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HEAL: The 5 Stages of any Behavior Change

It has been 1 year and almost 60 days days since I created HEAL. Out of a necessity to heal myself from the addiction to junk food I came up with an acronym that has changed my life ( read my article “Emotional Eating”). Have I healed? Somewhat. Are there still moments where I give in to emotional temptation? Sure.  Can I be completely cured by an addiction? Never, as addiction never fades. There will never be a program on the face of the earth that will ever cure or fix us. Addiction will forever be that lovely continuous thorn by our sides that always whispers our name whenever our triggers are around. 

Psychology outlines 5 stages we go through when we try to change any behavior ( for all you psych lovers it is called the Transtheoretical Model) As one of my behavior changes to my emotional eating is to eat healthy food, I will use that to demonstrate the 5 stages. 

Stage 1: Pre-contemplation- The prefix ‘pre’ means before so the word pre-contemplation means before contemplation. In this stage, a person is in denial about having a problem and so has no reason to change their behavior. Example: My emotional eating of junk food is not a problem. I have no idea what you are talking about. 

Stage 2: Contemplation – In this stage, a person knows they have a problem and begin thinking about making changes to their behavior. Example: I know my emotional eating is a problem and I know I need to change as it is effecting my health. 

Stage 3: Preparation- In this stage, a person intends to act on their behavior change. Example: My trigger is junk so I am going to get rid of all the junk food in my house. I also do research on healthier forms of chocolate or find healthier recipes on the internet in anticipation of my behavior change. 

Stage 4: Action- In this stage, a person has already taken steps to change their behavior. Example: In my emotional eating, my change was to substitute ( the word counter is used in psych) my trigger foods with healthy alternatives. I had successfully done this for a week and a half but for the past two days, I have lapsed. 

 A lapse is where you have a slight setback and you temporarily go back to your trigger. A relapse on the other hand is where you stay in the negative mindset for a longer period of time or even go back to your old destructive behavior. 

Stage 5: Maintenance – In this stage, a behavior change is maintained continuously for at least 6 months but in this stage relapses and lapses are never far away. 

Along with these 5 stages in the HEAL emotional eating program is the component of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT for short. As our actions are heavily dictated by our thoughts, cognitive behavioral therapy essentially helps us restructure those negative thoughts and allow our minds to positively reinterpret them. By doing this, it allows us to break the chain of attachment and free ourselves which helps us heal. 

My hope is that you take your addiction one step at a time and start. Whether that be one hour at a time, one minute at a time or one second at a time. Just start. Don’t worry about the relapses and lapses as they will happen since it is a normal part of our functioning. But start. If you want some help, please tweet or Instagram me at @mihadali. Remember the power of change begins from within. 

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