Last week I mentioned that we use different theories for changing behaviors of any kind. In this post I am going to highlight three that we often use with our clients that have had a lot of success. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Again, these are practices that in time can help an individual overcome bad habits, or develop new positive habits. This process, no matter the model, takes as much if not more involvement from the individual than the trainer. The trainer is there to help guide and interpret the actions of the client so they are best equipped to make better choices. Lets dive right in!
- Social Cognitive Theory: Very simply put, people learn by observing behaviors modeled by others. As trainers we want our clients to observe how good behaviors are positively rewarded. This often comes by us as trainers practicing what we preach. No one is going to take advice from the fat trainer, right? Obviously we know that the body fat percentage of a trainer has nothing to do with what he or she knows, but when the client is trying to make a life-long change they are seeking someone who is making those choices and seeing the benefits. We also have to be careful that the clients doesn’t model the wrong behavior. Just because someone looks good, doesn’t mean what they are doing will work for the client, or that they got those “gains” naturally. SO, when using this strategy we will guide clients to examples of people who have succeeded, as well as, continue to provide an example ourselves. This theory works best when the client is ready to change, has the self-efficacy for change, just needs to know what the best route is for them. The theory goes a bit deeper, but this is a general idea of how we use it in practice.
- Health Belief Model: With this model the client needs to understand all aspects of the behavior change before the change can occur. In other words, they need to understand how severe their condition is, or how bad things can get if the poor behavior ( lack of exercise, poor diet, etc.) continues. They will ask how at risk are they, and what are the benefits of the potential change? How will this change make them healthier? Once again self-efficacy plays a role, they have to believe that they can make the change, or it won’t happen. A classic example is a smoker who doesn’t believe that smoking is hurting them. They know smoking CAN cause cancer, but they don’t perceive it as a threat to their health since their last check up went well. They know lots of people who have failed to quit, or who smoked until they were in their 90’s. So in their mind there isn’t a threat, and are unlikely to change. We as trainers need to paint a good picture of how making their choice to exercise and eat well will impact their lives. They often don;t know how bad they feel, because they have always felt this way. We can show them that a healthy lifestyle is cost effective, and can dramatically improve their quality of life. We can help them with their self-efficacy by using the third model we use.
- Trans-Theoretical Model For Behavior Change: This model will help the client navigate levels of readiness, as well as help to provide solutions to obstacles along the way. Without going into all of the stages of the model individually, the client decides to make a change once they realize its’ needed, and they are ready to start. At any time life can throw curveballs and we can get off of our routine, but the difference in relapsing and failing is that a relapse is temporary and we will get back on track. We do this by using the model to go back into a a phase (pre-contemplative, contemplative, preparation, action, maintenance) and find out where you went wrong. Then we help the client come up with coping mechanisms to help avoid the same situation in the future. This will build their self-efficacy over time and past miss-steps won’t happen again. For example, if you go one vacation, or travel for work often and you’ve started a new program, it can be hard to stay on schedule. When you return you feel like you have a lot of catch up work to do , so you skip the gym the first day back. Well that one day can turn into a week or two real quick, and your self-efficacy goes way down. So we go back and realize that we notice that every time you travel you get off track with exercise. A possible coping mechanism will be to ask a friend to meet you at the gym the day you get back, that way someone is their to hold you accountable. So everyday will bring up small or large challenges, and we mentally run through the model to formulate a solution to ” learn from our mistakes.” As a trainer we can tell the client what their coping strategy is, but knowing their locus of control, and just getting to know the client we can help them pick the right type of reinforcement.
Again this is a brief overview of what we do, there is a lot more to it, but I wanted to share over the last few weeks, that it is possible to make a lasting change, and that we can help you find the way!