The SCD Trial Period: Making the Diet a Habit… How Long Before It’s Easy?

What kind of a trial period does it take to be able to integrate the SCD diet into my lifestyle and have it be normal?

We all know that in Breaking the Vicious Cycle Elaine talks about many people giving the diet a 30-day trial period in order to gauge whether the diet will work. While this is a great idea in principle, there is some new information that might suggest that only committing to 30 days could set you up for failure.

Why Is This 30-Day Trial Suspect?

Most people have heard that it takes somewhere around 21 days to form a new habit. This “conventional wisdom” may or may not be where Elaine got the idea of a 30-day trial period, so I wanted to further explore where the 30 days came from.  As it turns out, in 1960 a study done by a plastic surgeon found that it took 21 days for an amputee, on average, to adjust to the loss of a limb. It was based on this original study that, since the 1960s, most people have concluded that it should take on average, 21 days to form a new habit.

Fast Forward to 2009 – You will find some fascinating new research on how long it takes to form a habit. As you can see, on average it takes a person 66 days to form a habit.

It is also a well-known fact among SCD’ers that somewhere around 60-90 days new people on the diet usually suffer a relapse of some type.  Elaine refers to it in her book on page 70, by saying “At about the second or third month, there is sometimes a relapse even when the diet has been carefully followed.” Later, she writes, “Once the individual gets over this, improvement is usually steady with minor setbacks occurring occasionally during the first year.”

So the bottom line is this:

The scientific research tells us that, on average, it’s going to take about 66 days to adapt to a new habit and SCD wisdom tells us that we should expect to have a slight relapse in our health somewhere around 60-90 days. It is clear, then, that 30 days is not going to be enough. At SCD Lifestyle, we do agree that if in 30 days on the diet you have not seen an improvement in your symptoms then the SCD diet may not be for you. However, we feel that you’re lying to yourself by only committing to 30 days on the diet and potentially setting yourself up for failure.

The SCD Approach We Recommend…

We recommend fully committing to yourself and someone close to you who will support you for 90 days. This commitment will allow you to use scientific research and SCD wisdom to give you the best chance to stick with the SCD diet. Recognize that we sometimes stumble on our paths to intestinal health and don’t sell your mind short from the beginning by assuming 30 days will provide all the answers. Focus on the forward progress and how far you have come… not how far you have left to go.

We’d love to hear your stories. For anyone else who has tried the SCD diet, how long did it take you before you thought it was a habit?


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