Making Long Lasting Behaviour Change
When engaging in a program or challenge that has fixed start and end dates, leaning about long term behaviour change is extremely important. While we want you to experience significant growth and progress throughout the challenge, we also want you to have the tools you need to continue your journey in the months and years to come.
The 6 stages of behaviour change
Some of you may have heard of the ‘6 Stages of Behaviour Change’ model. These 6 steps make up the process we use to change behaviour and integrate new habits into our lives. The 6 steps are:
Precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination.
The fact that you have commenced this program means you have surpassed the first three stages of behavior change and are swinging punches at the action stage. This stage involves goal setting, which most of you did when setting up your 8 Week Challenge account, but in order to move to the next stage, there are three important questions to ask yourself when it comes to your goals:
- Are they realistic?
- Are the lifestyle changes you’re implementing sustainable?
- Is your motivation intrinsic or extrinsic?
- Intrinsic motivation is motivation for joy, satisfaction, skill improvement and growth.
- Extrinsic motivation is motivation for praise, to please someone else and for rewards, prizes or trophies.
- While a combination or both is fine, if you’re lacking intrinsic motivation you are less likely to commit to your goals long term.
The next stage of behaviour change is maintenance, the stage in which you consolidate your behavior changes. A few tips to support you as you enter the maintenance phase are to:
- Remind yourself of the progress you’ve made and reflect on what you've achieved so far.
- Write down (and read often) why what you’re aiming for is worthwhile and meaningful.
- Anticipate situations in which relapse may occur and prepare coping strategies.
- Be patient with yourself because it takes time to let go of old behavior patterns.
- And finally remember it’s normal to regress and fall back to a previous stage. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this happens.
Hurdles and strategies to overcome them
Two common post challenge hurdles many of our challenges experience are:
- Obsessing over diet and exercise
Boredom can be a big contributing factor to falling back into old habits. Feeling bored with your meals and training sessions can lead to making poor dietary choices and losing motivation to exercise. It’s really important to get excited about the food you eat and your exercise schedule, maybe not every meal, every session every day, but often! To keep things interesting, try a new food or snack or experiment with a new recipe every week.
Make sure you engage in the forms of exercise you love; not exercise you think might help you achieve a certain physical result. If running bores you, don’t do it! Change up your sessions or programs often to keep you interested and also to challenge you mentally and physically.
Be aware of the signs of becoming obsessive about your diet and exercise
Becoming fixated on ‘clean eating’, significantly restricting your daily caloric intake or eliminating entire food groups can damage your relationship with food and have the reverse of the desired effect. As with everything, especially when we’re talking about long term behavior change, moderation is key. If you follow a set meal plan Monday to Friday, it’s important to indulge a little over the weekend. For some of you this might mean having takeaway and your favourite treat foods on a Friday night. For others, it might mean going out to a nice dinner on a Saturday evening or having a big breakfast out on a Sunday morning with family and friends. There is a lot of good research that suggests this type of 80/20 diet supports sustained weight loss. Our lives follow a weekly rhythm, and weekdays are very different to weekends, so it makes sense that our eating habits should follow a similar pattern. These occasional indulgences lessen feelings of deprivation and help us stick to our normal Monday to Friday eating style.
So for long term health and wellbeing and sustained weight loss, occasional indulgence is very important! Finally, with regards to exercise, ensure your training schedule is manageable, can be maintained long term and of course includes rest days.
Write down why what you’re aiming for is worthwhile, meaningful and important to you and stick this somewhere you will see it often!
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