Diet · Exercise · Heath · Rituals · Sleep

How long does it take to change habits?

Habits are interesting things and we really are defined and controlled by them.  Every aspect of your life is based on habitual behaviour.  We do own them.  We created them to suit our circumstances.  This is our bubble, or world, our routine.  When I turned around to look at how habits shape my life, it made me think about how long does it take for a new habit to be created?

It turns out that many people who are much smarter than me and have more letters after their name have studied this and the results are both fascinating and daunting as someone who is trying to alter habits.

Phillipa Lally’s study of 2009 found that new habit take between 21 and 254 days to form.  So either a month, or nearly a year.  Great!  Thanks Pip! There is a growing body of research which shows habit changes are key to achieve better health.  I think I’d come to that conclusion too – but it turns out that doctors consider it hard too.

Based on studies, health professionals rarely prescribe a habitual change due to the time it takes to explain the processes and offer support to those who are trying to change behaviours – modifying habits which have been adhered to for a lifetime.    Boiled down, though the advice for forming a new habit is: “repeat a chosen behaviour in the same context, until it becomes automatic and effortless.”


So far – this process for me has had it’s up’s and downs, the hardest being getting up at 5am.  I know I keep banging on about this, but I’ve arrived at the same conclusions on my own.  Context is important for repetition.  My day’s first task going for a 2 mile walk.  This is made more automatic and effortless by ensuring I prepare the night before.  Clothes, shoes and hat are in a neat pile so I can just throw them on quickly and get out the door. I’ve been doing this for 3 consecutive mornings now, and this morning it occupied less of my conscious mind.  It still hurt to physically wake up, but it happened.  I look forward to not having to think about the process – I think then the time spent will be less about the event and focus on other things.

These feelings of wanting it to become easier quicker led me to look into how long habits take to form.   Psychologically, these are classed as “system 2” processes, which are slow to modify.

Several studies refer to the time a habit takes to form is also directly related to the circumstances which have enabled the change.  For some it’s a health scare, for me it’s years of beating myself up for not doing it sooner.  A have an archive of well trodden excuses.  When they pop into my mind now, like “I’ll skip it this morning, I had a busy day yesterday” or “I’ve worked hard so far – one day without it won’t hurt, it’s like hearing an annoying lyric from a song you hate.  I know it’s intention.  Delay, procrastinate and putting it off.

Diet and exercise habits have felt easier because I’ve superimposed them on to another habit.  The apps which allow me to track my diet and exercise are on my smart phone which is a bit habit.  Most people, on average check their phone nearly 75 times a day.  At lease 30 of those checks, for me now is to see how many points I’ve got left or how many steps I’ve taken.  Doing that feels comfortable due to it’s context.

img_0058I guess, when I stop having the inner monologue with myself about these new habits I’ll have achieved my magic number of days to re-wire my brain.  I do sincerely hope it’s only slightly more than 21 and a lot less than 254.  I also know that any break with the formation of these new habits will reset my day count to 0.  I won’t let that happen again.

Diet · Exercise · Heath · Sleep

My bags are packed…

This week has been a bit of a blur but it’s Sunday night and tomorrow morning I’ll be up at 3:45am to fly to Glasgow to finish off a science series on looking good.

Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday were focused on getting a structure to the day, but being off I must admit that sticking to the routine of early walks was difficult for me.  I don’t get on with early nights or early mornings.  It’s not the walking, it’s just the getting out of bed when I know I don’t “need” to.   We did make up for it by exploring the area and generally walking about.

We went to Cirencester and found a lovely disused canal hidden away in the Cotswolds.  A coffee was had.  It also came with a one of this amazing bisquits – the brown ones.   Didn’t eat it.  Being strong willed is a rewarding experience, but it’s hard sometimes.


You hear it all the time, people who have health scares transform their life with a diet change, exercise regime and pace of life.  I’m not saying that this is required for me to get out of bed before 7:40am – but if I don’t sort my shit out soon…  I really need to do this.

Thursday and Friday saw a couple of days working  at the BBC.  Again, I didn’t get up to walk, just the normal workday schedule.  Disappointed feelings about that.

Saturday and Sunday were kids orientated as my wife was away for the weekend.  The exercise was fine though as we walked nearly 7 miles around an open day at a local airfield.  It was great fun.  I wasn’t at all temped by the donuts, sweet stalls or hamburger vans.  This was largely because most food cost £23,000 per portion and queues were astronomical.

We did the sensible thing and took a meal deal from a supermarket (£3.00) … a main, snack and drink.  As it was the weekend, I chose a sandwich for speed and ease of eating on the hoof.  When I scanned it in, Ham, cheese and Mayo on wholemeal bread.  14 Weight Watchers points!  Holy hell.  It’s no shock, now that I’m logging all food, that I’ve put on weight!  Every day I had that very lunch except with the added calorific punch of a full fat Coke and Crisps, mainly Doritos!  That must have been 30 points easy.  At my height and weight, that’s more than half of my daily allowance.

