Equiscript's Quality Assurance and Training Coordinator and Certified Diabetes Educator Donna LaBrasca offers advice on how to spark change for better health habits.How’s it going with your New Year’s Resolutions? Many of us have experienced that burst of energy from deciding to reform a habit or two, only to find ourselves back to the same-old same-old by the time spring rolls around. And yet we all know someone who has been successful at changing their lifestyle and making it stick. What’s their secret sauce?
“Readiness to Change” seems to have a lot to do with it. In their book “Changing for Good,” authors Prochaska, Norcross, and diClemente remind us that change is a process, not an event. Their research revealed six stages of the Readiness to Change continuum. Think of a habit you’ve struggled to change. Where do you fit on this spectrum?
- Precontemplation - People in the Precontemplation stage are not ready to change and have no intention of making a change within the next six months. This inertia or complacency may be due to being uninformed or underinformed. Previous attempts to change may have whittled away at their confidence in being able to make change happen.
- Contemplation - These people are getting ready to make lifestyle changes within the next six months. They are aware of the benefits of altering a habit, but they’re also very aware of the drawbacks. Their chronic contemplation can result in putting off changing daily behaviors.
- Preparation - This person intends to take action within the next month and may already have made a significant change within the past year. These people have created a plan for changing their behavior. (Now think about your own past efforts and whether they were successful or not: was your plan simply to “eat better / lose weight / lower my blood sugar,” or did your plan consist of action items: “have a fruit or vegetable at every meal / use an app to track my daily calories / take a 20-30 minute walk after my largest meal of the day”?) Specific actions will provide fuel to your intentions. Why not prepare for success?
- Action - Folks in the Action stage have made specific lifestyle changes within the past six months, and the action taken is one that will measurably reduce their risk of disease.
- Maintenance - These people have not only made specific changes to their lifestyles, but are also actively working to prevent backsliding into their old ways. Preparation and Action have given them the confidence to maintain the change they made, and to address other changes they’re considering.
- Termination / Adoption - The new & improved behavior has become part of the person’s daily life - they no longer have to think about it in order to maintain it.
Are you wondering how to move yourself forward, if you aren’t where you want to be? Start where you’re motivated and can see some quick success. For example, if you know it’s easier for you to walk for 30 minutes five days a week after supper than to figure out how to make better choices in the grocery store, start with the walking. Enlist the help of a friend, co-worker, health coach, or fitness app that features community support. Be sure you can measure what you want to change; otherwise, how will you know if your plan is working?
Don’t underrate your efforts if you don’t progress smoothly from one stage to the next! You fail only if you quit. Life happens; there will be obstacles. View setbacks as a source of information - What worked? What didn’t work and needs adjustment? Use that insight to create a workaround for your next attempt. Also, a person can be in one stage for one behavior (Mary Ann, say, has already “adopted” the habit of taking her diabetes medications every day as ordered) and in a different stage for a different behavior (she is “contemplating” healthier eating habits, but is disinclined to give up her beloved soft drinks).
Feeling a little better equipped to tackle a health habit? See, we don’t need willpower - what we need is a plan. Now - where will you start?
Donna LaBrasca, M. Ed., CDE
Quality Assurance and Training Coordinator
Donna LaBrasca is the Quality Assurance and Training Coordinator at Equiscript. She spent her undergraduate years studying Psychology at Clemson University, then received a Master's degree in Counseling from The Citadel. Donna has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 1989 and enjoys keeping up to date with new research. Reading, cooking, and BBC dramas are hobbies of Donna's. She has also been a Master Gardener almost three decades and even xeriscaped her yard!