Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle Change

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A few days ago, I had a talk with a guy about why men tend to gain weight back after having lost it. I went into details of positive mindset, confidence, support systems and overall well-being. His reply was “That all makes sense, but I don’t think that’s the case for me. For me, it’s just laziness.”

Why do we lapse back into old behaviors? Is it because we’re lazy? Ask just about any guy if he’s lazy at work and you’ll likely get the indignant reply of “Of course not, I work my a** off.” If that’s the case, why do we suddenly get lazy in matters that are vital to our well-being?

According to the Transtheoretical Model of Behavioral Change (that’s a mouthful, just hang on for a few sentences) developed by James Prochaska, the maintenance phase of a new behavior is composed of a series of spirals where an individual often cycles back to earlier stages. These lapses are a normal part of adopting a healthier lifestyle. It’s only the transition to the final termination phase that ensures the behavior has been fully integrated.

I believe these temporary bouts of “laziness” are really just short lapses and people benefit from learning to recognize them as part of the change process. What’s important is eventually working through the maintenance stage and finally reaching the complete adoption of the healthy behavior. How can that be done?

First, you need to believe in your ability to make the change; this is called self liberation. I break this down further: believe change is possible, believe you deserve it, then take responsibility for making it happen. You also need people to support you in the change (helping relationships) and, finally, you need to substitute healthy ways of acting and thinking for the unhealthy (counter conditioning.) Overriding a self-defeating mindset can be tough on your own. This is where a strong support system is vital. You’ll also need to develop strategies for introducing healthier ways of behaving. This will take planning and discipline. If any of these are difficult for you, you may spiral into more of these lapses prior to finally reaching that termination state. Or you may never get there. If you can’t make it through this on your own, get someone you trust to work with you.

Once you’ve reached your wellness goal, whether that be weight loss or something else, your plan turns into “maintain.” This state of hovering raises the opportunity to slide backwards. If you do, realize it’s part of the process and don’t let your negative self-talk that you’re “lazy” undo all of the progress you have made. Keep moving forward.

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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