Showing posts with label stages of change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label stages of change. Show all posts

Stages of Change for Weight Loss Revisited

How embarrassing.  I clicked on the link to an old post which is getting a lot of hits this week.  It's all about how diets don't work.  And I found four ads about weight loss.

Okay, maybe there is helpful information in those ads.  I hope so, because I put ads on my site to give you resources beyond what my poor brain can contrive. But I don't know, because I get paid by how often somebody looks at them, and the contract says I am not allowed to look at them myself.  I am also not allowed to encourage you to look at them.  That's up to you.  Never mind.

Relapse/Maintenance - Stages of Change

Michelle Obama likes pie.  Michelle Obama likes cheeseburgers and french fries, especially when followed by a hot fudge sundae covered with peanuts.

And her mission as First Lady of the United States of America is to address the epidemic of childhood obesity.

She began this effort when her children's pediatrician noticed they were developing some issues.  That brought her own food issues to her attention.  So she changed the way her family eats.  Less fast food.  More fruits and veggies.

It wasn't about looking like a model, getting into that dress for the big event.  It wasn't a diet.  It was, and is about change, for the sake of health.

She still eats pie.  Just, not all the time.

Preparation/Action - Reprogramming Your Brain for Healthy Eating

Some days Facebook just breaks my heart.

Last week a friend who is trying to change his eating habits because, well frankly, his life depends on it, posted a complaint about his breakfast smoothie.  He gave the recipe, and yes, it was nasty.  So one of his "friends" said she would bring over some donuts.

Another friend posted, I have the best husband! He brought me home an Oreo Blizzard.  Her life doesn't depend on it yet, because she is younger.  But it will.  She is on her way.  SAD, the Standard American Diet is an addiction and addictions are progressive.

Dopamine - Can't Live Without It

Dopamine -- It's what gets the lab rat turn to left at the T, race down the hallway, make a flying leap at an 18" wall, snag the ledge with its little claws, and struggle over to fall to the other side and win those four food pellets.  If you artificially deplete the lab rat's dopamine, it will turn right at the T and settle for the two pellets lying on the floor.

Dopamine -- It's what got you out of bed this morning and to work on time.  Or if your dopamine levels are depleted, you pulled the covers over your head, while your spouse pleaded with you to go back to your therapist.

Dopamine -- It's what got you out of the house early to redeem that two-for-one mocha coupon at your favorite coffee shop on your way to work, and as long as you were there, might as well order that banana chocolate chip muffin.  Bananas are good for you, right?  Or if you just never got into the habit of that particular coffee shop, and it's not on the way to work, and you really like the French Roast you have at home anyway, then your dopamine never got you fired up, and the coupon went to waste.

Changing Food Habits - Contemplation and Preparation

Do you have any idea how complex the neuroscience of your food habits are?  Cinnabon, Chili's, General Mills, et al know way more about your brain than you do.  David Kessler, former FDA Commissioner, pediatrician and Dean of Yale and UC San Francisco Medical Schools, tells the story in The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite.

Neuroscientists know how the salt/sugar/fat triple whammy messes with the brain circuitry, taking offline the I have had enough now sensors and replacing them with More, please.  Reward centers, neurotransmitters, HPA axis, limbic system, operant conditioning -- they are messing with you.  Neither your meds nor an aluminum foil hat will protect you.

My Food Autobiography and the Stages of Change

This is not a post about dieting.  If you are looking for the quick fix for the upcoming wedding, reunion or beach vacation, move on to the next page on Google's list.

Before life so rudely interrupted, I was doing a New Year's series on the Stages of Change.  Since then I have rewritten my profile, reflecting on change as a theme.  I don't particularly care for change, but I am fascinated by how people manage to pull it off.  And I am astounded that at age 54 I changed a basic health practice, that being my eating habits, and have maintained that practice for six years.

Let me repeat.  This is not about dieting.  Who wants to DIE-t?  This is about changing the pathways inside your brain, retraining it, creating new synaptic connections that serve you better than the ruts (automatic reflexes) your thoughts and behaviors now travel.

