Isn’t it fascinating that with a small sample of blood, we can find out so much information about our health?
Last year, I revealed in a post about my shocking blood test results. When I first saw my results online, I felt throes of emotions.
Surprised. Disappointed. Scared.
These emotions escalated to make me realize something needed to CHANGE.
Recently I discovered the formula for lasting change. First of all, before you even start the process of change, you have to be mentally ready for it. And for change to happen, these three elements have to be met:
MOTIVATION, CAPABILITY, and OPPORTUNITY
Was I motivated? Absolutely! The risk of diabetes was enough to drive my determination to change the way I ate and trained.
Was I capable? Definitely. I am the ‘nutritional gatekeeper’ in our home therefore in control of what’s served in the kitchen. I have access to all sorts of information to improve my eating habits.
Was the opportunity there for the change to happen? Fortunately, it happened at the right time. With my daughters more independent and attending school, it was the perfect opportunity to focus more on self-care.At some point in our lives, we go through the process of change. We make the decision to improve our health. And in some cases, the decision is made for us. Like in my situation, the implications of my blood test was the trigger that set off my journey towards better health.
A journey of change goes through five different stages, otherwise known as the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) of Behavior Change. I know the term is a mouthful, so it’s also referred to as the Stages of Change Model. Understanding the stage of change you’re in can help progress you forward to the final stages of ‘Action’ and ‘Maintenance’.
The first stage is PRECONTEMPLATION. This is someone who has no interest in change. A person who is happy with the way things are.
I’ll use myself as an example. Before my blood test, I had a habit of snacking every night. It was something I did after I put the girls to bed. I enjoyed this quiet time of eating mindlessly while I watched TV. There’s no way I could give it up even when I noticed a little extra belly fat. I always used the excuse “I’ll run it off tomorrow.”
If you realize you are in this stage with regards to your health, consider thinking about these following questions:
- How will you know when it’s time to think about changing?
- What signals will tell you to start thinking about changing?
Ultimately you know what’s best for your health and you decide when you’re ready to change your behavior.
This leads to the second stage of change: CONTEMPLATION. This person knows the reasons for changing but the hurdles prove it challenging so the current behavior remains. Ambivalence is the identifying trait at this stage. Caught in between two choices – change or no change?
When I learned my A1C and triglyceride levels were high, I knew I had to change my eating habits. The first thing I could do was to let go of my nighttime snacking. I ate not because of physical hunger so I had to figure out why I felt the need to eat.
More questions to think about when you’re in contemplation:
- Why do you want to make this change?
- What could be the positive results of changing now?
- What are the major barriers for you to change?
To me the risk of diabetes outweighed many of my bad dietary habits. Now it was a matter of commitment to the change that progressed me to the next stage:
PREPARATION is when a person is ready to commit to change but has not taken action yet. She’s done the research about the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and feels confident that this is the path she wants to follow. It helps to write out SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) goals as well as identify obstacles along the way.
I was in this stage of change very briefly with regards to my nighttime snacking. In fact, after I saw my results I went through every stage after pre-contemplation in less than 24 hours. My SMART goal was “No more snacks starting tomorrow night.” At first I thought it would be difficult but being a ‘health risk’ was enough to calibrate my mind and emotions. The next night, I sat in front of the TV without a morsel of food in my mouth. And it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.
Finally in the stage of ACTION. For three to six months, this person has taken the steps towards a healthier lifestyle. Each day is progress towards a specific SMART goal.
However, at this stage, the person is still dependent on willpower and there’s a possibility for relapse. It would help to think about the questions in the Pre/Contemplation stages to remind you of the reasons Why you started the process of change. I am proud to admit I haven’t relapsed with my nighttime snacking. I guess nowadays I’m too busy creating a blog post to be bothered by food.
And onto the LAST stage: MAINTENANCE. Where the behavior change has been sustained for 6+ months. The behavior has turned into habit and less reliance on willpower. To remain in this final stage, it helps to set new goals, always remember Why you made the change and become a role model for others.
Letting go of nighttime snacks is just one of many small steps I’ve taken since last year to improve my health. I’ve maintained most of the actions but every now and then I have days when I relapse to old habits. It’s acceptable as long as it’s momentary and I have a plan in place to address the relapse.
Regarding blood tests, I have great news with the one I had from my recent physical exam. Here’s a quick look comparison:
With these improved results, there’s no question that these are the healthy habits I need to maintain for a lifetime.
Resource: American Council on Exercise (2014) Coaching Behavior Change
If there is one thing you would like to change with regards to your health, what would it be? Are you currently in one of these stages of change?
Sharing with Sunday Fitness and Food linkup with Angela and Ilka. Ilka just recently published a beautiful book “Whole Foods Bar and Bites for Sustainable Energy”. Check it out on Amazon!