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How to Eat an Elephant: Building Healthy Habits that Last

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Written by Lori Schulte Trenkamp, Yoga in the Schools Instructor

"How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time."

Several years ago my husband and I purchased a gym.

We took over in the late fall and made all of our best efforts to gear up for the New Year’s rush.

New Year’s resolutions were sure to cause a huge influx in new membership, right?

January 1st rolls around and we make all of those crazy New Year’s resolutions.

Vowing to change all of the unhealthy habits in our life, we decide to:

  • eat healthier

  • start working out

  • keep a gratitude journal

  • meditate

  • socialize more

  • read more

  • and the list goes on and on...

We did get some new members, but what we soon realized was that February would be a bigger month for new memberships than January…every single year.


I think it’s because most of us approach building those new habits, or breaking old ones, in the wrong way.

We think we have this whole habit thing figured out.

Power through doing whatever it is for 17 days, 21 days, 30 days- however long it is that you’ve heard it takes to form a habit- and then you will magically just do the thing each day with little to no effort.

Building Healthy Habits that Last

The message I heard from new members in February at the gym was often the same: I tried too many things at once and I ended up not doing any of them!

Therefore, January ends up being a failed experiment, and by February we realize we have got to take a different approach.

Through the years of owning that gym, the most successful people I saw didn't try to conquer everything at once.

They lived by the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

I used to be a New Year’s Resolution junkie.

I would make plans and lists, and I was just sure I was going to change everything. I imagined that come Spring, I'd be so much healthier and happier.

Spoiler alert! It never worked out that way.

Then, I read a book by Gretchen Rubin called The Happiness Project.

The premise of the book is that she’ll tackle one small item that she’d like to change in her life, in order to be happier, each month of the year.

This book, and my experiences at the gym, led me to understand two things:

  1. Climb one small hill at a time and don’t move on to the next until that one is conquered

  2. New Year’s Day, or a Monday, might not be the best time for you to start trying to implement a new habit. You don’t have to start something new on a certain date for it to work.

The best way for YOU to create new habits is to know yourself; to be mindful about what you need to change and what is serving you well.

Now, I’ve decided to just bite off one piece at a time, so to speak.

I’ll sign up for a membership and start committing to coming here and then I’ll worry about the other pieces later.

It’s best if this happens on a day-to-day basis.

Take time to be present and understand exactly how things are affecting you in your life on a daily basis.

You can also choose to make those small changes as they are needed- not waiting for a “special” date to change your life.

I would recommend the first habit you try is self-awareness.

Once you have firmly conquered this, you may have a better understanding of what you need to change in your life.

The truth is, there is no magic number for how long it takes to form a habit.

The best research we have on that number is that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days!

Let that soak in.

Why such a large range?

Simply put, every human is different.

Every situation is different.

Motivation towards certain goals is different from others.

We simply may not be setting ourselves up for success in the way we’re approaching the change.

The number of factors that play into how long it takes to build that new habit may be larger than the number of days it will actually take.

It's the commitment to yourself and showing up as best as you can each day that matters the most.

Being the Best You Challenge

Connect your body, mind and heart through a daily mindfulness practice in our upcoming challenge, Being the Best You!

You'll be guided through mindful activities that you can easily implement into your daily life.

By bringing in the daily habit of mindfulness, you'll begin to notice positive changes in your overall well-being.

Over 21 days, you'll notice:

  • Increased ability to focus

  • Decreased levels of stress and anxiety

  • Improved mood and attitude

  • The ability to make choices that support positive lifestyle changes

When you engage in the world with more intention, you'll live life more fully!

Anne will explain what you can expect with the challenge in the video below:

Monthly challenges come FREE with your membership to our online wellness platform, the C2C Hub.

You'll also get access to new fitness, yoga, meditation videos each week.

Learn more and get a FREE 2-week trial:

You can also purchase the challenge only for $19.95.

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