At best, change is uncomfortable. Nobody enjoys it, yet no one else can do it for you.
According to extensive research by a team at the University of Rhode Island led by Dr. James Prochaska, people change behavior gradually, going through a series of five steps or stages.
How might these stages affect you in your quest for health?
Step 1: You are not even thinking about changing your health habits.
Step 2: You are beginning to think about changes, but not really doing anything about it except reading, studying, asking question.
Step 3: You are ready to change; some minor changes have been made but you have not made any major changes.
Step 4: You are taking action. Many of your nutrition and exercise practices have changed; some major changes are in place.
Step 5: Realistic exercise and proper nutrition are a habit. You really don’t think about not doing it now.
Until you reach the fifth step or stage, you have not really left your poor nutrition and exercise practices behind you. And even then, there will be obstacles that must be overcome from time-to-time. But you are there!
How do you make goals here?
Your long-term goal is proper nutrition and a realistic exercise program, of course.
Your short-term goal is to move from one step to the next.
How long does it take?
Well, if varies, of course. Most of us spend a few months from one step to the next. We go forward, backslide a bit, go forward, fall off the step, go forward, etc. , until we finally make it.
Totally changing your habits make take years. Take my friend Ellen for an example.
Nutrition: She quit eating red meat, eggs, and fish first. Then she sat there for a few years.
When she decided to quit all meat–poultry, pork, beef and all dairy–milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese, she went back to eating some fish and eggs to give up the other foods.
Her theory: she didn’t particularly enjoy eggs and fish anymore. They would be easier to give up as a final step.
Actually, it took Ellen another 16 months from deciding a total plant-based diet was the road to health and actually eating one. I think she is in stage five here but she does still eat occasional baked goods that contain milk and eggs. She is working on that.
Exercise: Ellen is stuck somewhere between step 3 and step 4. She believes she should; She wants to exercise; she exercises regularly for a few weeks; she misses a week or two; she exercises regularly for several weeks; she quits for a while. She is not grounded in stage 4 yet, but–hey, she’s getting there!
Certainly Ellen has improved her health, though. You only have to be around her to realize how much.
Where are you?
Let’s go through these steps, one at a time, until you are there, too.