Health and Fitness - Planning the Change

 

Without exception, all the “experts" agree that the only permanent method for attaining the most noteworthy objectives of fitness (weight loss, improved conditioning etc.) is lifestyle change. It might therefore, serve the prospective "changer" well to examine some of the theories of change in order to develop guidelines for a successful process.

If we simply observe our own development, it becomes rather apparent that we are continually changing physiologically, socially, educationally, economically and in a number of other ways. As a result, we must establish with a certain degree of accuracy where we are at present and where we would like to be at some point in the future with regard to our lifestyle habits.

The first step in any plan for changing is the establishment of a basis of valid knowledge and information. If for example, weight loss is the goal, go to the library or seek the advice of a legitimate expert in the field (preferably one who has nothing to "sell" you but information). Secondly, see if this new found knowledge "fits" into your existing set of beliefs. Are you resistant to it, anxious about it or threatened by its implications? Usually knowledge will overcome ignorance or superstition and so we must become knowledgeable about our goals and the methods proposed to achieve them. Once we have attained our basic knowledge, we have done our own research. It is now up to us and our "team" of advisors to develop a plan.

If we accept the feedback that we have gotten from our research and development, we are capable of creating strategies for lifestyle changes. The final steps include the organization of the conditions which surround us and the development of the operations (actions) which will assist us in the actualization of our goals and the direction of our habits towards those desired ends.

If we are really going to change our lifestyles, we must be aware of some of the psychological pitfalls that behavioral change might present. We normally act and live (habitually) like we do for reasons that are gratifying to ourselves. We are comfortable with our actions even if we are disenchanted with the results or circumstances which those actions might produce.

If, for example, we have a weight problem, we might be insulating ourselves from the exposure that being lean and attractive might bring. It is also very common for a spouse to fear repercussions that weight loss might instigate with their partner. Will they be uncomfortable with a lean, attractive spouse?

Another common example of this "fear" of success involves cessation of smoking. Many people are apprehensive of a weight gain as a result of kicking the cigarette habit so they continue this life threatening process. Even more pervasive is the attitude that smoking is a method by which one can defy the experts with regard to health practices. Many individuals want to control their own destinies and sometimes negative behaviors (smoking, overeating, etc.) are the most available ways to express this control.

It might be helpful to actually sit down and write out the plan for your intended lifestyle changes. Plot out exactly those behaviors which you plan to incorporate into your new situation. Somehow the reinforcement of the written direction allows less choice and resulting chance for straying from the intended goal.

One of the major problems which planners of change encounter is the application of their creations. Therefore, specific processes or sequences of events and techniques (approaches to dealing with issues) must be formulated. For example: it serves no relevant purpose to simply "intend" to stop eating or smoking. These statements are lacking in depth since they imply no direct plan for imposition.

Unless one plans to isolate oneself from society, work, family, television etc., substitution of historical personal behaviors must be pre-arranged. Questions like: What will I do when I wake up instead of eating particular foods or smoking the habitual first cigarette are very important to answer ahead of time. Make a definite plan to fill in the gaps which have traditionally caused problems; lunches, late night in front of the television. Answer the questions and schedule the actual days and times to include exercise sessions, food preparation. Substitute manual activities during those high tendency times for smoking or snacking; keep busy.

If the goal is really worthwhile, it is necessary to plan for its attainment. Most beneficial activities and habits don't just happen. They are arranged in advance. Take the time and make the effort to arrange your future. The great educator, John Dewey once said "He who would think of ends seriously must think of ends reverently."

Exercise Pearl:

Ex #1. An excellent exercise for the wrists forearms and biceps. Simply perform the standard curling motion with a reverse (knuckles up) grip.

Ex #2. If the knees are pain free, this stretch works the legs, hips and ankles. Just sink down to a deep squatting position and hold and relax.