Island of health. No, this is not an idyllic vacation spot, but rather what author Stephen Saldana suggests we create for ourselves and our family. We can’t control what “food” is present in the grocery store or on the route home, but we can control what food we bring into our “island” (home).
The problem is that not everyone in the family may want to hop on the island. What can you do when someone you care about doesn’t want to care about their health? Have you ever worried about someone else’s not so healthy behaviors?
There are proven psychological strategies for helping people through the lifestyle change process. Here is an excerpt from one of the chapters in “Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Diseases” that talks about strategies for change.
“Growth is painful. Change is painful. But, nothing is as painful as staying stuck where you do not belong.” N.R. Narayana Murthy
“Those who cannot change their minds, cannot change anything” George Bernard Shaw
Change is possible.
When you think that thought, what does the little voice inside your head say? Does it resist or deny?
Does it say yeah, right? Does it trigger your gut to clench?
Confidence is a key ingredient for change. Think about a person eyeing a bicycle, wanting to ride, but afraid to try. Will their fear keep them from learning to ride? How likely are they to fall?
The good news is that we have two ideal tools to help us develop the confidence for change: mindset and small steps.
First change your mind, then your habits.
Change feels like a nasty word for some people. They may have taken this program or that program in an attempt to lose weight, get fit, stop smoking, etc. They are disenchanted and ready to give up. Their confidence in their capacity to change is low. The good news is that their perceived failure was not their fault. It’s because the programs they tried didn’t give them the right strategies for their stage of the change process. Understanding the process of change can shift your belief that change is possible (I think I can), probable (I know I can), and permanent (I am). The right program trains your brain to make the right choices.
Psychology Professor James O. Prochaska and his coauthors, John C. Norcross and Carlo C. DiClemente, are gurus of change. In the Introduction to their book, Changing for Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward, Prochaska tells of his motivation to discover why some people (like his father) who suffer from depression and alcoholism are unable to change (Prochaska, Norcross, Diclemente 2007). Prochaska,et al. note that people enrolled in brief programs designed to conquer smoking, weight, alcohol, or other problems are expected to take action and adopt healthier lifestyles immediately. If they fail to take or maintain action, the clients themselves are blamed for a lack of willpower or motivation. Prochaska, et al. began to consider that it was the model of behavior change that was inadequate, not the individuals who wanted to change.
Prochaska and his colleagues discovered that people who succeeded in behavioral changes used a variety of coping skills at different stages of the process. They started out with no interest in changing and progressed to the point of taking action to change. Prochaska et al. indicate that, “The key to success is the appropriately timed use of a variety of coping skills.”
According to Prochaska, et al., “Too many people look for easy solutions in the wrong places. There are no magic pills or magic plans. People progress through the same stages of change whether they are overcoming problems with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, or weight control.” They say further, “Following the example set by successful self-changers, you can learn new skills, draw upon your inner strength, enhance your self-sufficiency, and avoid becoming dependent on others for solutions, thus building your self-confidence for the future.” In other words, yes, you can do it!
Some people benefit from guidance to move through the stages of change, so a support system is key. Also, I have found that people need to grant themselves the grace to realize that falling off the wagon is a learning experience and opportunity, not a failure. Guilt is a useless emotion when it comes to making changes. It stops us from moving forward or even sends us backward in our change process. We are designed to keep doing that which gives us rewards and makes us feel good; so learning, feeling proud, and feeling good physically helps us make change permanent.
I hope this gives you some ideas for yourself or your family. The book looks further at the proven psychological strategies needed at each stage of change, but the bottom line is that change IS possible for anyone, including you or your family members.
(“Sick and Tired, to Healthy and Inspired: 9 Steps to Prevent Lifestyle Related Diseases” is available on Amazon and at abbykurthnutrition.coach.)