Today’s question to all bloggers on this site. “Describe one positive change you have made in your life.” The most recent one for us is more plant based and less meat based foods.
Why? One sudden spike in bad and overall cholesterol from our last fasting labs test results. Dr. Amy suggested a plant based diet. So, we did. Well…mostly. We still eat meat, but not every day and the portions are smaller.
There were immediate results. Weight loss for one. R Dub dropped 10 pounds the first two weeks. Less indigestion for two. Beth is experiencing less heart burn.
Will this result in better fasting lab results? Not sure, we will see in 4 months or so.
Did you know that there are several stages of change? We didn’t. There are six: Pre-contemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance, and (unfortunately) Relapse.
We will finish the blog post with a definition of each stage, but before then suffice it to say (or type) that we have already experienced all 6 stages and are now back to stage 3.
Stage One: Precontemplation
In the precontemplation stage, people are not thinking seriously about changing and are not interested in any kind of help. People in this stage tend to defend their current bad habit(s) and do not feel it is a problem. They may be defensive in the face of other people’s efforts to pressure them to quit.
They do not focus their attention on quitting and tend not to discuss their bad habit with others. In AA, this stage is called “denial,” but at Addiction Alternatives, we do not like to use that term. Rather, we like to think that in this stage people just do not yet see themselves as having a problem.
Are you in the precontemplation stage? No, because the fact that you are reading this shows that you are already ready to consider that you may have a problem with one or more bad habits. (Of course, you may be reading this because you have a loved one who is still in the pre-contemplation stage. If this is the case, keep reading for suggestions about how you can help others progress through their stages of change)
Stage Two: Contemplation
In the contemplation stage people are more aware of the personal consequences of their bad habit and they spend time thinking about their problem. Although they are able to consider the possibility of changing, they tend to be ambivalent about it.
In this stage, people are on a teeter-totter, weighing the pros and cons of quitting or modifying their behavior. Although they think about the negative aspects of their bad habit and the positives associated with giving it up (or reducing), they may doubt that the long-term benefits associated with quitting will outweigh the short-term costs.
It might take as little as a couple weeks or as long as a lifetime to get through the contemplation stage. (In fact, some people think and think and think about giving up their bad habit and may die never having gotten beyond this stage) On the plus side, people are more open to receiving information about their bad habit, and more likely to actually use educational interventions and reflect on their own feelings and thoughts concerning their bad habit.
Stage Three: Preparation/Determination
In the preparation/determination stage, people have made a commitment to make a change. Their motivation for changing is reflected by statements such as: “I’ve got to do something about this — this is serious. Something has to change. What can I do?”
This is sort of a research phase: people are now taking small steps toward cessation. They are trying to gather information (sometimes by reading things like this) about what they will need to do to change their behavior. Or they will call a lot of clinics, trying to find out what strategies and resources are available to help them in their attempt. Too often, people skip this stage: they try to move directly from contemplation into action and fall flat on their faces because they haven’t adequately researched or accepted what it is going to take to make this major lifestyle change.
Stage Four: Action/Willpower
This is the stage where people believe they have the ability to change their behavior and are actively involved in taking steps to change their bad behavior by using a variety of different techniques.
This is the shortest of all the stages. The amount of time people spend in action varies. It
generally lasts about 6 months, but it can literally be as short as one hour! This is a stage when people most depend on their own willpower. They are making overt efforts to quit or change the behavior and are at greatest risk for relapse.
Mentally, they review their commitment to themselves and develop plans to deal with both
personal and external pressures that may lead to slips. They may use short-term rewards to
sustain their motivation, and analyze their behavior change efforts in a way that enhances their self-confidence. People in this stage also tend to be open to receiving help and are also likely to seek support from others (a very important element). Hopefully, people will then move to:
Stage Five: Maintenance
Maintenance involves being able to successfully avoid any temptations to return to the bad habit. The goal of the maintenance stage is to maintain the new status quo. People in this stage tend to remind themselves of how much progress they have made.
People in maintenance constantly reformulate the rules of their lives and are acquiring new skills to deal with life and avoid relapse. They are able to anticipate the situations in which a relapse could occur and prepare coping strategies in advance.
They remain aware that what they are striving for is personally worthwhile and meaningful. They are patient with themselves and recognize that it often takes a while to let go of old behavior patterns and practice new ones until they are second nature to them. Even though they may have thoughts of returning to their old bad habits, they resist the temptation and stay on track.
Stage Six: Relapse – former problem behaviors are no longer perceived as desirable (e.g.
skipping a run results in frustration rather than pleasure).
As you progress through your own stages of change, it can be helpful to re-evaluate your
progress in moving up and down through these stages.
(Even in the course of one day, you may go through several different stages of change).
And remember: it is normal and natural to regress, to attain one stage only to fall back to a
previous stage. This is just a normal part of making changes in your behavior.