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Breaking Habits--for Good!

Last month we considered the concept of SMART goals. This month, I wanted to mention the flip side of setting goals, that is, clearing out old habits that don't serve you anymore in order to make room for the good stuff.

It can be difficult to change. Why do some people succeed where others fail? Psychologists classically describe change as occurring in 5 stages.

Pre-contemplation. Sometimes we never get further than this stage. For example, I know it's unhealthy to be overweight, but I don't actually think about cutting calories. I might feel fatalistic or hopeless or simply deny that I have a problem. If I do attempt to take action, it may be because my friends or family push me to do it, but my heart isn't in it.

Contemplation. I accept the fact that I have a problem and need to change. I may have some ideas or indefinite plans to take action in the next few months and perhaps even do some research, but I am not really committed to take action. Still, I have turned the first corner. I am more aware of how my bad habit is harming my health and interfering with my life.

Preparation. I start planning a specific course of action and may set a date (not too far off) to start. My belief in my ability to change becomes stronger. If my goal is to exercise more, for example, I might join a gym or buy new athletic shoes or talk to my friends about joining them for daily exercise.

Action. I walk the walk. I start eating at least 5 servings of vegetables a day. I read food labels, shop for groceries more strategically, learned to cook healthier meals, and keep only healthy snacks around. I may well slip back into my old habits, but I remind myself that most people who have successfully changed have also suffered relapses. A relapse is not failure, provided I get back on track.

Maintenance. It may take months or even years, but my new healthy habits now naturally resonate with me. My old cravings occur less and less frequently, and I'm better able to resist them. Junk food may not taste good anymore. I've learned to love exercise. I've learned successful strategies to avoid and deal with relapses, but if I do slip, I have the recovery skills gained from previous stages. I am stronger now!


10 comments (Add your own)

1. Lori Sutter Smitherman wrote:
Once again I agree. You have to ask yourself one simple question: Do I want to enjoy what the world has to offer by being healthy enough to jump out of bed at even the earliest hour to enjoy the beach in the moonlight? Or, eat foods for immediate gratification knowing that the few seconds it takes to eat and swallow your food is going to prevent you from getting Outdoors and enjoy whatever it is that makes you happy. I would love to tear into a huge plate of spaghetti with garlic bread and extra sauces and all the extras. That one meal would put me in bed for a few days. Instead, I eat only the healthiest foods I can find. Starting with my breakfast which consists of my favorite yogurt, kelp, Amazing Grass, Nature's Best brand Flax seed oil w/ lignans ( if you do not get it from the refrigerated section of your local store, do not get it ), plus whatever your favorite protein type powder is. Ask the doctor for help on this one. No processed powered egg whites for sure. Maybe the best grass fed whey if you like that.

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