Along with the “holly” and “jolly” of the holiday season come inevitable advertisements and TV segments focused on avoiding holiday weight gain and your anticipated “New Year” diet. It’s almost like the images on TV and in magazines are meant for you.
After all, you are likely thinking, “I always know I need to change my diet.” But knowing you need to change and being ready to do so are two very, very different things that can lead to very, very different results, the biggest of which is a feeling of failure rather than success.
There is an important model, called The Transtheoretical Model (TMM) that those of us in the health field rely on when we are helping people adopt a new behavior. At the core of this model are the “Stages of Change,” which are the stages we move through when we are embracing a new health goal (such as changing our diet).
So, before you assume the person on TV has your back and that you are ready to transform your diet, make sure you are at the right stage to ensure success.
Stages of Change
This is likely where you are at when you see that commercial or your doctor first mentions that you need to change your diet. At this stage you haven’t really thought about changing the way you eat. It may or may not have ever crossed your mind; it’s possible that it has been an abstract thought that you have carried as a burden, but not really done more with. But maybe you should?
Of course, now that you know you need to change, you begin to give it some thought and try to change the abstract into reality. Possibly you look up a few things online or maybe you create a pro and con list about what change might look like and how it would impact you. It is absolutely essential that you graduate from this stage having both contemplated and made a decision about what you intend to do. It is important to note that some people spend a long time at this stage as they struggle with their readiness to move forward. Mess up this step and you will end up with another cookbook that is never used or treadmill that is simply a place to hang your clothes.
The preparation stage is critically important to your success. This is where you establish what support you will need, the education you’ll seek and other factors that will enable you to act on your goal. For example, if you know that you need to begin exercising, this is when you get the membership and sneakers. Or more importantly, this is the stage for examining what has previously made action so difficult for you and for identifying the pitfalls that hurt you in the past. This is the time to make sure that you don’t try the same thing you did before, as it was likely an unnatural fit for you or you would have been successful.
This is it…the work. This is the stage where you act on all of the thought, planning and preparation you have done so that you can successfully reach your goals. Remember, with any goal worth meeting there can be a bit of discomfort so no one is saying this stage is easy, but it’s sure to lead to exciting changes. Here’s the thing…when it gets SO hard that you want to quit you need to go back to the preparation you did to plan for this moment. Follow through on your preparation and ensure your needs are being met so you can be successful at this stage.
You did it! The strong foundation you created has allowed you to adopt change and maintain it. It might even feel like a natural part of you. Keep in mind that there will be times when you struggle, but the good news is that your path to change is so “well paved” that you will know just how to get back on it. In fact, your confidence in your ability to do this will likely keep you even more on track than you think.
These stages provide a proven strategy for change. Keep in mind that it can take a very long time to work through them and that individuals may spend months (years even) at the early stages.