Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Stages of Change
It's interesting how separate conversations can link together. The other day, I was chatting with a friend on Facebook. She congratulated me on my weight loss and said she's hoping to find the motivation to make changes, too. Then she said something that tickled that underlying fear that has been nagging me recently... She said she knows what to do because she's lost weight a few times before but always put it back on. There is a part of me that is very scared of failing. It's not the failure itself- I'm totally ok with making mistakes, with failing, and with learning from my failures. I'm not entirely certain if I feel like I'm destined to fail because I've always failed in the past or if I'm just afraid of the possibility that I could slide down a slippery slope. I don't have a lifelong history of weight struggles. I was small as a child- short as well as thin. I was thin throughout high school. I started to gain in college. In my first marriage, I really discovered my ability to eat emotionally. I started to pack on the pounds for a variety of reasons. As my marriage was starting to crumble, I made an effort to get healthy and to get him healthy. It was an effort, I think, to try and find one last spark. It failed. We divorced- for lots of reasons. I started losing weight but not because I was making healthy choices. I just changed what I was eating and how much because my life circumstances changed. I met Jeff and settled in for happiness. And gained weight. Months before our wedding, I decided to try, once again, to get back to a healthy weight. I did Atkins- by the book. I had online support, I met fantastic people. I was succeeding. Then I went off to Gatlinburg for my wedding and I chose, purposefully, to go off plan for that weekend. And I never went back. Then I got pregnant. Then I was nursing. Then I was pregnant again. Then I was nursing again. Then I weaned my last baby and started packing on pounds again. That was when I ate and ate and ate and I didn't care what I ate. My habits were atrocious. I was exercising semi-regularly. Then I stopped. Then I went back. All the while, my eating habits sucked. I ate fast food. I pigged out at restaurants. I had nightly treats- candy, ice cream, cookies, a run for fast food, chips, soda. I was fat because I chose to be fat. It was easier. It wasn't because I was unhappy with myself. It was just easy to eat crap and not really get good exercise. It tasted good- even though it left me feeling crappy. At the gym on Tuesday, I was the only person at Boot Camp. Normally there are 4-5 of us. So I had the full attention of our trainer and we had some great conversations going about running, nutrition, and so on. Bridget asked if I knew about the Stages of Motivational Readiness for Change. I did not. We talked about them briefly and then I came back to work and did some reading to better my understanding of where I am, where I've been, and where I'm going. The best source of information I found was this document from Fitness.gov. Stage 1- Precontemplation This is the stage I was in before I joined the gym. This is the stage I lapsed back to a few months back when I had basically stopped going to the gym altogether. I wasn't thinking about being active. I'd tried, I'd stopped, I'd tried, I'd stopped. Stage 2- Contemplation This is the planning stage. I hit this back in Jan/Feb- back when I had my "I'm Fat Susan" moment and back when I wrote about being fat because my brain was overloaded. I was starting to think about what to do about my weight gain and my lack of physical fitness. In Feb, I became a Fit City Indy blogger and found that my contemplation jumped to... Stage 3- Preparation I found myself surrounded by people doing this Couch to 5K thing. I'd heard of it before. I'd never gone to look at it. I wasn't a runner, I struggled with running, I didn't enjoy running. I liked working out, I liked getting stronger. Weight work was a definite strength of mine in the gym- cardio a definite weakness. But running? Never was a goal, never had any interest. But then I kept seeing it around me... so I went and read the plan and kind of figured I could at least try it. And then the spark lit the fuse! Stage 4- Action This is the stage I am in right now. I have a goal of running a 5K. I am actively training towards that goal. I run 3 days a week. I do Boot Camp twice a week. I go for walks on weekends. I do Just Dance and Wii Fit Plus at home. I have developed a need for physical activity every day. From the Fitness.gov website: Physical activity has been a regular part of the individual’s life for a short period of time (less than six months). He feels the benefits of being active. Frustration may set in at times due to multiple obligations (such as a deadline at work that leaves him with no time to exercise at lunch), a feeling that results should be more apparent (more visible muscle tone or faster run time), or difficulty dealing with uncontrollable barriers (inclement weather prevents his daily bike commute). See? Definitely in this stage. The final stage- Maintenance. You reach this stage when you've been regularly active for 6 months. I started Mar 1. I need to live this way through August- and keep going after that- to be considered "maintenance" level. That somehow calms that fear I had before. If I keep signing up for 5K's or set new goals of some sort... that will lead me to keep training. Once I can run 3 miles, I need to work on improving my mile time. Once I can run a 5K at a time I like... I might want to move on to a 10K. I