Not in one leap.  One step at a time.

The Stages of Change and Weight Loss

Continuing the thread from last week, the average person in the US dies sooner than the average person in forty-nine other nations of the world.  Our higher death rates are linked to our astounding rates of overweight and obesity.  People with severe mental illness die even earlier, 15-25 years earlier.  We have the same life span as the people of Sudan.  The same things kill us as kill everybody else, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer.  They just kill us sooner, because even more of us are overweight and obese.

Side bar: I have growing difficulty using the term mental illness, because I think the term leads to an artificial bifurcation of mental and physical illness.  The weight issue is a case in point.  Most psychiatrists accept the biological model of mental illness, that our diseases are brain diseases.  Nevertheless, most consider the physical aspects as outside their purview.  As a consequence, the part of our disease that is going to kill us does not get treatment.

Weight issues are a case in point.  Psychiatrists hand us prescriptions for medications that cause ballooning weight gain and off the chart cholesterol levels along with the pro forma reminder that we won't gain weight if we don't eat more than we expend in energy.  So all we have to do is eat less and exercise more.

This kind of help doesn't help anybody, regardless of mental status.  Here, as in any other aspect of our recovery, we are on our own.

Weight Loss Programs - Hah!

The temptation is to buy the promises of the commercials that flood the airwaves each New Year.  Here is the deal.  These promises are less verifiable than the ethically-compromised promises of your medications.  But what studies that have been done indicate a relapse rate of at least 50% weight regained within a year or two.

Bottom line, diets don't work.  You have to change your life.  And to change your life, you have to change your brain.

Luckily, you can change your brain.  You just have to understand how.  You have to take the time that it takes.  But you can change your brain.


From Thursday, June 30, 2011 and edited a bit: 

Habit and the Stages of Change

I have been writing for several weeks now [June, 2010] about this mass of electrical activity inside our brains, dendrites and nerve endings, meeting at synapses, passing their spark from one neuron to the next, creating -- what?  A wink, a whisper, a sensation, the next big brainstorm.

Most of these connections could be called, in the widest sense, habits.  By habits, I mean that pathways get used over and over, form patterns, become familiar, channel us to certain outcomes.  Most bypass the frontal cortex, requiring no thought.  Like breathing, smelling, salivating at the cinnamon.
Most of the remainder are still automatic.  But with effort, they can be brought to consciousness where the frontal cortex could interfere, and a decision made.  Like blinking.  Or picking up the cookie somebody brought to the meeting.

What if you don't want to pick up the cookie?  Okay, you really do want to pick up the cookie.  What if you want to not pick up the cookie anyway? 

How Do You Change A Habit?

You're gonna take more than one step.

Last week, I put some numbers out there, the Wahls diet.  Nine cups a day of vegetables and fruits.  I broke it down for you: 3 cups leafy greens, 3 cups cruciferous veggies, 3 cups intensely colored.

This food plan helped Dr. Terry Wahls reverse her secondary progressive MS and get up out of her wheelchair.  It could help you reduce your symptoms of heart disease, lung disease, asthma, hypertension, depression, obesity, bipolar disorder, diabetes, Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.

If you have, or are tending toward any of these chronic diseases, you have already heard your doctor/mother/spouse tell you that you need to improve your diet.  Dr. Wahl's book, Minding My Mitochondria tells you just how much and why. 

Nine cups a day of vegetables and fruits:

3 cups leafy greens
3 cups cruciferous veggies
3 cups intensely colored

Stages Of Change 

So there is your canyon.  Here are the steps, more than one.  Several, in fact.  The steps are known as the Stages of Change.

The Stages of Change model appears all over the place lately.  This article from the journal American Family Physician uses the Stages to help physicians help their patients, something more effective than Just do it.  A Youtube search yields results for addiction recovery counselors, life coach trainers, weight loss clinics.

