Why is Making Healthy Change So Difficult?… and What Works –Part II

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In this article, I will take you through the last three phases of change and share a few strategies that can be helpful when taking the steps toward healthy change.

PREPARATION is the third stage of change.  This is the planning stage.  You have decided to take action and are preparing to implement that plan.  Planning is critical to actualizing any goal.  In this stage, however, it is easy to get excited and overconfident about your ability to succeed.  I see this in my practice when clients go grocery shopping for healthy foods after determining a start date for their new healthy diet.  This is great, and demonstrates a higher level of engagement in making change.

Clients are often anxious to get started with taking this kind of action but many times forget to consider their environmental triggers, cravings, time constraints and other obstacles.  Often these clients tell me later that they had to throw out a refrigerator full of rotten vegetables because they didn’t find time to cook that week or they were too tired to cook or it was just a lot more time consuming then they thought it would be.  They have planned for the change but have not evaluated the obstacles that they might face.

When planning for change, always plan for contingencies.  Imaging yourself facing some of the obstacles and create strategies based on your own intimate understanding of yourself.  Don’t ignore your needs…Accept them, be your own best friend, take small steps if you have to, but be realistic about what you can do to sustain this change.

“Planning is critical to actualizing any goal…When planning for change, always plan for contingencies.  Imaging yourself facing some of the obstacles and create strategies.”

After all of that planning comes ACTION, the fourth stage of change. This is where you overcome obstacles by following through with the plan and implementing your strategies toward your goals. At this stage, it is important to continue to tap into your internal motivation, your support system, and continually find ways to support your reasons for making this change. Subscribing to a blog or magazine, reading or listening to books on the topic (ie. health, nutrition or fitness), and trying new healthy recipes and sharing them can all help create and reinforce new habits that support your goals.  If you have created a great plan and strategies to implement it, this stage can seem easy, but don’t relax too soon. If you keep your eyes open in this stage, you will learn a lot about yourself and what works or doesn’t work for you.

“It may not take as much effort at this stage now that new habits have been created, but you must be diligent to continue cultivating the environment that supports those new habits.”

The last stage of change is MAINTENANCE.  You reach this stage when the change is at least 3-6 months in progress. At this point, you may have had small setbacks and relapses or even found the need to tweak your plan, but you have stayed
the course and created new habits that have helped you to change.

It is important to continue to access your support system and resources that helped you to make this change in the first place.  These things make up the environmental triggers to your new behaviors.  It may not take as much effort at this stage now that new habits have been created, but you must be diligent to continue cultivating the environment that supports those new habits.

When all is said and done, and you have successfully made change, there is only one certainty…The need for change will come again.  You will need to continually re-evaluate how this change is working for you, and the moment that this “change” is no longer working for you, it is time for another change!

If you found this helpful but still don’t know where to start, consider scheduling an “Ask Paula” Session to pick my brain so I can help you get started toward creating healthy change!

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