What usually happens when someone makes a decision to change? Lets view an example of someone trying to lose weight. The person knows that they are overweight, but are generally focused on other things. Statements are made like “I should really lose some weight”. This is a pre-contemplation stage. Then, in the contemplation stage they say, “My clothes do not fit properly”, I am going to start a diet on Monday. At this point, being overweight is affecting their self- esteem. They may also notice increased difficulty performing everyday tasks. For example, walking up stairs and experiencing shortness of breath.
An attempt to lose weight begins. Upon awakening the first morning, the attitude is “Today is the day”. Breakfast usually consists of something like bran cereal or oatmeal, skim milk, and a piece of fruit. These are considered some typical diet foods, so the feeling of accomplishment is achieved. After breakfast, another meal is not consumed until lunch- time, which is usually about five hours later. Lunch consists of tuna fish on whole wheat bread, a salad, and maybe fruit. The mental attitude is good. Even dinner is a success with three ounces of chicken, and some vegetables.
Then comes the difficulty. About two hours after dinner, sitting around watching television. The body is now starting to notice some type of depravation. Much less food was consumed. Hunger starts to set in, and the refrigerator or cupboards are visited. The amount of food consumed is more than what should be eaten. The mental attitude diminishes, and failure is perceived. Lets start again tomorrow.
This is a typical pattern that is followed. I have counseled many people who have experience it. Sometimes it may take two or three days before too much is eaten, but the body will usually win over will power. There are physiological reasons why the body responds this way. I will discuss this in future blog postings
If this pattern looks familiar to you, I want you to think about how positive you felt when you were in control. That is the power that must be sustained. Not many things life comes easily. Certainly not dieting. It all begins with the mental attitude. To that end, it is important to understand the decision making process, and the power of goal setting.
STAGES OF READINESS TO CHANGE
PRE-CONTEMPLATION : A PERSON EXPRESSES AN INTEREST TO CHANGE.
CONTEMPLATION : A PERSON IS THINKING ABOUT MAKING CHANGE.
PREPARATION: A PERSON IS DOING SOMETHING, BUT LESS THAN DESIRED.
ACTION: PERFORMING THE REQUIRED BEHAVIOR FOR LESS THAN SIX MONTHS
MAINTENANCE : ADHERES TO THE BEHAVIOR FOR MORE THAN SIX MONTHS.
Any health or behavior change must start from within. The first step is to identify the problem. As was used in the example, the clothing not fitting comfortable, and it was harder to perform everyday activities. Second, was the commitment to make a change. Third, is setting goals. You must have a goal, a focus to achieve. Without goals, is like sending a sports team out to play, with no plan book, or reason why they are playing. When you have a plan of action, you are likely to remain focused, and committed to achieve.
There are several books that reiterate the importance of setting goals. One such book is “The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People”, by Stephen R. Covey. In his book, Covey states, “ An effective goal focuses primarily on results rather than on activity. It identifies where you want to be, and in the process, helps you determine where you are. It gives you important information on how to get there, and tells you when you have arrived. It unifies your efforts and energy. It gives meaning and purpose to all you do. And it can finally translate itself into daily activities so that you are proactive, you are in charge of your life”.
Always remember, for a goal to be truly effective, you must believe that you can achieve it. Never give up, or lose sight of your desired outcomes. Once you lose sight, it is a long and disappointing journey that will lead to feelings of failure.
Mark T. Cuatt