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The Secret to Sustaining Change and Preventing Relapse

posted 18 Feb 2013, 12:38 by Mpelembe   [ updated 18 Feb 2013, 12:38 ]
"I don't understand; I use [a diet system] to lose weight and am generally
very successful, however, as soon as I come off the diet and starting eating
regularly, I gain the weight right back. This has happened three times now.
What am I doing wrong?"

This is the sad the story of relapse. You keep doing the same things over

and over again expecting different results. Certain actions will bring about
certain results and no matter how hard you 'wish' things would turn out
different, you produce the same outcome yet again: you are back to your old
habits - smoking, eating, gambling, drinking, screaming.

Relapse is not a mystery. In order to make a change and sustain that change
there are certain things you must do - these are mandatory if you want to
sustain the change. If you are not willing to do them, then you will most
likely return to your old ways and produce the same results as before.

The missing ingredient to sustainable change is to become someone new. You
cannot take the old habits and put them in a new environment and expect
things to be different. For instance, you cannot move to a new city, new
house, change jobs, change relationships or change addictions and expect
things to be different. YOU have to change. YOU go with you everywhere you
go. Your self-image and how you think of yourself needs to change. You have
to develop new characteristics, practice new behaviors and become someone
new in the process of your change or else, eventually, you will bring about
the same old results in a new landscape.

A dieter choosing any weight loss method who does not change their
self-image or how they view themselves, their value structure, their
lifestyle and their priorities, will revert back to the way things were
before. Diets are not forever. Diets are short term fixes to jumpstart a
long term solution.

Think of a car; let's say you are the kind of driver who likes to slam on
their brakes. You drive very fast and then slam to come to a stop. After a
short while, your brakes need replacing. You ride them hard and they wear
quite rapidly. This can be expensive. You don't want to keep spending money
to replace brake pads and rotors. Or perhaps you have a newborn baby or had
an accident and this prompts you to examine your driving practices. Whatever
the reason, you decide that something needs to change.

That 'something' that needs to change is YOU.

You actually need to train yourself to become a different kind of driver,
one who drives cautiously and slower, who approaches stops with more care
and uses lighter pressure on the brake pedal. This will require new
behaviors and consistent attention to those new behaviors over a period of
time. You will need to practice so you can become a different kind of

So you begin to examine your behaviors and choose new ones that eventually
develop into new habits - no more slamming on your brakes. You need to slow
down, take your time and enjoy driving at a different pace. Maybe, you have
to give yourself more time to get places.

You don't like change but it's good for you so you slow down and things are
good for awhile, but unless something else shifts internally for you, you
might forget and start driving fast again. Habits are not easily changed.

In the process of practicing these new behaviors, however, you may start to
see yourself differently. You change how you define yourself as a driver and
the role driving plays in your life. There are certain characteristics of a
good driver and you are beginning not only to define them, but to adopt
them. You begin to view yourself as a 'good driver' possessing and
practicing these qualities.

You notice other benefits as well. You feel less stressed. Perhaps your
blood pressure goes down. You begin to appreciate driving and owning a car,
the freedom it affords you. You are grateful for the privilege. After all,
it is a very different lifestyle to travel by bus, train, bike, foot or taxi
everywhere you go.

Gratitude and appreciation for your new way of life is one essential element
for sustainability.

Gratitude then fuels your value system. You will always do what you perceive
is of greatest value. In the past, driving fast and perhaps not as carefully
was more important for whatever reason. You may not have consciously chosen
this value; you just learned to drive fast and it became habit. Over time,
it produced unfavorable results such as accidents, premature wear and tear
on your vehicle and even tickets.

Now, after consideration, you realize there are other things that you value
more. Whereas before, you valued driving fast and rushing to get places, now
you value your hard-earned money, your child or your license and insurance
which will be gone if you keep getting tickets and having accidents. Driving
slowly and more cautiously becomes more important than anything else. This
then motivates you to behave a certain way. Your values power your behavior.
This is the impetus you need to make substantial changes in how you drive. A
change in values produces sustainable results as values are less likely to
change without careful thought and consideration.

Change requires a stimulus or a 'kick in the pants'. We need to be motivated
to do the work in order to change. Change is hard work, after all.

An upcoming event such as a wedding, prom or vacation may motivate you to
lose weight but it won't be enough to sustain that weight loss unless you
see the value in staying thin and embarking upon a new life. You have to be
willing to embrace new habits and become a new person in the process with
different values and priorities. You must be different. If you cannot accept
that, then the change will be short-lived, you will regain the weight or
resume the old addiction - you will relapse - and things will return to the
way they were.

This is why dieting is often referred to as a 'lifestyle change' because you
really do need to change how you live and how you approach and think about
food and fitness in order to sustain a thinner body.

So the secret to sustainability is to 'Become a New You'. How you get there
is through:

1)       Developing the characteristics you need in order to succeed.

2)      Being grateful.

3)      Choosing your values and what is important to you. This will
motivate you to succeed.

Julie Donley, MBA, BSN, RN knows firsthand what it means to conquer
adversity. Having overcome addiction, a grave illness, divorce, single
parenthood, obesity, indebtedness and being laid-off three times, Julie
brings a wealth of experience to her work. Tired of life being SO hard, she
went in search of an easier way. What she found was quite intriguing: "Hard
or easy, it's how you think about it!" Julie has worked in psychiatric
nursing since 1993 and founded her company, Nurturing Your Success, to
empower you to achieve your goals and work through change by educating,
inspiring and motivating you to succeed. She is the author of several books