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 · 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.




Exercise · Heath · Online Publishing

The morning after the night before

I didn’t get drunk.  I didn’t wake with a hangover.  I did however stay up late last night working on my Dad’s book as my plan was to send it out to publishers and adventure magazines this week.  The result of that was getting up at 10am.  A normal breakfast with a coffee, all logged within the Weight Watchers app.   I also recharged my Fitbit while I was researching publishers and magazines.

I kept plugging away, emailing, tweeting and phoning until 3pm and then I went to pickup my youngest from School. I missed lunch.  Oops.

It was a disappointing day in terms of activity too.  Not abysmal but the worst this week so far.

Wednesday 20th September 2017

I am on track however to exceed my weekly Weight Watchers activity target of 100 FitPoints.  I already have 74, 13 of which I earned today just from some fast walking up and down the mildly hilly town I live in.

On the other hand, I have checked off the first step in something I’ve wanted to do for years.  I’m expecting rejection letters from publishers, everyone gets them.  Beyond that though I’ve started the process of publishing my Dad’s memoirs on Kindle.  Also I have contacted several of my TV friends to have a read and see if there’s any potential for development in that sphere.  More on that as it develops.

Note: I'm hungry now.  Not felt that in a while.

Tomorrow – exercise takes the front seat again.  I’ll get up at 6am and build on that morning routine.


Exercise · Heath

Ups and downs today.

So, yesterday saw me getting up 6am to exercise.  This morning, I didn’t get out of bed.  I did really mean to.  I got up at 9am.  So, this morning ritual thing takes some getting used to.  So, we got in the car and drove out to Oldbury on Severn and walked.  We walked some more and it was lovely.  Blue skies and the temperature was just right!  There was still something niggling at me.


The walk continued and as we neared the nuclear power station, I had walked 3.4 miles.  My heart rate was steady, but I kept the pace up.  Canadian Geese flew overhead, the sun shone – yet still something was bothering me.


As we returned to our starting point, a delightful community cafe – I had a coffee in hand and my wife and I chatted.  Something was still up.  We then walked a further 10 minutes through the village, up a hill, and sat looking over the Severn.  A fantastic view from the churchyard.  I realised what was wrong.  I still felt guilt that I hadn’t stuck to my goal.  It was the first, in the first week, that I had let something slip.  I had been beating myself up for it.


Because I’m new to this, I don’t know how to deal with things not going to plan.  Despite doing the exercise and having a lovely time too, I feel that not getting up and hitting the street as planned – I’d taken a step back to what I was doing.

So, I’m confronted with two options, do I get up at 6am tomorrow, or do I allow myself to find other ways of exercising.  The main point of this morning routine is to achieve exercise when I’m working.  I’m not working at the moment, but is that an excuse?  Probably.

Looking at the stats, I think for this week as long as I achieve the steps, points and tick some goals off my list, or take action to achieve them – I think it’s okay.

Tuesday 19th September 2017

In terms of goals, today I achieved a leap toward achieving something I’ve been wanting to do for years.  During the last 5 years of my Dad’s life he wrote is memoirs, and 2 novels.  He died 13 years ago.  Tonight, I started to prepare one of his novels to publish it online as an e-book.  It feels good.  I’m about 60% done with it, but I’ve never published an e-book before so lots to do and learn.  It’s all on the list.

Anyway, time for bed.  Tomorrows another day!

Exercise · Heath

Morning workouts! Terrible idea?

When I told my wife that I was planning to wake up at 6am and go for a 4 mile walk she literally snorted.  To back her up a little I have a reputation for “sleeping in”.  In my defence, I normally stay up until 2am “researching” or working on my next great plan.  So, the result of that is I do not normally get out of bed until I absolutely have to.  That said, if I have, it’s no problem.  I can deal with tired.  I might be grumpy but I have been surviving on 5 or 6 hours of sleep.  I have been to “tired” to exercise.  What an idiot.

So, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve be researching morning routines.  I found that the majority of successful people wake up early and get all the stuff they have to do between the hours of 6 and 8.  So, a morning routine needs to be formulated.  The first and the most mentally gruelling is waking up early and exercising.

This morning, the alarm went off at 6am and I rolled out of bed.  I put my shorts and T-shirt on and left the house.  I followed a walk my wife and I did the day before to test the FitBit Charge 2.  I took my phone so I could track my route (because the Charge 2 uses the phones GPS to track location).  The difference with my walk and the day before was that I pushed it a little harder and it was longer.

The morning light was lovely, and it wasn’t raining.  I grabbed a few shots of myself for the weekly vlog (coming soon) and I took an occasional peep at my heart rate to ensure that I wasn’t about to pass out or explode.  I was fine.

As you exit the green leafy section and turn left up the hill….there is a hill.  I walked with determination up it and the result was sweat and heavy breathing.  Day one, lesson learned – I am not in good shape.  Clearly.  That’s what I’m really looking forward to doing in 6 weeks time.  Look back at this blog and my video diary and see a difference.  Hell I might even be able to have a conversation with someone after walking up that bloody hill.

I doubled the walk I did yesterday by tracing my steps back.  I did a very respectable 3.34 miles.  Normally I’d be asleep!  Ha ha!  I also burned through nearly 700 calories.  My wife owes me 50p.

Monday 18th September 2017

So, the new schedule is:

  • Get to bed by 22:30 – 23:00
  • Get up at 06:00 and be out of the house by 6:30.
  • Walk for an hour.
  • Return to house and shower.
  • Eat breakfast and drink coffee
  • Leave house at 08:00 for work.

The end of day one of the fitness schedule saw me eat 43 daily points out of 55.  I also earned 30 FitPoints.

Yay!  Lets see how tomorrow goes.  Rain is forecast!  Gonna eat popcorn (9 points!) and watch a film now (Alien Covenant).