You may already be familiar with my story to know the fuel that sparked my journey towards a lifestyle change. It started with a long overdue blood test. Isn’t it fascinating a small sample of blood can reveal so much information about our health?
When I first saw my results online, I felt throes of emotions.
Surprised. Disappointed. Scared.
These emotions escalated to make me realize something needed to CHANGE.
In my studies as a Behavior Change Specialist, I learned the formula for lasting change. However, before you can start the process, you have to be mentally ready for it.
For CHANGE to happen, three factors must be met:
MOTIVATION, CAPABILITY, and OPPORTUNITY
Was I motivated? Absolutely! The risk of diabetes was enough to fuel my motivation.
Was I capable? Definitely. I am disciplined by nature (could be why the Navy was a great first career choice for me) and resourceful enough to figure out the tools I needed to make the change.
Was the opportunity present to allow for change? Fortunately, it happened at the time when the girls were older and more independent. It was the perfect opportunity to focus more on self-care.
STAGES OF CHANGE
We go through seasons in our lives. My season for change was after becoming a mom and the implications of my blood test. It was the trigger that set off my journey towards better health.
A journey of change goes through five different stages, otherwise known as the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavior Change. I know the term is a mouthful, so it’s also referred to as the Stages of Change Model. Understanding the stage you’re in can help progress you forward to the final stages of ‘Action’ and ‘Maintenance’. In episode 2 of evoke STRONG live, I covered my progression through these stages in my own journey of health improvement. If you’d like to view the replay, this link will direct you to our Facebook Live page.
The first stage is pre-contemplation. This is someone who has no interest in change. A person who is happy with the way things are.
I’ll use myself as an example. Before my blood test, I had a nightly habit of snacking. It was something I did after I put the girls to bed where I enjoyed the quiet time mindlessly eating while I watched TV. Sure, I noticed I was putting on a little extra belly fat. But I couldn’t pull myself away from it, always using the excuse “I’ll run it off tomorrow.”
If you realize you are in this stage with regards to your health, consider thinking about these following questions:
- How will you know when it’s time to think about change?
- What signals will tell you to start thinking about change?
Ultimately you know what’s best for your health and you decide when you’re ready to change your behavior.
When you’re ready to change your behavior, but still contemplating whether or not to take action, you’ve reached the second stage: CONTEMPLATION. This person knows the reasons for changing but the obstacles prove it challenging so the current behavior remains. Ambivalence is the identifying trait at this stage. Caught in between two choices – change or no change?
When I found out my A1C and triglyceride levels were higher than normal, it was the catalyst to change my eating habits. The first thing that immediately came to mind was to let go of my nightly snacking habit. I had to figure out why I felt the need to eat since it wasn’t due to physical hunger. Was it something I could easily give up?
Questions to ask when you’re in contemplation:
- Why do you want to make this change?
- What could be the positive results of changing now?
- What are the major barriers for you to change?
Usually this is where many of us get stuck when we contemplate about change. Our thoughts go back and forth whether it’s worth the effort and the feelings of uncertainty arise. This is when you must dig deep and identify a STRONG SPECIFIC WHY you need to change. To me the risk of diabetes outweighed my unhealthy eating habits. If I eliminated snacking at night, it meant reducing the amount of processed and sugar based food I consumed.
Now it was a matter of commitment to the change that is a progression to the next stage.
PREPARATION is when a person is ready to commit to change but has not taken action yet. She’s done the research about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and feels confident that this is the path she wants to follow.
It helps to write down SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound – goals. More importantly, identify the obstacles along the way so you have an approach to manage through them.
Back to my snacking problem. This might sound unusual to you but after I saw the lab results online, I went through every stage from pre-contemplation all the way to the start of the action stage in a couple of days. I focused on One Thing “No more snacks at night.” At first I thought it would be a challenge. But being a ‘health risk’ was enough to calibrate my mind and emotions. The next night, I sat in front of the TV without a snack. And I WAS OK with it!
Finally in the stage of ACTION. For three to six months, this person has taken the steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Every day is progress towards a specific SMART goal.
At this stage, the person is still dependent on willpower and there’s a possibility for relapse. It would help to think about the questions in the Pre/Contemplation stages to remind you of the reasons WHY you started the process of change. I am proud to admit I haven’t relapsed with my nighttime snacking. In my case, foam rolling and journal writing replaced mindless snacking.
And onto the LAST stage: MAINTENANCE. Behavior change is sustained for 6+ months. The behavior is a lifestyle habit therefore less reliance on willpower. To remain in this stage, it helps to set new goals, to always remember WHY you made the change and become a role model for others.
Letting go of nighttime snacks was one of the many small steps I’ve taken since the start of my journey to improve my health. I’ve maintained many of the small goals I’ve set but every now and then I have days when old habits appear. These setbacks are expected and acceptable as long as it’s momentary and you have a plan in place to address the relapse.
Regarding blood tests, I am due for another one soon as my birthday approaches. The table below shows the improvements I made within a year of making lifestyle changes. With these improved results, there’s no question these are the healthy habits I need to maintain for a lifetime.
Behavior Change is a choice. And the ability to take control of your health is within your grasp. We are in the age of information where the resources are freely flowing. Every person is different. You must go on your own journey to see which path suits you best.
Where are you in the process of change? How can you progress to take you to the final stage of maintenance where you’ve developed healthy habits you can sustain?
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