Different sites number the stages differently.  Some say Precontemplation is Stage 0.  Some give Relapse its own number.  Some add Transcendence, whatever that is -- said the priest who gets cynical when quasi-religious language gets used for the purposes of self-improvement.  Whatever we are supposed to transcend, evidently it is not our desire to improve ourselves. -- But I digress.

I like this site, which is the source of the graphic above, even if the author does use that word Transcendence that made me twitchy there for a minute before I got back on track.  It works through the stages from the perspective of the person who is making the change, not the person who wants somebody else to change. 

Crossing Canyons/Building Bridges In My Brain 

Dr. Wahls calls it a diet.  I don't diet.  Who wants to DIE-t?   Each chocolate chip cookie left on the plate represents a little death.  A diet is a temporary interruption.  When it ends, you go back to your life.  But there is nothing temporary about the nutritional needs of my mitochondria, without whom there would be no life.

I'm into changing my brain.  In that mass of electrical wiring, some potentially healthy pathways are blocked by the detritus of dead dendrites.  Other destructive pathways are carved into canyons of well-worn automatic responses. 

Changing my brain will take time.  It is taking decades.  It will take at least another blogpost. 

And The Word Became Flesh 

Question: What do the Stages of Change have to do with Prozac Monologues? 

Answer: Words.  The Stages of Change use language to shape the brain.

Language is one kind of pathway from neuron to neuron.  It connects electrical impulses from the autonomic systems, the olfactory nerve, the amygdala, through the hippocampus (memory and emotion) and the anterior cingulate cortex (pattern seeking) and into the frontal cortex (conscious thought).

Language is how all this electrical activity gets turned into meaning.  It is where the brain and the mind become one. 

The Stages of Change include a process of changing our patterned thinking about food.  And thinking is how we move from one stage to the next. 

Dr. Wahls writes about synergy, how exercise and diet work together to heal her myelin and reduce the symptoms of her MS.  I'm thinking the same process works for changing habits, particularly food habits.  Each new behavior reinforces the preceding thought that moved you to the new stage.  That repeated behavior patterns the thought that will move you to the next stage. 

Meanwhile, what you are eating while you are trying to make any change matters.  Your mitochondria need the right materials to build the dendrites that form the new pathways.  Like lunch for the road crew.

So don't try to skip stages.  And don't skip broccoli.

One of these days I will write my own food autobiography, my trip through these stages.


Back to New Year's, 2012 


The good news is, you have already moved past Stage One, Pre-Contemplation.  I presume you have moved past Stage One.  Pre-Contemplation is when you don't really think you have a problem. And why would you still be reading this post if it wasn't your problem?  So you have already made progress! 


But don't try to jump that canyon.  Don't go from I have a problem to New Year's Resolution: no more cookies.  It is January 3rd, and that resolution is probably already in the toilet.  We are not talking about the New Year here.  We are talking about your life.

One step at a time.  Make a list.  Make it as long as you can.  Why do you want to change?  What difference would this change make in your life?  Go deep here.  Screw those little graphics with the magically shrinking ladies that show up in your Facebook sidebar.  What is at stake for you?  This is no longer a game.

Read that list every day.  That will help the re-patterning process.

That is enough for this week.  You have homework to do.  I have my life to get back to.

Happy New Year!  Happy Long Life!

No New Year's Resolutions - Change Your Life December 29, 2011 -- Overweight is a major health issue, the largest contributing factor to early death for people who have mental illness.
My Food Autobiography and the Stages of Change March 8, 2012 -- Pre-contemplation and contemplation.
Changing Food Habits -- Contemplation and Preparation March 15, 2012 -- Reviews The End of Overeating by David Kessler and introduces the brain science of the sugar/salt/fat trifecta.
Dopamine -- Can't Live Without It March 23, 2012 -- The brain science behind habit formation and an experiment to try.
Relapse/Maintenance -- Stages of Change May 24, 2012 -- Review and finishing up the series.

