Steps to Behavior Change

How are you doing on your goals so far? No doubt there is a change you have been trying to make, whether that’s with your health and nutrition or not. At the beginning of the year there is huge motivation to start fresh and new and begin being a better you. Sometimes that motivation can wear off after a good few weeks and our focus can be blurred. So let’s keep it going!

Picture Cred: Stefan Cosma uploaded from Unsplash

I wanted to share with you the steps of behavior change. It’s important to know what’s normal and where you might be in the process of a change you are wanting to make.

Stages of Change
  1. Precontemplation
    • At this stage a person has no intention of changing in the next 6 months and can resist any efforts to modify the certain behavior.
    • This can be because of lack of awareness, denial, unwillingness to change, or feeling hopeless after attempting to change.
  2. Contemplation
    • Recognize the need for change but are in between, weighing the reasons to change and the reasons not to change.
    • There are “perceived” barriers. For example with a diet change: the food won’t taste good, too expensive, too much time, etc.
    • People can be stuck in this stage for years. I know I was.
  3. Preparation
    • You believe the advantages outweigh any disadvantages or the perceived disadvantages and are committed to take action in the near future (within a month).
    • Start to inquire and plan. For health reasons, they might start too look at diet plans, talk with a nutritionist, try new foods, start a walk program, etc.
  4. Action
    • This is when you have altered your behavior for 1 day – 6 months and plan to continue to work at it.
    • This is the most common time for any relapse to happen, and even more so between the 3 months – 6 months part of the action stage.
  5. Maintenance
    • You have been engaging in the new behavior for over 6 months.
    • At this stage, it might be the hardest. You think you’ve made it, but now is the time to reflect on the benefits of your behavior change, work actively to modify your choices and environment to maintain the new behavior and to prevent relapse.
Can You Be At Different Stages?

You can be at different stages with different behaviors. For example, someone could have already cut out sugar in their drinks a long time ago. They would be in the maintenance stage for that behavior. Eating a nutrient dense diet might be something they have been doing for a few months, so they are in the action stage for that. However, exercising is not part of their lifestyle and they might know the benefits, but have no motivation to change because of the “perceived” barrier of it being too much time. For that behavior of having exercise as part of their routine, they would be at the contemplation stage.

Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash
What About Relapses and Going Back A Stage or Two?

Although the stages are in a list, it doesn’t mean that it’s not common to go backward. It’s normal for people to go back one or a few stages, or even relapsing and starting the process over again. You have to have a realistic approach when it comes to your goals. No one is perfect and each person has their own triggers, barriers, and complications when it comes to change. Just because you might have started a healthy diet at the beginning of the year, but now have become less focused on it, doesn’t mean you can’t pick it back up. Or just because you had a good exercise routine, but then got sick and since then haven’t gotten back to it, doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Plan for lapses and relapses. It’s how we learn and how we can better define our goals.

What The Difference Between A Lapse and A Relapse?
  1. Lapse: | Something that happens momentarily or for a day. For instance, if you were trying to change the behavior of not drinking soda during the week and you found yourself stressed at work and tired. You reached for the soda and now feel like you’ve completely undid everything you’ve been trying to do, so why keep trying?
    • This is a lapse. A one-day, one-moment situation that you might not have been perfect or reached the goal you had for that DAY. You did not fail. You can recover easily from a lapse, and more importantly, take time to see why you lapsed. Was it because it was there? Was it because of the people you were around? Were you stressed? After seeing the reasons why you might have lapsed, you can plan for the situation the next time around.
  2. Relapse | A relapse is when you have completely abandoned the new behavior and went back to stage one, precontemplation. Say you didn’t pick yourself back up from your lapse and felt why continue on your behavior change and started having sodas everyday again. That would be a complete relapse. Going back to the beginning.
    • This can and does happen with a lot of things. But again, just like a lapse, it’s something to learn from. You learn more about yourself and how to be more realistic with your goals and knowing you might need something extra, like support from others, the next time around.

Either one, a lapse or a relapse, does not mean you’ve failed. It does not mean you will never be able to reach your goal. It’s part of the behavior change process and it’s something to learn from.

Photo Cred: S O C I A L . C U T uploaded from Unsplash
Where Are You?

Where are you in your goals for this year? I’d love to hear from you! If there is something you are struggling with, a stage you can’t get past, or needing encouragement to keep going, please email me at amandaarroyonutrition@gmail.com or go to my Contact Page.

