Stanley Schachter was puzzled. A researcher at Columbia University, Schachter was well versed on the studies of weight-loss and smoking-cessation programs. According to the research, only 10 to 30 percent of the people who participate in those programs are still slender or nonsmoking one year later. Ten to 30 percent. That ain't much.
These studies prompted some researchers and therapists to assert it’s nearly impossible to stop smoking or control one’s weight permanently.
What puzzled Schachter was that most of the people he knew who wanted to lose weight or quit smoking had somehow been able to do it successfully. He conducted some interviews of his colleagues and friends, and it confirmed his hunch: Those who had tried had succeeded.
He has now spent over twenty years doing research on this, and he has concluded that the key to success in changing long-standing habits is practice. According to his research, people who have successfully quit smoking have tried and failed a number of times before they finally succeeded. The same was true about losing weight. Apparently you have to learn how to keep the change, and after you learn how, it begins to become a new part of yourself that eventually requires very little active effort to maintain.
That’s why the studies of weight-loss programs and stop-smoking studies look so bleak: Each is a study of only a single attempt. Schachter found that the more times you go through one of these programs, the more likely the change will be permanent.
So if you have tried to change and failed, try again. And keep trying. You can change...and you can learn how to keep the change. All you need is practice.
Adam Khan is the author of Principles For Personal Growth, Slotralogy, Antivirus For Your Mind, and co-author with Klassy Evans of How to Change the Way You Look at Things (in Plain English). Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.