You can give up anything for 30 days if you put your mind to it. Of course, there will be days during that time that feel harder than the others, and depending on what vice you’re choosing to give up, it can seem like a very long month. But whether you’re swearing off celebrity gossip sites, chocolate, booze or even reality TV, successfully completing 30 days free of the bad habit or cheat food of choice can be done.
Want proof? We asked a few experts for their best advice on quitting something cold turkey for a full 30 days. Not surprisingly, the power of positivity is a huge factor in making it to the end without giving in to temptation. Read on for a few key tips on how to give up anything for 30 days. Yes, even sugar.
Step 1: Write down why you want to make this change
Sure, you may know why you’re cutting out a certain food or habit. But as registered dietician Susan Bowerman points out, there’s power in putting it down on paper. “Deciding to give up a food or a habit for a month can be daunting,” she says. “The key to staying motivated is to tie the behavior change to something positive. One thing that can really help in the process is to first write down the reasons that you want to make this change. Perhaps you want to give up soda because you want to shave some calories out of your day, or you decide to give up late night snacking because it tends to give you heartburn. When you frame the change that way, it can encourage you to stick with it because you’ve identified some tangible positives that may come along, and you will be able to actually see and feel the effects of the changes.”
Bowerman recommends keeping track of these changes as well to help you stick to your goal. “If you cut out soda for a month, you’ll likely lose some weight, and if you stop late-night snacking, you might notice that you are sleeping better—both of which would probably motivate you to continue making the change,” she says. “Another helpful thing to do is to keep a log. Make note of each time you do what you intended, how you feel about it, and give yourself a virtual pat on the back each time. Positive feedback is a huge motivator.”
Step 2: Find a replacement
No, you don’t want to give up ice cream and replace that habit with something similar, like cookies. But according Dr. Caroline Apovian, director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Center at the Boston Medical Center, finding a healthy alternative to what you’re planning to give up helps you have more staying power. “Have something prepared that satisfies the need for sweetness, comfort, stress relief, etc.,” she says. “What is it that you are actually craving when you reach for that food? Is it hunger? If so, try some naturally sweet fresh fruit, or something rich in protein to help you to feel full longer in between meals. Is it a reward? Find something else you enjoy, like aromatherapy, a brief walk, a chat with a friend, or taking a short break to listen to a song you like. Think about this beforehand so that you are prepared when the craving strikes.”
Step 3: Celebrate small wins
Whether you’ve made it 24 hours or two weeks without that thing you’re giving up, corporate wellness coach Jessica May Tang says that the key to staying positive throughout your month of giving something up is to take the time to cheer yourself on along the way. “Your mind and body respond very well to positive reinforcement, and as long as you celebrate your progress intentionally, it doesn’t matter what the reward is,” she says. “It could be grabbing dinner with your friends or a literal pat on the back or even lighting your favorite candle. Just be intentional with it! What you’re doing is creating positive brain pathways that connect the new habit with good feelings of positivity and reward, and over time, this new pathway will be more automatic than the one for the old habit.”