Tuesday, February 18, 2014

To Make Big Changes, You Sometimes Have To Make BIG CHANGES, Part 1

I generally recommend baby steps to achieve lasting behavior change. Research shows that if we try to bite off too much at one time, we are probably setting ourselves up for failure. Most people prefer little changes because it's a more comfortable process. But sometimes, tweaking our current behavior isn't enough. Sometimes, our behaviors are so disconnected from what they need to be, that we have to make big changes. To make big changes, you must first identify the challenges you face and then be open to experiencing difficult emotions like fear and sorrow.

I am currently leading a weight-loss group and we've hit on what I believe to be very common challenges in reaching, and maintaining, a healthy weight. One that comes up most frequently is that socializing tends to revolve around food. For some people, eating out and going to parties is a weekly, if not daily, event. Common sense would say that you should make small changes, like asking the server not to bring bread or ordering grilled chicken and steamed vegetables. For some of us, that is unrealistic in the long run. We may do it a few times, but then we run into the issue of willpower (which ultimately fatigues). If you don't think you'd be able to stay away from the food and the drinks that you know are going to throw you off of your eating plan, you may need to skip the actual events for a time. You might have to completely change the way you socialize or even change WHO you're socializing with. For some of us, food can be like alcohol or drugs are to an addict. When people go through rehab or a 12-step program, they usually have to stop hanging out with their old friends and stop going to their old hang-outs. You obviously can't avoid food entirely, but you can avoid the situations that prevent your new behaviors from taking hold. However long it takes, making that big change will give you some space to breathe, think, plan, and grow some confidence in your ability to handle those situations in the future. Self-efficacy is a powerful force ~ once you give yourself a chance to build it up.

This process will probably be uncomfortable. You might feel sad to miss the social events (Is FOMO holding you back?). You might be worried that your friends are going to be upset with you. You might miss the feeling you get at a party when you're letting loose and just enjoying yourself. Whatever the pain is that comes along with making this change, you have to ask yourself: Which pain would I rather have~ the pain of change, or the pain of my life staying the same?
Change can be scary and difficult, but if it will transform your life, isn't it worth it?

Next post will deal with the process of being vulnerable and asking for support in our efforts to change. 

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