While at the airfield I got chatting with someone who runs a flight school.  Something to consider if I’m trying to see what my Dad’s experiences entailed.  Bizarrely she used to work for the same company I did years ago.  We have several mutual friends but she managed to dig a tunnel out of TV and now runs a flight school!  It’s a small world.

So, as I await my 3:45am alarm call, I do take some comfort in the fact that I really stuck to my diet plan.  I’ve lost another 4lbs – that’s a grand total of 18 pounds so far in just 3 weeks.  This week in Glasgow will surely mean a few late nights at work, but I’m sure I will have some time in the week to attack the to do list and get a few more things ticked off.  I’ll also endeavour to get into a morning routine.  Watch this space!  It will happen.

Right, a bit of sitting down and then sleep for a short while anyway!



Diet · Exercise · planning · YouTube

Monday. Bloody MONDAY!

Monday has come and gone like a blurry thing that’s moving so fast you’re like “What was that? Was that Monday?”… Yes, sadly, that was MONDAY.

It’s late – and I’ve now got the whiteboard up.  On it are lists of stuff to be done, long term goals, and an empty column for exercise… it’s been a busy day.  EXCUSE!


You see, I’ve started working on the weekly VLOGS for the YouTube channel.  As an editor of 20 years, I know how long it takes to edit 10 or 15 minutes of video.  It takes time.  As this is the first episode, it’s got to do some heavy lifting for the “quest”, also be a summary of my first week.  It’s taking up a big chunk of time.  It will be worth it.  I want to ensure though that I can keep to the upload schedule of 4 videos a month.

Research indicates that a regular upload schedule will achieve a good subscriber uptake.  Even if no one watches to start with, at least the content is up there, and being edited and gathered through out it.  Just going through the process of editing the first video is demonstrating to me how much I need to shoot to be able to offer up something which is valuable to a viewer.  I hope so anyway!

Another thing for today was I got a dedicated email address for MidlifeCoolness and I designed some very basic branding to the blank YouTube channel.  It’s all ready for some content now.

YouTube Logo

Also, I contacted a Bristol based life coach today.  We are meeting up in the coming weeks to discuss the project and hopefully start to work a plan out for me.


In terms of exercise, I fell slightly under my FitBit’s request for 10,000 steps.  I think I’m nearly at 7,000, which considering the lack of an early rise again it’s not surprising.

Due to the time now (1am!) I doubt tomorrow will start early.  We have plans to go for a long walk tomorrow – so that’s going to be nice.  Hopefully the weather will be kind to us.

So, all in all not a bad day.  Eat well, and stuck to the WW diet.  Cooked a curry and checked some things off the lists.

Tomorrow is another day.  Onward and upwards!


Diet · Heath · planning

I’ve lost 14 pounds?!

So this was the weekend.  It’s now Sunday – I’ve just weighed in and it’s good news!


Friday morning, kids at school.  We went in to a local town and had breakfast in a cafe.  Porridge with Honey and a black coffee.  The whole place smelled like bacon.  I resisted.

I also got a new whiteboard for scheduling and planning out the week.  This will include goals, exercise and weight loss before and after totals.  I’m weighing in on Monday mornings.  The whiteboard is still in the hall.  I need to wall mount it, which in this house requires a big drill, raw plugs and swearing.


I also had two of my TV producer friends agree to read the first version of my Dad’s book.  Also, a publisher replied and asked to read it.  No guarantee’s, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Saturday we dropped the eldest off at Air Cadets for training for his Duke of Edinburgh bronze award.  We then had a mosey around Wiltshire, first Malmesbury in the southern Cotswold’s – which was nice.  By chance I met an independent publisher and I took her card.  I mentioned the website about the book and she said it was a good idea.


Then we moved on to the rather splendid Bradford on Avon.  A lovely place to walk about.  I definitely will be going back here.  It’s a beautiful place we spotted when travelling back from our summer holidays in August.  Roman origins, but a town built around the wool industry.  Now, it’s full of trendy cafe’s and loads of charity shops, book stores.  It’s lovely.


I also started editing my weekly vlog today – which will go live in 2 weeks time.  I also edited a bunch of photos of my Dad, mostly cropping, rotating and colour correcting.

Sunday is a slow day, as it should be.  Lunch was cooked for me.  I washed up, and now I’m sitting writing this.  Off to Yate this afternoon to pick the boy up, so it will be just casual today.

I’m also happy to report, based on my Weight Watchers bathroom scales I’m now 19st 4lb or there about’s.  The scales seemed to go slightly up and down when I stepped on, but 19st 4lb was the most recurring figure and not the lowest offered up.  Based on my starting weight of 20st 4lb – I’ve lost a stone in a week – or there about’s.  An amazing result!