photo of salmon in Ketchikan Creek by Wknight94 and used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License 
photo of Women Working at a Bell Telephone Switchboard from the National Archives and Records Administration and in the public domain
photos of Hatherton Canal in Staffordshire by Roger Kidd, Coal Creek Falls by Walter Siegmund, Glen Canyon by Sascha BrückJeff Kubina used under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Stages of Change graphic was created by Todd Atkins, who placed it in the public domain

No New Year's Resolutions - Change Your Life

Weight Loss For Sale

It's all done with computers.  Automatically, 12:01 AM !2/25/2011, the Target ads disappear from television screens and Facebook sidebars, the Jennie Craig ads go up.  Next morning, the Lifestyle section of the newspaper switches from appetizer and eggnog recipes to yogurt and exercise programs.  After months of selling excess, now it is time to sell restraint.

How did it work for you last year?  It worked really well for the media.  How did it work for you?

You can't buy change.  And sure as one set of ads replaces another at 12:01 AM, you cannot lose weight by buying a weight loss program.  You yourself, not just your body but even your brain has to change.

Meanwhile, Excess Weight is Killing Us In The US 

How many times have you heard that the US has the best health care in the world?  I won't dwell on that nonsense.  But clearly we do not have the best health.  Out of 221 nations, the US ranks #50 in life span.  That puts us at the 77%, a low C at St. John's Parochial School where I went, maybe a B in public school, grading on the curve.  So to speak.  Meanwhile, compare Jordan at #29, South Korea at #41 and Bosnia/Herzegovina at #45.

Those numbers come from the CIA's World Factbook, where they say Life expectancy at birth is also a measure of overall quality of life in a country and summarizes the mortality at all ages. It can also be thought of as indicating the potential return on investment in human capital.  In other words, a low C, B if grading on the curve, is the quality of life you get healthwise if you were born in the US, the country with the best health care in the world.  Who came up with that claim, anyway?

In a different but related index, the World Health Organization charts BMI, Body/Mass Index, a measure of weight in relation to height.  The US ranks #54 out of the 60 nations for which it has data, for percentage of people with normal weight, neither too heavy nor too thin.  That puts us at the 10th percentile, an F-, whether grading on the curve or no curve.  Only 36% of US citizens have a healthy weight. 

And the cost?  Cardiovascular disorders (high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke), metabolic disorders (diabetes) cancer (breast, cervical, uterine, prostate, colon, kidney...), arthritis, sleep apnea... That is the short list of health complications and loss of life associated with excess weight.  I will let you come up with your own list for what you have less of on account of what you have more of...

Excess Weight Is Slaughtering Those With Mental Illness

Meanwhile, back in Prozac Monologues Land, people with severe mental illness beat out the rest of the population in the race to break the scale.  Clinical studies have reported rates of obesity in patients with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder of up to 60%.  That compares to 34% in the US population, a number that already staggers the imagination as it is.

The reasons for the difference are many:

  • The most common medications for these disorders, lithium and antipsychotics, especially the new ones are notorious for weight gain.  It is surmised that the weight gain comes from disrupting both metabolism and the neurotransmitters that regulate appetite.
  • But medication-naive patients also have a higher risk for overweight and obesity.  The negative symptoms of schizophrenia and the depression-part of bipolar (lack of interest, inability to feel pleasure) lead to more sedentary lifestyles and more weight gain. 
  • From the Damned-If-You-Do-And-Damned-If-You-Don't Department, the medications for schizophrenia and bipolar mostly reduce the positive symptoms (delusions in the case of schizophrenia, high energy in bipolar - the symptoms that scare your families and your care providers who write the prescriptions).  They tend to increase the negative symptoms (thereby relieving the anxieties of your families and your care providers who write the prescriptions), providing that synergistic effect that nails you to the sofa.
  • There may be pre-existing genetic connections between what is considered two different conditions, overweight and mental illness.  The DSM defines mental illnesses on the basis of certain symptoms.  It does not describe what is actually going on inside the body to produce the symptoms.  Metabolism, energy levels and regulation of appetite are all controlled by parts of the brain, often with genetic predispositions.  While these are included in the symptom lists for mental illness, they are not the defining symptoms targeted by treatment.

