Thanksgiving is just around the corner. It’s probably a safe bet you’ll indulge a little. Or a lot :-)
No worries! It’s a great holiday! And indulgence is a part of life. You have to indulge every once in a while to enjoy it. But the secret to lasting health, fitness, and performance is to not let it go too long… Which may seem obvious. But it’s actually quite a mindset shift for many.
When we “fall off the wagon” and revert to an old, unhealthy behavior we beat ourselves up about it. We feel depressed—a failure—because we’re “weak” and couldn’t stick with our new desired behavior. Especially when we see all the social media posts showing happy, successful people out there. They never fall off the wagon, right?!
But, that’s silly, of course. Science tells us falling off the wagon, or “relapsing,” is actually a natural human behavior, in ALL areas. We should embrace it!
In the late 1970’s a few forward-thinking psychology researchers departed from the normal course of study, which centered on identifying mistakes people were making when they were UN-successful at changing—like couldn’t quit smoking—and instead mapped out the stages that successful “changers” progressed through when they made their new behavior stick, e.g., they quit smoking for good.
It was groundbreaking. James Prochaska, Carlo Di Clemente, and a few other colleagues developed a new way of understanding the “temporal process” people go through as they progress through a series of stages of change. They called it the Transtheoretical Model of Change.
Here are the stages:
Precontemplation – You haven’t even begun to think that NOT exercising is a problem.
Contemplation – You realize you should probably start exercising but have no immediate plans to make the change.
Preparation – You’ve decided that sometime soon you’re going to start an exercise program and are trying to think of when and how, and what might get in your way.
Action – You begin an exercise program at Athlon (for example ;-) )
Maintenance – You maintain the behavior for a period of time, (could be one week, one month, one year, 15 years…)
Termination – You now have zero temptation to revert to your old behavior. Exercise is simply a part of your identity and you’ll never NOT exercise again. [this stage is quite rare]
Relapse/Recycle – Things come up, life happens, and you stop exercising for a period of time, (could be one week, one month, one year, 15 years…).
Pretty much everyone is in one of the above stages at any given moment, with everything they do. These are natural stages of human behavior. They’re completely normal, including “relapse.”
The Transtheoretical Model of Change shows us that it’s not only okay to “fall off the wagon,” it’s actually expected. We’re only human, right?
But the secret to success, and the one thing ALL successful “changers” have in common, is that they keep trying. They may go through relapse for three years. But they eventually get back to “contemplating” making the change again, preparing, and then taking action!
I see this play out in Athlon all the time. It’s important to understand that change, (and relapse), is a process we must all go through. We all have ups and downs. At times, my diet is near “perfect.” But then I’ll have a weekend where it goes ‘off the rails’ and I continue that pattern into the next week and beyond! The upcoming Thanksgiving may be another one of those weekends… Just saying.
The key is to NOT beat myself up about it. It happens. We will undoubtedly fall off the wagon. What I need to do (and all other “relapsers”) is try to spend less time in the Recycling stage compared to the last time we fell off the wagon.
If it took me three weeks to get back to a healthier way of eating after Thanksgiving last year, I’ll try to beat that this year in two and a half! Make sense?
There’s real power in this mindset.
Don’t hate yourself for your mistake. Keep going. Keep trying. Have the desire to improve, and that’s enough to eventually get to where you want to be.
When Prochaska and Di Clemente were compiling their research they found that there was NEVER one strategy or system that people used to be successful at changing… NOT ONE (and there were over 30,000 subjects in the studies)!
What they did find across all successful changers was “tenacity.” Stubbornness. The “desire” to eventually make the change. It’s ok to fall off the wagon, just try and try and try again, until you figure out how to be successful.
Despite what social media posts and infomercials say, there is no “perfect solution” that works for everyone, every time. The only thing that will work for everyone is TENACITY: The willingness to keep trying until you get it right.
If you are in a rut right now and disappointed that you’re not healthier, not fitter, not faster or stronger, don’t be depressed about it. Just find that stubborn part of yourself, (I know it’s in there…) and keep trying. Have the desire and you’ll eventually succeed.
And if you need a little help, motivation, or coaching to get there, call us! We’re here to help you find that stubbornness! (805) 546-6070 or submit the form here.
Until next time,