverages with artificial sweeteners is a little scary with unknown long-term health effects. As the years went by, I questioned whether these beverages were good for me, and made many failed attempts to stop drinking them.
Like my friend, I decided to keep quiet the first few days. I wanted to make it ten days — equal to any previous attempt to quit — before telling anyone about the thirty-day challenge. At that point, I posted on Twitter that I had made it that far. Same went for fifteen days, twenty, twenty five, all the way to thirty days without diet soda.
It turned out to be much more than giving up artificially sweetened soda. A weight loss plateau broke, with five more pounds gone, with only five more pounds left to goal weight. Blood glucose meter averages dropped, and even a couple of fasting glucose tests read under 100 mg/dl. It became clear — this thirty-day challenge broke me of my diet soda habit.
The decision to establish a good habit for life with type 2 diabetes turned into an easy one after successfully breaking the habit I believed to be bad. While I completed an extensive exercise program over the summer, I managed to fall back into old sedentary patterns as the seasons turned.
And so, for the thirty days of November (and Diabetes Awareness Month), I am telling the world the next challenge. I vow to exercise every day for no less than twenty minutes. This could mean walking, it could mean strength training, it could mean elliptical, and it could even mean snowshoeing or dancing — as long as I keep moving each day. While twenty minutes may seem to short to some, it is better than nothing at all, and that is what I am most trying to avoid.
Breaking bad habits, establishing good ones — no doubt there are rewards reaped from doing both. It is challenging one's self to actually go out and do them that is the hard part, but in some cases, all that is needed is thirty days.
dLife's Viewpoints columnists are not all medical experts, but everyday people living with diabetes and sharing their personal experiences, most often at a set point in time. While their method of diabetes management may work for them, everyone is different. Please consult with your diabetes care team before acting on anything you read here to find out what will work best for you.
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