might want to take up a new activity. Sometime soon, I will be able to do my mini personal goal... to be able to run 1 mile every day for a week. And the funny thing about that goal is that the 1 mile run won't be enough exercise for me each day when I get to the point that I can do it! Even now, as I work on increasing my intervals and I get closer to that 1 mile run, I recover quickly and want to do more (my body struggles with getting back into a long interval). See? I could go on and on. In my previous attempts, my goal was to lose weight and my method for doing it was to change the way I ate. Period. No real focus on complete fitness- getting serious physical activity in every day and eating right. This time is different because the goals keep going. This time is different because the food isn't the obsession. I'm not counting calories. I'm not counting carbs. I'm not denying myself anything. If I want ice cream, I can eat ice cream. Just had some on Saturday, in fact. But I'm fueling my body to make my runs the most successful that they can be. I'm fueling my body so that I can power through Boot Camp twice a week. I eat a lot of food in a day- just look at all those pictures down below- that is a lot of pics of stuff I ate yesterday. When I do choose to eat a treat, I know there will be an impact on my body. To use the language I use for behavior modification with my kids... "I have the opportunity to eat a donut. It's my responsibility to understand that the sugar crash will come and I might get an upset tummy from the sugar and fat consumption." "I have the opportunity to run a mile this evening. It's my responsibility to eat the necessary complex carbs, proteins, fats, and vitamins and minerals that will strengthen and fuel my body. If I choose to eat crap, I choose to perform like crap. If I choose to eat strong, I choose to be best equipped to perform strong." Wow!! I'm having a light bulb moment right now! Seriously- I'm practically empowering myself reading those words! I'm not quite 7 weeks into this new way of thinking and choosing and living. 44 days. I'm still an infant in this stage. Maybe I don't need to be afraid of a repeat of past failures. Maybe I can brush aside that fear, that uncertainty, that doubt in my ability to continue to succeed. Maybe I can have faith that this time really is as different as it feels. Yes, I have failed in the past. But I've failed because, to be honest, I chose to fail. I chose to stop following Atkins all those years ago. I chose to not go back on Induction when we came back home. I chose to not watch what I ate while pregnant, while nursing. I chose that Big Mac, those M&M's, that large bowl of ice cream with Hershey's syrup on top. Now, I can have ice cream. I can have a cupcake. I can have Easter candy. I don't eat the unnecessary large quantities- I have enough to satiate the desire. I'm totally fine with throwing it away, wasting it, because it's junk anyway. That is where I am today. I am proving to myself that I can make the best choices- that I can fuel my body, that my body can be athletic and be a strong performer. I've gone 44 days. Almost 7 weeks. I'm seeing and feeling fantastic changes- my body, my clothing, my face, my energy level, my sexual desire, my everything. And here is a really, really, really important part of my success... You. Yep. I have gotten so much support, encouragement, praise from my readers, my friends, my family because I am putting all of this out there over and over again. I've had comments and suggestions from my brother, my mom, my blog friends, my mom friends, my church friends, my husband. I've been told I am inspiring others to start getting fit, to get serious about their health. I've had folks contact me and ask me for help. I've had friends express jealousy- in a kind way, of course- at my success (even though they are proud of me). I share a weight loss and you guys cheer me on. I post a picture on Facebook of me wearing a skirt for the first time in years and you guys gush all over how great I look. I share my food and it sparks conversation. I share my struggles and hurdles and get fantastic advice. I share and you respond. I reach out and you reach back. I don't think I would have this success if I was doing this alone. I'm not some shining example of perfection- remember, I'm still an infant at this stage. I'm going to stumble, I'm going to need help. And I'm going to ask for it. I'm going to be honest when I struggle. Here's what I would like to do... If you are someone who is in one of those stages of change- Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action, Maintenance- will you work with me? Send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or contact me however you can and let's work it out together. Let's be accoutanable- but more than that, let's form that support network. You don't need to do this alone. What I would really love is to see people using my Facebook page (see left sidebar for link and to "fan" me) to share successes, struggles- because I know the network that has lifted me up will do the same for others. Facing it and getting real about your weight, your level of fitness is a huge step and it takes a lot of courage to get real about where you are. Do it with me. Let me support you. Let others support you. I'd really love it if we started working together and I could start highlighting our successes here on the blog (I'm already thinking of Kris... Lori... Ashli... Emily... Beth...), on that Facebook page. Are you with me? What Stage of Change are you in? What's holding you back? What choice are you making?