Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Stages of Change

My favorite blogger, PastaQueen, whose blog, Half of Me, continues to chronicle her successful struggle to lose over half of her body weight, has written a lot of things that have resonated with me. Most of the time, reading her blog is amusing, thought-provoking and awe-inspiring. Usually, what she writes makes me take a long hard look at myself.

I haven't kept up with PastaQueen along her entire journey. Actually, I just stumbled upon her blog last month and haven't been able to stop reading it yet. She posts nearly every day and has posted her jaw-dropping, rotating progress pictures that demonstrate a metamorphosis that is nothing short of amazing. However, while snazzy progress pics are inspiring, what really hooked me on her blog was her complete and fearless honesty throughout the process. Her false starts are well documented and her journey has not been a straight shot to success. (Which is good, because I might hate her if it was!!)

Psychologists indicate that humans almost rarely make or sustain entirely linear changes in their lives. Most of us don't just decide to give up donuts and pizza and then go another 50 years without ever calling Domino's. Rather, people tend to cycle through the stages of change which include precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and relapse.

While in the precontemplation stage, an individual isn't even entertaining the idea of changing. He or she might be in denial. When a person enters the contemplation stage, he or she starts to consider the benefits and problems associated with a change and may begin to consider how he or she will make a change. In preparation a person may begin to make small changes to test the waters. In the action stage, an individual is taking real steps to change. Generally, people enter maintenance when they have remained in the action stage for an extended period of time, such as six months to a year. However, no matter how long someone has been in the maintenance stage, he or she is always a little vulnerable to relapse.

The stages of change are cyclical, and not everyone moves through every stage. I know this is a little like sitting in psych class, but knowing this information has real benefits to anyone trying to lose weight. It demonstrates that it's OK to not go right from precontemplation to action, or to go from action back to contemplation. It's all part of the process.

That's how I view my journey. This time last year I was doing well, but for the past six months, I've been maintaining. Bummer, but not the end of the world. Even PastaQueen, who has lost nearly 200 pounds to date, still reports the occasional splurge. It doesn't mean that she completely goes back to eating the way she used to.

I have reassessed and started attending Weight Watchers meetings and have begun to lose weight again. I'm prepared to face obstacles without being too hard on myself.