Tomorrow (Monday) will see me returning to my 6am starts with an hour of exercise in the morning.  I’m also signing up with the doctors tomorrow, another goal on the list, and will request a nutritionist consultation.  My Mum who successfully beat type 2 diabetes with diet told me that the NHS are keep to sign as many people up to this as possible due to government initiatives about obesity.  At 19st 4lb I’m still officially classed as obese.

I’ve also just googled “I lost a 14lb in a week” and according to some, this isn’t healthy.  It also said that I might have lost bone, organs! Oh and water.  Well, I don’t really agree with that.  What I’ve eaten this week isn’t a starvation diet.  It isn’t a fast.  All I’ve done is monitor my input, increase output and logged the results, and I’ve been drinking water more that ever before as I’ve cut out smoothies, fruit juices and Coke!

I don’t expect to lose this amount a week for the duration of this diet either.  As the weight decreases I wan’t to be able to increase exercise, build muscle and focus on nutrition.  Feeling good.


Diet · Exercise · YouTube

The hardest day so far…

Well, today started at 9am.  I’m following the vacation schedule this week.  Adjusting one’s eating habits is enough to be dealing with. Excuse noted.  Today was tough.  I felt hungry most of the day despite eating regularly.  I kept busy, and got through it.  I did have 28 points left, but I just had 4 cream crackers with cream cheese.  That’s 8 points gone.  20 remain.  Not bad.

I’ve also decided that, unless something happens of note, I won’t mention the diet daily.  I’ll keep a paper diary and do weekly weigh ins and progress summaries but unless something blog worthy occurs – I won’t bore you with it!

I will keep up the daily blogs, but ensure that I cover more topics to do with goals.  This will become easier as the time goes on, and the diet itself becomes more habitual.


Today was mostly admin.  I cleared the office upstairs of any clutter and rigged up a permanent phone clamp so that I can do proper desk based vlogs.  So that’s one step closer to some content hitting the YouTube channel.  I shot some footage today and I’ve got some more to get tomorrow when I visit my Mum’s place.

The plan with the YouTube Vlogs is to get two weeks ahead of myself, so I’ve always got a video ready to upload.  As my research points out, one of the key things to achieve and grow a successful channel is keep updates regular and frequent.  Weekly is as good as I can do at the moment, based on the content.  I don’t want to spread it too thin.

21 September 2017

Anyway – it’s late and it’s time to hit the sack.  Here’s the WW stats for today.  To those who are liking the blog posts, thank you.  It’s nice to know someone is reading this.

Not a bad day really considering most of the activity is chore related, but it all counts, right?  Tomorrow, we will be walking more, and that’s a fact.




Diet · Heath

Weight Watchers? There’s an app for that!

Looking through my weekly goals today, I’ve checked a couple off but the idea of formulating a diet plan was a tad daunting.  My current job means that I work from 9am to 6pm most days and the nature of my work often means I cannot easily just leave work at a set time.  Achieving a better work/life balance is yet another goal – but at the moment I have to work within the situation.  Up to now I’ve used circumstances as an excuse not to try doing stuff – and joining a weight loss programme was a big one.

Today I joined Weight Watchers Online for less than £5 a month.  Sign up was easy – I paid with PayPal and downloaded the WW app on my phone.  I created a username, uploaded a photo and entered in my body and current weight stats.  I’m 19 stone 1lb.  I’m 6 foot 3 inches tall and I’m a man.  When I got married 17 years ago – I was 16 stone 9lb.  I felt more comfortable at that weight – so I set it as my target.


I hopped from the laptop to the app and both updated each other as you would expect.  Options for syncing with fitness tracking devices from all the big brands are there too.  I don’t own a working fitness tracker as last year my Fitbit passed away due to water ingress during a shower.  I might think about getting another one – maybe not a FitBit though.  Without a tracker, you can enter the activity manually, but where’s the fun in that! 🙂

The App is well put together and I’ve logged what I’ve eaten today and I’m getting my head around the point system.  You can scan bar codes and the food database is massive with many of the items I eat daily.

Another big thing is the community integration.  It’s a social media styled system which allows members to share their experience and receive praise and advice.  After I set my account up, I went on and posted a quick hello and a little background as to why I was joining.  Within minutes I had several lovely comments spurring me on.  A lovely start.

So, I’m counting tomorrow as day 1 and I’m very pleased that Weight Watchers is available online without being tied into attending meetings.  So, I’ll follow the App’s suggestions, track my food, exercise and interact with the lovely gang who post, advise and inspire.

Sharing the experience with its highs and lows online [as I outlined in this post] is important to me.  If I know people are along for the ride, it adds to the journey and inspires me to keep going.  It’s also fun to share information, top tips and meet new people!

So, off we go!