Today it is hard to scroll social media without coming across some type of “before and after” post, specifically focusing on physical appearance and weight loss success. Some individuals see those posts and think to themselves, “I could never do that,” or “I wouldn’t even know where to start.” These thoughts often stem from our own low self-efficacy (our belief in our ability to accomplish something) and not really knowing what we are capable of.
Oftentimes it takes us reaching rock bottom in order to begin investing in positive changes in our health and wellbeing, because we just haven’t felt like we were capable of making a change. That’s exactly what happened, a few years back, with my client Melody, a 36 year old newly single mother and dental hygienist.
During our very first consultation, and a typical assessment we discovered that Melody weighed 160 pounds and had a body fat percentage of almost 35%. This body fat percentage put her in the “obese” category and suggested that it was time to make some healthy changes. While these numbers did not thrill Melody, she came to me because she just wanted to be able to play with her eight year old son and keep up with him. She said that she didn’t expect to lose much weight, but maybe through some personal training she could at least improve her endurance. Melody had just recently finalized her divorce after a very unhealthy 10-year marriage and she just kept saying how important it was to her to be there for her son.
And so began our journey...
When it comes to behavior change and building healthy habits The Transtheoretical Model (also known as the Stages of Change) gives us a good idea of how individuals move through the behavior change process. As outlined by Joanna Hayden in her book, Introduction to Health Behavior Theory, the TTM suggests that individuals go through five stages of change:
Pre-contemplation - where we don’t recognize unhealthy behaviors or just aren’t ready to make a change
Contemplation - recognize unhealthy behaviors and have started thinking about making a change
Preparation - a decision is made to make a change and an individual begins planning
Action - implementing the plan or putting the plan into action
Maintenance - goals are achieved and the individual continues the work to prevent relapse
Upon meeting Melody it was pretty clear that she was in the preparation stage; she knew a change needed to happen and she was ready to make a commitment towards that. She was exploring personal training because a few of her friends had worked with trainers in the past. Taking this into consideration, and the level of Melody’s self-efficacy at the time, we came up with a plan to train together two mornings a week. At this point, two days a week was all Melody felt she could commit to.
After working together for a month or so, and losing about seven pounds, Melody decided that she was ready to increase her workouts to four days a week, two days for our sessions and then two days on her own following some programming. She said she really enjoyed coming to the gym and also how she felt when she left. And I will tell you from that moment on, something clicked in Melody and she was off and running...literally! After working together for close to three months Melody signed up to run her very first 5k! She also began implementing some healthy changes to her nutrition.
After almost a year of working together, Melody lost 30 pounds and got her body fat percentage down to almost 27%! Not to mention, her self-efficacy drastically improved, she was happier, she signed up to coach her son’s soccer team, and her overall outlook on life was so much better than when she first sat down with me. That’s not to say, Melody’s journey was without bumps in the road. Challenges creeped in here and there, but with the skill set she developed along the way she was better equipped to recognize them and re-route herself. So, how did she do it?
Melody's Keys to Wellness Success
She started small and she committed. I am confident in saying this is the biggest and most important takeaway from Melody’s entire journey. From the beginning, Melody was clear that she did not believe she was capable of making major changes all at once. She was confident she could get to the gym two times a week, knowing she was accountable to her appointment with me.
She built healthy habits one small habit at a time. Once Melody grew comfortable with her twice a week workout schedule, she slowly committed to more time. Before I knew it, I was seeing Melody at the gym five times a week and sometimes even on Saturday’s for a yoga class! It was quite a few months of committing to exercise before Melody even began to explore positive changes to her nutrition.
Melody’s self-efficacy increased with each small victory. With each small piece of success, Melody began to see that she could achieve more. Her belief in own abilities slowly increased over the course of her journey and before she knew it she was challenging herself to goals she never before thought possible.
I share Melody’s journey to wellness with you so you know that positive health changes are truly possible, and you don’t need an infomercial or an Instagram ad to get you there. Whether you want to work out more, eat healthier, reduce your stress, sleep better, or whatever your wellness goals may be, know that it is possible.
Understanding wellness is a journey, and that change takes time, is a powerful part of the process.
Starting where you are, what you feel confident you can commit to, is the best place to begin. Small goals and small habits can absolutely take you where you want to go.
If you aren’t sure where to begin, ask for help. Talking with a coach is a great place to start! I would love to set up a call with you and explore your starting place.