Why is healthy change so difficult? Too often we are motivated by a sense of guilt, fear, or regret. Surveys/research shows that this is the least effective strategy. Experts in behavioral change all agree that long lasting change is more likely to stick if it’s self-motivated and based on positive thinking. In my office, this is the main focus. We focus on the positive and take away guilt and judgment. We also focus on specific goals and have a plan. These are 2 other strategies that make us more successful.
Change is a process and not an event. The hardest part of my job is to promote being kind to ourselves. Stop dieting, stop beating yourself up, stop doing all things that are counterproductive to success. Start accepting that this is a process with setbacks, and setbacks don’t mean you’ve failed.
Here is a well accepted theory of the stages of change:
- Pre-contemplation: you have no intention to change. In order to move to the next stage, you need to see that your habits get in the way of important goals such as being able to enjoy your kids or being able to travel, etc.
- Contemplation: you’re only considering change but it might be 6 months or more from now. Ambivalence leads you to constantly re-weigh the cost/benefit of the change and keeps you stuck. You’d have to consider barriers and how to overcome them. For example, if you don’t have time for 30 minutes of exercise, maybe break it up into 2 sessions per day.
- Preparation: you know you must change, believe that you can, and have already made some plans such as joining the gym. Here’s where you’d consider taking out triggers that get in the way.
- Action: you’ve changed! You’ve started using healthy coping strategies. Here’s where you want to get support, be clear on your motivation, and talk about it often.
- Maintenance: new behavior has stuck for at least 6 months. It’s still tough here. You may need to avoid certain activities or even certain friends and continue to get support.
Keep in mind that it’s rarely straightforward moving through the different stages above. Relapse is common and we should even expect it. Each time, you learn more about yourself and long-term success becomes more of a reality.
This is what I help people navigate. We promote positivity, joy, delicious food, fun exercise, and learning that spiraling through the stages several times is not a sign of failure. This is normal, and I coach you to learn how to maneuver through it each time to become successful for life. It’s a journey, and one that can be enjoyable if you allow it.
If you need help understanding nutrition and all the mixed messages out there, give us a call. We will address your stress level, eating habits, exercise, cravings, emotional eating, and overall health and happiness. Start with a free health consultation at www.HappyFoodHealth.com or (619) 876-2655. See if this is the right match for you. I do things very differently to make health a natural lifestyle and this is not for everyone. Check out Yelp for other people’s opinion of Happy Food.
~ Samantha Hua, Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach, San Diego, CA