Mistake #2: Thinking Short Term

We’ve all made mistakes and we’ve all had wrong thinking from time to time especially when it comes to our health, diet, and mindset. By accepting your mistakes you are able to move past them and change. So first and foremost, I want to talk about my thinking and what I needed to accept so I could change for the healthier.

Thinking short term was something that I thought was a reality.

  • If I can loose the weight then I’ll be able to eat the foods I love later.
  • I just need to stay focused for 1 week and I’ll loose 5 lbs.
  • How can I loose the weight I need so I can feel comfortable in my swimsuit next month?

How wrong I was. I didn’t start to reach the goals I needed to meet until I started looking at my whole lifestyle. My everyday decisions. So why did I, and most people, think this way?

Why We Think Short Term

We all see the “Loose 10 Pounds in 10 Days!” taglines on magazines at the store, on internet adds, in our emails, and so on. Or we see the “Loose Weight Fast By…”, or “Get Healthy Skin by Doing This One Thing!” You get the picture. We see these things because that’s what we want to see and believe. So they are put in front of our face. Why?

  • People usually don’t like change
  • We are used to getting quick results with other things
  • We want to be able to eat and do whatever we want and when we want it
Reality Check!

We don’t live in that world. I wish we did! Truthfully, if we want to see results we have to change what we do. If we want to keep those results, that change has to be something that we adopt into our everyday life. If we want lasting results, we have to put in the time to truly change. It takes time and effort – something that we don’t really want to do at first.

Realize It’s Never Just One Change to Reach a Goal

There was a lot I needed to change and do, but one thing I had to realize is there is never just one change. Whatever the goal might be I guarantee you, it’s not going to be just one thing you need to add or do. There are little changes along the way that help make your goal not so daunting, which in turn makes it realistic and can fit into your life more easily. For example, for me to adopt a new way of eating and get my body to start shedding the excess weight, I had to change my habits. Your habits involve your lifestyle.

  • I had to change the places I would eat.
  • I started doing meal prep to stay on track and not be tempted.
  • I cut out part of my recreation/lazy time so I had time to exercise.
What Can You Do To Start Thinking Long Term?

One of the best things you can do now is to look at smaller healthier choices you can start to make one day at a time. Drink an extra glass of water each day. Add a salad as part of your dinners. Start going for a walk a few days a week after dinner. Go to bed earlier so you feel better about the day. Start testing out healthier places to eat. Whatever small step you want to start with to make your overall goal easier, start doing that today.

Any step toward a healthy goal is a good step!

Mistake #1: Thinking I Was Missing Out

If you are like me, it’s much easier to see the negative before the positive. Especially when it comes to change. Any change can be difficult when we are focused on what we won’t be able to have or do. When it comes to food and a new way of eating, there was a few things I needed to learn.

Things I Learned Early On

If you read my first blog post or My Story page, I was a kid with some severe allergies. I was not able to have the “normal” kid snacks. Instead of milk and cookies, I had apple juice and flavored rice cakes. Instead of popular cereals, I had oatmeal. Instead of ice cream, I had frozen blueberries with rice milk. You get the picture! I wanted to be able to eat the foods that were advertised between my favorite cartoons and to eat the same foods as my friends. It was frustrating especially being a kid and only seeing the “kid foods” being something I couldn’t eat. However, I realized on an every day basis, it wasn’t that big of a deal.

  • My life wasn’t all about eating
  • I liked the foods I could eat
  • I still enjoyed eating
  • I enjoyed being with my friends more than eating the same foods they were
  • I was able to learn things that others had not

It’s all in how you look at it. I’ve thought of these things whenever I’ve had to make changes to my diet since then. Whether trying to loose weight, or becoming plant-based, and so on. Whatever change you are doing now, focus on the new benefits you’ll be experiencing. You’ll realize that what you are giving up, isn’t really of any value compared to the benefits.

Think about:
  • New foods you’ll be trying
  • New places that will become your old places
  • How much energy you’re able to maintain
  • How your mental and emotional health will benefit
  • And I’m sure much more…

Life isn’t all about what you get to eat. After counting the pros, the cons don’t seem that tempting. Who am I kidding? It’s difficult to build good habits but focusing on the healthy, positive aspects of a new routine or diet instead of the negative “missing out” thinking, will help you and get you just that extra step further you might need to break the cycle. Realize what has value and will benefit your life.