Over the years most of us have shown that we can lose weight--pounds and pounds of it--only to see it come inching back on us until we are back where we started, or worse...It's not that weight loss doesn't work, or that you must be heavy the rest of your life--virtually all studies show that weight loss does work during the diet, it is just the long term maintenance that is the problem. So in an effort to address this more problematic side, I am going to take the next several installments of this “Keeping Fit” column to outline some of the basic principles that can help with your long term success at weight management.
By way of preview, the four main areas we will cover include:
1. Your commitment
2. Realistic goal setting
3. Diet and exercise strategies
4. Maintenance strategies
Like the four legs on a chair, the loss of any one could doom your weight management mission, so we will take time with each--starting this time with:
This is the fundamental starting point. All change involves pain and effort. Emotional forces will fight to maintain old behaviors while intellectual reason struggles for the change. Unless you possess a tenacious desire to succeed you will inevitably fail. So let me ask you, “Are you really ready to successfully lose weight?” Most overweight people will answer, "I am not sure", or "No.” Nevertheless, that is your first step. If you can complete it we can go on, but the first step is to be able to honestly, in your heart, answer that question. If you are really ready, then there will be no stopping you. There may be obstacles and hurdles, but you will find a way around them.
In assessing your own readiness, it is helpful to understand the stages of change people go through. There are five and I will list them below, along with a simplified view of their attitude toward change in parentheses.
Precontemplation ("Never") People here are unaware, or under aware of any health risks and are unwilling to change. Probably about 1/3rd of people with a problem.
Contemplation ("Someday") These folks are aware of the problem and are thinking about change, but frequently have excuses for not starting now. People can get stuck here for a long time.
Preparation ("Soon") This group differs from the former in that they have an actual date, or event planned that will signal action. They have often tried unsuccessfully before.
Action ("Now") These people are engaged in positive behavior change. They are not always consistent, but they are really trying. It requires considerable time and energy.
Maintenance ("Forever") Old behaviors have been modified or replaced for over 1/2 a year. New behaviors have become part of self-concept, and there is very little temptation to return to the old lifestyle.
So where are you? Being able to locate yourself can be a real "boon" to your efforts at change in any area. Because though you may not be ready to change yet, there are action steps you can take right where you are!! In other words, though the actions needed to physically change your health or appearance you may not be ready for, the interior change in your thought life can still be going on—moving you to that point when you will be ready for exterior change. Changing from "never" to "someday" is a HUGE leap! Nothing has changed outwardly—but some major changes are occurring! People at this stage need high information with low pressure.
When you are in contemplation address your reasons for holding off and think about how you can overcome them. Is there new knowledge that you will need? Circumstances in your lifestyle or environment that will have to be adjusted? People who can support you, or others that you need to avoid? Small changes in thinking can produce BIG changes in action! And when you are in preparation build your support system, set your date for action, and build your strategy for success. Recognize that you may fail a few times, but you are just learning about what it takes for you to succeed! And for those in Action looking to succeed long term seek for the keys to consistency! Strategize how to prevent relapses while still allowing room to enjoy the things you like. Develop maintenance "habits" that you can live with, that will hold you forever.
In the weeks to come we will examine many of these things to help in your own thinking, planning and action. I encourage you to accept the material wherever you are at and apply it to your own situation and stage of readiness. You will be richly rewarded.
Submitted by: Thomas Morrison, Fitness Coordinator, Bradley Wellness Center