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DR. KATHLEEN BASKETT

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Dear Dr. Baskett: My family thinks I need to lose weight but I am not sure if I want to. I have tried in the past and wasn't able to stay with. What is the matter with me?

First of all, there is nothing wrong with you. It is a new year and often a time when people think about making changes in habits and behaviors. Many people start the New Year with resolutions and good intentions to stop smoking, lose weight, drink less alcohol, improve their family relationships, and decrease the stress in their lives. Yet, the majority of those people might start these changes but then get off track and go back to the usual ways of doing things.

Changing behaviors and developing healthy habits do not happen overnight. Consistent and lifelong changes can be difficult to make and do take time. People pass through various stages during the journey of change. These behavior stages can be described as follows:

• Pre-contemplation.

• Contemplation.

• Preparation.

• Action.

• Maintenance.

• Relapse.

Pre-contemplation occurs when you have no intention of changing your behavior. Often, you may even be unaware that you have a behavior that needs to be changed! Others may suggest or even pressure you to make change but you do not see the need to do so. For example, you are carrying an extra 40 pounds. Your spouse wants you to lose weight. You maintain that you "feel fine and are happy the way I am" or "I do not need to lose weight."

Contemplation takes place when you are aware of a behavior that would benefit by change and you are seriously thinking about making that change. However, you are not yet ready to take the steps to do so. For example, you are overweight by 30 pounds and may have even developed some medical problems related to that extra weight (diabetes Type 2 or elevated blood pressure). You know you should eat less and exercise more but it is such a "hassle to change." And "I like to eat what I want to and when I want to."

Preparation occurs when you are ready to make a change and begin to do so in small steps. For example, you begin to take the stairs instead of the elevator. You drink one pop each day instead of three. You are testing the waters, so to speak, and intend to take more serous action in the near future.

I will talk about this more in my next column.

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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