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In my last column, we began to discuss the process of readiness in making a behavior change. We talked about the stages of pre-contemplation, contemplation and preparation. Let's talk about the next stages.

Action is when you now make the commitment to change and begin to do so. For example, you make and keep the appointment with our doctor to discuss weight management. You begin to follow a healthy eating plan. You are increasing your activity each day. You begin to lose weight!

Maintenance is when you have incorporated the new behavior into your day-to-day life for the long term. Thus, you have developed a new habit that helps you to meet your goal. For example, you are walking three miles a day five days a week and have done this for one year. You have now lost 20 pounds!

Relapse is when you "fall off of the wagon." Of course, no one is perfect and it is easy to slip back into old habits. You can become discouraged and "give up." You can regain your lost weight.

Ask yourself the following questions:

•Are you prepared to make a change?

•What will motivate you to change?

•What are your barriers to change?

•What has worked for you in the past?

•What is working for you right now?

•What are the advantages to you of reaching your goal?

What are the advantages to you of not making any changes?

Many people will rotate through these various stages of change before the new habits become permanently established.

Remember, changing behaviors, including those that will lead to healthy weight loss, is a process and a journey. The changes need to have benefit for you and you need to be invested in the process. Be patient with yourself.

Kathleen T. Baskett, M.D., is medical director of the St. Vincent Healthcare Weight Management Clinic and author of "Moving Forward: The Weigh to a Healthier Weight."

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