Today’s post is all about exploring the process of change and celebrating how far you’ve already come :).
You may not have found it easy to change your eating or exercise habits in the past. You may not have found it easy to love and appreciate your body.You may have been on or off diets several times in your life. You may even have bought all the kit to exercise, gone to one class and then not continued. You may not even believe it’s possible for you to change completely and have the body you want with a healthy lifestyle to go with it. If any of this rings true for you, here’s the good news : in terms of your moving towards a healthy relationship with food and your body, you may be much further along the road of change than you think!
Where Are You In The Process Of Change? Prochaska and Di Clemente (1983) describe a model of change comprising 7 key phases :
Pre-Contemplation In this phase, people are not seriously considering the possibility of change. An example of a person in this stage could be someone who is overweight but does not have any real desire to lose weight, eat healthily, get fit, process their emotions in a healthy way or tackle their inner “Cookie Monster” (actually mine was a Pringles Monster but that’s another story!). You might hear someone in this phase say “So, I’m overweight. That’s just the way I am and I’m kinda used to it. There’s more to life than exercise and mung beans.”
Contemplation During this phase, people become aware , or acknowledge the existence, of a problem. They are seriously considering the possibility of change but need to weigh up whether to take any action or not. In terms of weight loss, many people remain in this stage of contemplation for years! (Sound familiar?!) You might hear someone in this phase saying something like “I know I need to do something but I just don’t know where to start. I’m not sure whether I have the time or whether I’ve left it too late. I’m not sure about paying for a gym membership but I do know that if I don’t do something now, it could have consequences for my life in the future. Can I really change what I eat? Do I really want to eat differently? Is this change really important for me? Is it important enough? Why do I really need to change my relationship with food and my body? Can I go on like this for much longer? What will happen if I don’t change?”
Preparation As soon as you get to the Preparation phase, things start to look good! Procheska and Di Clemente suggest that if you find yourself at this stage, it’s very likely that you will make a change within the next 3 months. During this key phase, you might find yourself collecting information about what is required to start the change process. You might be Googling about the best way to lose weight, you might be finding out about the cost of membership at a local gym, you might be on Amazon checking out all the diet books, you may be asking about local therapists and weight loss coaches. If you’ve asked for more information about my live Thigh High Boot Camp events or my coaching packages, then you are already at this stage in the change process! (Even reading this blog means that it’s likely that you’re at this stage :))
Action This is the stage when people actually start to make changes. If you have signed up to my upcoming weight loss boot camps or to my coaching programme, then you are at this advanced stage already! If you’ve joined a gym and booked your induction, you’ve arrived at this stage. If you’ve started to read about an approach to weight loss which may work for you – and you’re implementing the recommendations –Woo-Hoo! Go you, Action Adventurer! If you’ve started attending a local weight loss support group, full-on Action Alerts all around!
So you can congratulate yourself already for getting this far – did you realise how far you had already come? As you engage fully with the process of taking action -and start to make sustainable psychological, emotional, spiritual, dietary, exercise and life-style changes- you will move further into this stage.
Maintenance This Maintenance phase is all about your sustaining the progress made during the action phase. For you, this stage might represent the period directly after completing one of my weight loss events or coaching programmes. It could be the stage when the novelty of going to an exercise class or a weight loss support group has worn off and it’s beginning to feel like a regular part of life. It might be the phase where the eating approach you have selected is definitely getting you results and all you need to do is just keep following the approach.
Some people will stay at this stage for a matter of weeks – others for a considerable period of time. During this stage you may not be totally confident about your ability to avoid relapsing into old habits. After the initial “success highs” have worn off, you may become increasingly aware of old unhelpful patterns which may require resolution. This is all good news : it means you are gaining more insight into who you are and how you work. It’s all part of the process of learning to “stay on track naturally” in a way which works for you
Relapse This is the stage when people are not able to keep and maintain new psychological, behavioural and emotional patterns or don’t stick to their plan of action. This can happen for any number of reasons – but if relapses occur, there is still hope! Just because you don’t “stay on the wagon” (and it really is worth challenging what this phrase actually means!) doesn’t mean you can’t get back on! Actually, it might hearten you to know that it is recognised that relapses are vital to any successful change process. Although it is helpful to avoid relapsing into old behaviours, it should be emphasised that you can learn a great deal about how to change your behaviour (on a permanent basis) from your relapses. (It was only when I relapsed that I learned that the emotion driving my eating behaviour was anxiety. That was a really useful insight for me and helped me to shift my focus to resolving my own anxiety so that my hunger was driven by genuine physiological appetite rather than an emotion).
If you become aware of your “triggers” for relapse, you have a much better chance of resolving the trigger-response relationship once and for all!
Termination (doesn’t sound great but it’s the best bit!) At this stage the old psychological, emotional or behavioural response is gone for good – it is the stage we all dream of! When you reach this stage, your new psychological, emotional ad behavioural responses will happen automatically, unconsciously and naturally. (Termination sounds pretty cool, right?)
Something For You To Chew Over! Even though you might be busy “being good” right now and avoiding popping to the local “Take-Away” restaurant, here’s a healthy “Take Away” for you. Wherever you’re at in this process, you’re in it! Whether you know it consciously or not, you’re on the road to change 🙂 Congratulations!
Useful Resources If you’ve enjoyed this post and would like to learn more about my take on “staying on track” and “relapse”(I call this phase “wiggling”), please check out my 12 Days of Christmas series of posts. These 2 posts will be of particular interest :
You can also find out more about my live weight loss boot camps (in Northern Ireland, Scotland and England) and my 1-1 and group coaching programmes here http://www.thighhighbootcamp.com
I’ll be back – and, until then, gotta run 🙂 !
© Jane Talbot 2013