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Friday, October 30, 2009

Breaking Bad Habits: Which Stage of "Behavioral Change" Are You In?

I came across an article just now called "Unhealthy Habits Often Hard to Break," and here's a portion I'd like to quote:

To ensure good health, some experts say, we need to learn the science of behavior change -- that the body part people most need to contend with is not their beer bellies or love handles, but their brains.

Dr. James Prochaska, director of the cancer prevention research center at University of Rhode Island and co-author of the book "Changing for Good," said most behavioral changes, such as losing weight and stopping smoking, involve six stages.

A person who denies or fails to recognize the problem is in a stage he calls pre-contemplation. After that comes contemplation (acknowledging the problem without being ready to change it), preparation (getting ready to change), action (changing behavior) and maintenance (not falling off the wagon). The final stage is termination, meaning the behavior has been tamed and no longer poses a threat.

When people skip straight to action, they are likely to return to their bad habits before long, Prochaska said. Instead, they should think in terms of advancing from one stage to the next.

"Behavior change equals progress, not immediate action," he said.

So, the stages:

1. pre-contemplation (resisting change)
2. contemplation (change is on the horizon)
3. preparation (getting ready)
4. action (time to move)
5. maintenance (staying there)

Well, I've gone through all the first four all and creating this blog was part of it, too. Yes, I was fully in "action," then that pretty much stopped. I ended back in contemplation/preparation toggling. From the little bit of preview I read of Dr. Prochaska's book online, the contemplation includes the emotional arousal (ie, the inertia starts to crack, I guess). The preparation continues the self-evaluation of "contemplation" and then moves to commitment. Yeah, makes sense.

Hence, a few days ago, I switched from contemplation--feeling again the need to change with regard to my dieting/health efforts, probably ignited by the bit of regain during the illness and reading some of the fatfighter blogs again-- to preparation. When I felt better from the flu, I printed a shopping list with healthful stuff for my hubby to buy me, and then I scheduled exercise training for next week. And I began actively blogging again. (I also am in preparation mode for another important thing in my life I want to change, but that is not health-related, so I won't go into it here.)

I have been in a half-hearted action mode for three days now, er, semi-action? By semi-action I mean that I've taken action--am conscious of food choice, am making better choices, am preparing meals instead of gobbling fatty take-out, am ordering diet products online--but it's not at the level that I need to be (action-wise) to see strong progress.

But ya know, it is something, and I shouldn't denigrate it. Bad habit that, too. Affirmation, throw me an affirmation! :)

But I am in action. Yes, that's good. Action includes "environmental control", and just buying good food and preparing sane meals (or even planning to buy sane meals, as opposed to crazy-ass meals) is part of that control. Throwing out junk food is environmental control. Setting up a journaling time, bringing out the scale, all that is environmental control. So, yeah, here I am. Action stage.

I've never been in a "goal achieved" maintenance. Ever. I've been in maintenance of sorts to keep 25+ pounds off. That hasn't been as easy as one would think, and maybe part of me has always been in a sort of maintenance (ie, maintaining this 272-276 weight range and not the 296-300 weight range).

Man, must be nice to be at goal and on "automatic" to keep it off. But that's nowhere near where I'm at.

Anyway, I know myself at this point. For me, falling back into contemplation is really, really easy. It's the "mojo gone" stage for me. It's the, "I really am behaving badly, and I need to do something", but I don't do anything stage.

How do I stay in "action" mode and move into "better action" in order to make the future I envision happen, one day, one day far ahead, way ahead, the place where I'm into "maintenance"?

Geez. Wish I knew.

I'm just glad to be past the threshold and into "action" for now. I've been contemplative way too long.

So, which stage are you in? Is it where you need to be now? Are you stuck or toggling?

I do wish to give a shout out to some bloggers whose persistence in weight loss/fitness gain/blogging have helped me move from contemplation to preparation to action this time around:

Katschi of *Fitcetera*, a gorgeous blond who's lost 70 lbs so far and posts pics of her meals (which I just love seeing, weirdo that I may be).

Lyn of Escape from Obesity who is so insightful of her own weaknesses and strengths and refuses to give up, no matter the blips or regain. Her persistence and unflinching introspection about the roots of her overeating/bingeing have, I suspect, helped many of us look deeper at our own internal landscape. Her courage and honesty are beautiful.

Heather at Setting Her Free, who is maintaining and I do not doubt will always maintain due to her gumption and focus. She lets me see that the struggle goes on, but it can be done. Plus her beautiful, smiling face just makes ya feel good. :)

Thanks, ladies.


Diane, Fit to the Finish said...

I struggled for years with the first 3. I eventually did lose 150 pounds and that's been 12 years now.

I admire you for really thinking through where you are now and where you want to be. And then moving from thinking to doing!

I always wonder what would have happened to me if I hadn't kept trying. If I had just given up. I often think I might have been one of those housebound people on those Discovery Health shows.

Keep up your great work!

Jenn@slim-shoppin said...

I think as long as you are taking some action instead of no action, its way better than nothing. For the longest time, I would read all these magazine, look up all these recipes, not do any of that stuff and wonder why nothing changed? You actually have to do something

I agree with Diane, you just have to keep trying and eventually you will win. You are doing great!