Another year, and yet another wellness challenge. Will this year be any different from the last? What would it take to get to, and keep, a healthy weight? What do you now know that you did not know before? Keep in mind, that knowledge does not equal change. While changing behavior can be done, it requires substantive thought and effort. Wanting to change is not enough, needing to change is not enough, nor is having the knowledge of how to change.
To successfully change a deep-rooted habit, and create a new output here are “Three Steps to Successful Behavior Change,” you must:
- Want, need, and successfully attach that output to something that is deeply important to you. (ie, a health scare, needing more energy for your family, winning a challenge at work)
- Assess your habits, discover your triggers, and vulnerabilities, and have a solid plan to offset them. (ie, lazy downtime after work, late night munchies, eating out, birthday parties, the break room at work, stopping at the convenience store for snacks, using the drive through, mindless eating)
- Alter your environment to facilitate those changes and have a system of accountability to keep you on track. (ie pack a healthy lunch and nutritious snacks in your “user friendly” lunch bag, with water jug, pre-plan weekly meals and have ingredients on hand, de-junk your pantry, drawers at work and other places with unhealthy options, replace junk with healthy food convenience, cut up fruits and veggies when you get home and put into individual baggies, for ease of grabbing on the go, use free tracking tools to easily track your food and exercise, find an exercise partner, manually log your steps / miles / calories)
Those who repeated fail at their efforts to make changes usually are missing one or more of the above steps. Many people start off with a bang and end up with a whimper, because they try to make unrealistic changes without altering their environment to support those changes. Wherever you are in your health and weight loss efforts, you have created an environment that supports the behaviors that got you there. Without targeting that, your chances of long-term success are slim; pardon the pun.
Think about a drug addict, just out of rehab. Once they are put back in their old environment, with all the same temptations that caused them to “use,” people they “used” with, and situations that made “using” possible, they often relapse. While their mindset has changed, their environment has not enough changed to support that new mindset.
Yo-yo dieters face the same struggle as other addicts, except you must eat to live, which further complicates the recovery process. Being overweight signals that at some point, you have had an unhealthy relationship with food and / or activity. You have “used” food for purposes other than nutrition. (ie, comfort, boredom, stress, anxiety, celebrity). You also have a relationship with activity that is either not enough to offset your intake, is too sporadic, or is non-existent. These “basic life support habits” run deep and are difficult to change. They require a diet and exercise rehab!
Successful rehabbers know that they must shake up old habits in order to support the new lifestyle they want to have. This means identifying some key factors: (Take out a blank sheet of paper and write your answers to these important questions).
- Why do I need to make these changes? How will I be accountable and to whom?
- What are the consequences of staying the same? How will not changing harm me?
- When I am most vulnerable to use my substance / behavior of choice? What could I do to avoid, alter, or repurpose this period of time?
- What situations trigger undesired behavior? What is my plan to act in a new way, when put in those situations?
- Who enables me to do what I am trying NOT to do? How will I separate myself from them?
- Who supports my efforts to live better? How can I spend more time with them?
- What am I willing to do to create a different lifestyle? How do I plan to support these lifestyle changes?
- What behaviors do I need to ADD to my life? How and when will I do them?
- What behaviors do I need to SUBTRACT from my life? How do I plan to avoid or reduce them?
- What are the largest hurdles I face in following through with making changes? How do I plan to overcome them?
Answering these questions is only the start; it creates your Wellness Blueprint. The next step is to put your blueprint into action. By following the “Three Steps to Successful Behavior Change,” you can successfully develop the healthy lifestyle that has eluded you in previous attempts.
They say CHANCE favors the prepared mind; well then, CHANGE favors prepared actions. The more you can do to plan for and prepare ahead of time to make your new lifestyle convenient to execute, the more success you will find. This year improve your chance to change by preparing the way for achievement.