I was inspired by my current quote on my gym’s motivational board by Jack Dixon, “If you focus on results you will never change. If you focus on change you will get results”. Change is hard! Without it, however, we cannot expect to see lasting results no matter what our goals or ambitions are. I have discussed my history with an eating disorder as well as my severely low self-esteem. Too often I wished I were different, that I was a self-assured, healthy, lean, out-going woman. But, wishing got me nowhere. I would set goals, year after year after year and to no avail. Oh, I may lose a pound here and there, I may have had some really good hair days and felt a bit more confident, but nothing really changed. The next day I was back to the same ol’, same ol’!
Resistance to Change
Here we are, it’s almost spring, three months into the New Year, resolutions falling by the way side, but why? The main reason why goals are not accomplished is because people don’t want to change. Well, that’s not true, they want to change but they have a resistance to change. They want the results that losing weight, for example, gives them, but they are not willing to give up potato chips or to make time to get exercise in. Or, perhaps they have made it to the gym, they have given up the chips for a few weeks and nothing happens so they get frustrated and go back to the same old habits. Change doesn’t happen so quickly. There are so many parts involved in changing, including age, genetics, current health. And…it didn’t take a few weeks to put on the extra weight, for example, it’s not going to take a few weeks to lose that extra weight, at least not in a healthy, lasting manner.
I have discussed personal accountability. This, too, is very difficult because this is when we must truly take responsibility for our own self-sabotages. It’s tough to admit that ultimately, we are in the driver seat, we are in charge of our destination. And, we will be faced with numerous road blocks and obstacles that we have to overcome, again, not easy! One the hardest is the influences around us. Your family and friends are eating, drinking, playing and you’re trying to talk yourself into passing on the nachos and beer to get to the gym and have a salad afterward—not an easy task!
5 Stages of Change
During my Wellness Coaching training, we learned about the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change. There are 5 stages involved:
- Pre-contemplation-in this stage there is no intention of making changes.
- Contemplation-in this stage, the intention is to change in the next 6 months. There is an awareness of the pros of changing. Often individuals get stuck in this stage and become chronic contemplators.
- Preparation-in this stage, individuals have a plan of action or have already make some action towards their goal.
- Action-in this stage behavior modifications have taken place within the past 6 months (regularly go to the gym 3 times a week, have eliminated sugar from the diet, etc…)
- Maintenance-in this stage changes have been made and efforts to avoid relapse are taking place. This stage can last from 6 months to 5 years depending on the change taking place.
Recognizing and, more importantly, admitting what stage of change you are in for specific goals may help to better understand why you are or are not able to make the changes you desire. For example, going on a weight loss diet may sound like a good idea and you know you need to lose weight but you really love food and have no true intention on making any dietary changes, then making this your goal may not be the best choice, at this time. On the flip side, if you’ve been going to weight management meetings and have passed on Friday Happy Hour for the past several months, you’re well on your way to maintaining this behavior!
Slipping Back is Not The End to a Good Habit
We’ve all been in various stages with various goals. Even in maintenance, we can slip back to old behaviors, but it’s not the end all. Once I was “recovered” from my eating disorder (or at least was discharged from the hospital), I fell back into old habits numerous times and started all over again. It was my will to make the change that got me to where I am now. “Old habits die hard“, no doubt. I still have thoughts as I did in my active eating disorder days, but I’m able to rationally push them away because I’m “ready” to and resolved that the life of starvation or binging and purging was not a healthy path.
Change doesn’t have to be just diet and exercise focused. Change can be emotional as well. Sometimes the emotional change is the “key” to making the other changes in life we desire so much. I went through a tough experience with my family to a point where we have severed ties. This was one of the worst, most difficult experiences I have ever gone through. For the longest time, all I could think about was how alone and hurt I felt (even with my husband and son by my side). After a lot of processing, journaling, reading, and therapy, I was ready to focus on the love I had rather than the love I had lost. But, again, I had to be ready to make the change to get to the results.
Making changes to get results is a different process for everyone. It’s important that you are aware and accept where you are in the process. Some things that may help:
- Write out the pros of making changes and cons-if the pros outweigh the cons, this is a good indication you’re ready to at least contemplate change.
- Journal. I state this a lot, but writing it down honestly helps your chances of success. When you are doing the behavior you are trying to change or are avoiding the behavior you’re trying to achieve, what are you feeling or thinking? Are you sad, happy, exhausted, stressed, etc.…? Who’s with you at the time?
- Do not let a setback stop you from restoring your good habits. Simply accept you had a setback, reflect how or why the setback happened, and get right back to the good habits you have formed.
- Have realistic expectations of yourself. If you are in the contemplation stage for a behavior you wish to change, keep gathering information necessary to help you move on to the next stage.
- Don’t try to do it all at once. If you want to start eating healthy, start a workout program, quit smoking, that may be too much all at once. Start with one behavior and then move on to the next when you are ready!
- Seek the help of a professional or join a group if necessary. It’s okay to need help. I have found great success with therapy. There are also professional and support groups (weight watchers, 12 step programs), as well as personal trainers, group fitness, etc…
Changing habits or behaviors, especially those that have been a part of us for many years, is one of the most challenging things we can do. It can bring up old, unwanted emotions that we have stifled comfortably for so incredibly long, however, for lasting change to happen it’s the most important process you’ll go through. As with anything, “nothing worth having comes easy”.