Is hard. Change is uncomfortable. Change is a process. It is often said that when the pleasure of something new is greater than the pain of staying the same you will change. Change is a process not an event. Let me repeat that…Change is a process. It is something that takes time to happen. It doesn’t happen just one time, like running a marathon or doing a 30 day challenge.
According to many experts there are 5 stages of change. Each stage prepares you for the next one so skipping one will often lead to setbacks on your way to permanent shifts in behavior.
1. Precontemplation…in other words you aren’t even thinking about change yet. You are avoiding even reading or talking or thinking about the unhealthy behavior. At some point you will sense that the unhealthy behavior is not serving you on your way to important goals you may have, like living to see your grandchildren grow up. This will lead you to:
2. Contemplation…your thoughts have turned to weighing the pros and cons of change. If I quit eating CRAP I will have to give up Friday night pizza night and my kids love that. At some point you will shift your rationalizations from why you can’t to HOW you can, i.e. we can still go to pizza and I will order a healthy choice. This brings you to:
3. Preparation…where you are making steps to change. Buying healthy cook books, looking up web sites with the kinds of food that will support your healthy choices are a couple of examples of this. It is here that you will create an action plan with goals that are achievable and realistic. At this point you are ready for:
4. Action…change is made here. You have stopped the previous behavior and have moved into the new behavior. If you are cutting out sugar (a good place to start by the way) you are learning to drink your coffee black and living without cookies. You are using strategies to help you get through the difficult times. You are asking for and receiving support from friends and family. Your self talk is there to support your change. You can see the pleasure of change is outweighing the pain of the status quo. At the point of about 6 months you will be on the last step:
5. Maintenance…where you are integrating the change into your everyday life. You are avoiding triggers that may create a relapse into old habits and behaviors. You assimilation of your new habits and activities still requires vigilance and conscious effort.
This is why the 30 day challenge should die. This road to permanent and long lasting change requires real long term effort and planning. If you want to change you can. The process is simple. It isn’t easy but it will be worth it. Begin with the end in mind…Who will you be? What will your life look like when you are eating real food in amounts that serve your body with proper nutrients? Real food is not deprivation. Real food is fun and healthy and nutritious and very tasty. You should never feel bad or guilty about eating well.
Next week: more on change!