The cycle of change is commonly associated with the work of Prochaska and Di Climente and is a fascinating model that helps a lot of people look at our way of thinking and behavioural change.
As slimmers/humans we can’t just be categorised into simple categories (such as can do, can’t do or motivated or not motivated) We are ALL individual and different and how we feel and think about certain situations will be different from the next person or slimmer (in our case).
The cycle of change model however, is a great way of letting you know a little bit more about your behaviours and can potentially help you get re-motivated and can also prevent a relapse in behaviour.
There are 6 stages to the model.
- Preparation (can be known as determination or decisions)
- And (re)lapse
Well this is an interesting one as you have your own beliefs so you can easily interpret it your own way but generally, the thinking behind each stage goes as follows. Please note, we are targeting this model towards slimmers but can be associated with many behaviours:
This is where a slimmer has not started to think that they need to lose weight or that their over eating is an issue to them or anyone else. This can also be linked in with denial and the behaviours associated with denial. However, whilst the slimmer in question may not feel they have any need or want to lose weight, it may be obvious to others that they need to lose weight i.e family, friends, work colleagues or even strangers who pass the slimmer on the street and see their over weight body.
This can lead to frustration by others for example they may say ‘you know you shouldn’t eat that it’s not good for your health’ or ‘why don’t you come out with me for some exercise?’ just general comments. This will lead the slimmer to respond with a comment coming out of denial or excuses for example:
‘I’m happy the way I am’
‘I don’t have time to exercise’
This part of the cycle can be associated with the slimmer starting to think about making changes. Maybe something has happened that has made them realise that yes they could do with losing some weight for example seeing a holiday picture and not liking what they see?
However, they haven’t made up their mind yet as to how it will affect them or what it means to them. Lets look at a ‘binge’ eating session. It’s important not to use that word lightly as that can be part of an eating disorder. However, a lot of slimmers do have moments where they abstain and then in a moment they can eat thousands of calories and repeat this behaviour over and over again.
Whilst in the binge, the slimmer may be thinking certain things or could even just block the behaviours out. However, afterwards there may be thoughts and feelings associated with the behaviour the slimmer has just indulged in. for example
Thinking: ‘fat cow, you have ruined your diet now’
Thinking: ‘I’m never doing that again’
However, after a while temptation can lead us to start thinking of food and indulging in a certain behaviour again.
Unfortunately this means that the opportunity for activating change has come and gone and the slimmer will revert back to a previous behaviour not necessarily of ‘binging’ but of just general eating and not thinking of slimming or going back on to the diet they were following to help them lose weight.
This stage in the model is a very fascinating stage in deed. The slimmer has decided that something needs to change, they want to lose weight and they actually start making preparations (however they haven’t started yet). They will do research into how they want to los e weight (maybe look into a vlcd?), they will think of costs, what they need to do, may even think of coping strategies to help them ie joining a diet group, support group, enrolling the help of others?
WOW to this stage!!! This is the doing stage. Although in the other stages in the model, we are all certainly doing things whether it’s preparation or denial, there’s behaviours associated with this stage for example a slimmer has actually embarked on their weight loss journey and is already losing weight
They may find themselves preoccupied with actually losing weight and this can be a hard stage as slimmers on a vlcd in particular may find that they are thinking about food and what they can’t eat a lot of the time. They may be experiencing cravings, yearning for that old behaviour that they know so well (for example comfort eating) and may even have a physical withdrawal (carb or sugar withdrawal). It can be difficult and slimmers may be thinking of eating constantly
Thinking: ‘I’ve done 1 day of the diet but this is really hard work’
In this stage of the model, change is happening every day and becomes a part of the slimmers every day life. The slimmer will start to be less occupied with the thought of food and be thinking more about other issues, life in general. Within this stage just like every other stage, a lapse (ie coming off plan and eating something a slimmer knows they ‘shouldn’t’ eat ) or a re-lapse (i.e stopping plan altogether and going back to old behaviours) is still an issue and can occur. Lets face it, we all have temptations facing us every time we step into a supermarket or pass a garage or takeaway restaurant. This is the time that slimmers really need to think about these kind of temptations and how they can manage them so they can successfully stay on plan or help them maintain weight afterwards.
Within this stage, a slimmer may start pushing the boundaries for example thinking ‘well I have lost a lot of weight now one won’t hurt’ or ‘I can manage my weight in the future so eating this won’t hurt’ This is the slimmers way of experimenting and proving that they can cope in the future. They may deliberately seek out a situation that is poses a risk to their dieting plan such as eating out in a restaurant. Just to prove that they are over their old way of eating. This may work for the slimmer but the slimmer needs to be aware that it may not work either.
Lapses and Relapses
We are all human, it’s important to understand that there is no way of being perfect – especially when it comes to weight loss and weight management. We all succeed in our own different ways. However, it is so important that majority of us will have tried this model out several times before. Playing out every stage in our own way.
We can’t imagine that we aren’t going to make mistakes along the way whether it’s forgetting your food pack for work and having to choose a protein meal whilst out or something else
The way we define a lapse from a VLCD is based on the following:
A lapse is just a one off – you may decide to go out with friends and end up eating or drinking something that isn’t on your vlcd diet plan
Or simply pick at something that you know you don’t want to be eating
A relapse unfortunately is a return of old behaviour and can lead to more of that old behaviour. For example
Having a full ‘binge’ eat and continuing this behaviour and not returning to your vlcd plan.
When we experience a lapse or a relapse there will be certain emotions associate with it – grief, disgust, guilt, sadness. There will be self-deprecating comments for example ‘ I knew I couldn’t do it’
‘what’s the point’
When feeling like this the slimmer can have the opportunity to make the changes needed. They can look at how they feel each time the indulge in this behaviour, this is normally a repeated cycle of behaviour.
Seeing relapse as an opportunity for change – we all have the power to change our behaviours. However, motivation and strength can be hard for some slimmers who can find themselves in a usual vicious cycle of eating. Looking at what we learn from each time we lapse or re-lapse (as believe it or not we do learn something about our selves each and every time but it’s whether we are in denial about it that is a different story)
Slimmers need to look at the following:
Looking at triggers – is there a particular trigger time for your lapses/relapses?
How can you cope with triggers?
Are you eating emotionally? Even after eating how are you feeling?
How can you cope with emotions differently?
Willingness – the slimmer must be willing to change and not be in the pre-contemplation stage in order for a lapse or relapse to stop occurring.
The slimmer must have confidence in themselves. I truly think that if a slimmer didn’t have confidence that they could achieve their weight loss goal, they wouldn’t have embarked on their vlcd plan in the first place.
Denial? Is the slimmer in some sort of denial?
Excuses? Why is the slimmer making excuses what are the excuses disguising?