• Lisa Menzel

The Change Cycle: Maintenance & Lapse Prevention. Video 3

With my decision in mind that my behaviour & bad habits needed to change & improve for my own mental health & wellbeing longer-term, I knew that I had to make my goal achievable for it to be a success. I wanted this to be a sustained change as I didn’t want to go back to how I was feeling previously.

As a Counsellor, I am well-aware going into this challenge that ELIMINATION or going 'cold-turkey' was NOT a successful strategy & would set me up for lapse. I wanted to be successful in achieving my goal otherwise what would be the point?

I researched different approaches & landed on participating in a 6-week fitness challenge called the Little Black Dress, which included a meal-plan, fitness assessment, measurements & a weigh-in! GULP!!

The meal-plan was a constant daily trigger as food is a massive part of my life, not only because it’s a basic need in life but because my background is Italian & food is a cultural aspect of our celebrations & an expression of LOVE! Bread, pasta, sweets & coffee are part of my diet & were the first things that were eliminated from my meal-plan! AAAGGGHHH!!

An added pressure point was that I am the main cook in my house so I had an awareness that my own meal-plan would affect the menu for my husband & children! I had to adapt to modifying my meal-preparation which allowed for as little disruption to my time & effort to set me up for success.

One of the essential components to success is ‘self-talk’ & a ‘belief’ that change can be attainable. I reframed the word elimination to limitation so I could still enjoy & fulfill my cultural needs, & succeed in my end goal, as I knew moving forward after the 6-week challenge that I would not be able to maintain

eliminating carbohydrates, sugar & coffee for the rest of my life!

The concept of ‘willpower’ often arises when talking about the change process, which can be defined as a cognitive thought process or ‘strong self-talk’ to delay gratification with the capacity to override thoughts, feelings & behaviours. This process of self-talk or ‘willpower’ includes the ability to self-regulate intense thoughts & feelings, therefore the capacity to be self-disciplined will also help to achieve success. For an individual to initiate their own change process & have self-control enables them to feel empowered & autonomous rather than being told what-to-do by someone else, such as Court-mandated clients. This all comes back to my previous educational Blog about ‘habits’. Being informed about the change process will increase one’s knowledge, therefore the pursuit of one’s intended goal is likely to be maintained & prevent lapse.

Another consideration was that the fitness studio was located locally & offered child-care facilities so I could take my young son with me. Tick & Tick. These were two elements I identified that would create an ‘excuse’ for me NOT to participate if both were not accessible! With these two essential needs being met & no longer an issue, it helped to reduce my anxiety about the length of time the challenge would take away from my family & that my family could actually be with me. There were other mums who brought their children in too so this encouraged the social inclusion for myself & my young son which enhance my sense of comfort, connection & belonging to a group with a shared experience. My perceived burden for someone else to care for, or to pay a service to care for my child was reduced further increasing the likelihood of maintenance.

I share my thoughts with you.

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