Add it all up, what do you get?

People with severe mental illness die 15-25 years before the US national average.  Rwanda beats us.  We have the life span of people born in Sudan.

What do we die of?  No, suicide is not a significant factor in this equation.  We die of cardiovascular disorders, metabolic disorders and cancer.  Just like everybody else who weighs what we weigh.

What Are Our Doctors Doing To Save Our Lives?

Our doctors are doing their best to prevent symptoms of our mental disorders, the scary symptoms, hallucinations, delusions, too much energy combined with poor judgment that get us into trouble with the law.

They are not doing anything about what is going to kill us.

Well, okay, they are psychiatrists; they treat psychiatric disorders.  They are not general practitioners nor weight-loss specialists.

So here are two more reasons embedded in the US health care system that contribute to our lethal obesity.
  • Notwithstanding that excess weight is a symptom of our disease and also a side effect of treatment, our psychiatrists consider our weight issues to be none of their business.  Never mind how significant this unaddressed health issue is when it comes to whether we are even willing to take the meds they prescribe.
  • People who have mental illness are less likely to have health insurance.  We are less likely ever to see any doctor other than the one at the community mental health center who is treating our mental illness.  Not to mention access to weight loss programs.  Not to mention money for fresh foods or exercise programs.
The upshot: what are our doctors doing to save our lives?  Precious little.

Okay, having said that, some doctors are doing more.  My doctor listened when I told her my family medical history, that everybody in my family dies of heart disease, that my younger brothers had heart attacks at age 55 and age 29.  When I said I would not take Seroquel unless I was psychotic, she paid attention.  She tried to find meds that are weight neutral that I could tolerate.

But from the things I have written lately about my current psychiatrist, my readers who have real life experience with psychiatrists know that she represents a minority in the profession.

We Have To Lose Weight Anyway

What most patients get from most doctors is the pro forma reminder that we won't gain weight if we don't eat more than we expend in energy.  So all we have to do is eat less and exercise more.

There.  Their responsibility has been discharged.

Here, as in almost every area of our recovery, we are on our own.  Recovery is up to us.

We have to lose weight anyway.  We have to.  It's our hearts, our blood vessels, our pancreases, our knees and hips, our brains, our lives, 15-25 years worth of our lives that are at stake.

We will be swimming upstream, up against the forces of whatever is going on in our genes, our dopamine channels, our pineal glands, our medications, our lack of health care, our poverty.  So?  Salmon swim upstream all the time.

Salmon are programmed to swim upstream.  We have to program ourselves.

A New Year's resolution will not change the program.  Did it last year?

So here comes a series on reprogramming our brains.  It is a series, because we have to take it step at a time.

Word of encouragement: If you made it to the bottom of this post, you are probably already past the first step.

Who knows, maybe this series will carry us past the New Year's/Jennie Craig/NutraSystem et al season and up to the Super Bowl/Bud/Doritos season!

Note added, 01/02/13 -- The following are links to the rest of this series:

The Stages of Change and Weight Loss January 3, 2012 -- How do you change a habit?
My Food Autobiography and the Stages of Change March 8, 2012 -- Pre-contemplation and contemplation.
Changing Food Habits -- Contemplation and Preparation March 15, 2012 -- Reviews The End of Overeating by David Kessler and introduces the brain science of the sugar/salt/fat trifecta.
Dopamine -- Can't Live Without It March 23, 2012 -- The brain science behind habit formation and an experiment to try.
Relapse/Maintenance -- Stages of Change May 24, 2012 -- Review and finishing up the series.

clipart and photo of school paper from Microsoft
photo "Angry Father" by Akapl616.  Permission is granted to copy under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
photo of salmon in Ketchikan Creek by Wknight94 and used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

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