Category Archives: Goals

It’s Never a Glorious Rise to the Top!

You want better health, you want more energy and focus, you want to lose weight, you want to kick old unhealthy habits and create new healthier ones – Great!

We at Vibrant Living have exhausted the notion that there is not magic pill that will give you better health, but there is a ‘lifestyle’ change that will help you achieve a vibrant quality of life!  Unhealthy habits are hard to break and new habits take time and effort.

As you embark on your journey of Vibrant Living, it’s important to acknowledge that it’s never a glorious rise to the top!  In fact, we go through several stages and bumps in the road before we can achieve long term, stable change.

Below we’re going to go through the Stages of Change Model, or SCM.  SCM explains the mind/body stages we go through when we make changes in our life, weather it’s developing new habits or kicking old ones.   The SCM model has been applied to a broad range of behaviours including weight loss, overcoming alcohol, and drug problems among others.

The idea behind the SCM is that behaviour change does not happen in one step. Rather, people tend to progress through different stages on their way to successful change and each of us progresses through the stages at our own rate.  Moreover, each person must decide for himself or herself when a stage is completed and when it is time to move on to the next stage.  MOST importantly, this decision to change must come from the inside, and not because someone is asking us to change or wants us to change… as per the popular saying ‘We can’t change others but we can change ourselves!”

The Stages of Change

As we work through the stages of change I will use the example of starting an exercise program (new healthy habit) for the purpose of trying to lose weight

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Stage One: Precontemplation

In the precontemplation stage, people are not thinking seriously about changing and are not interested in any kind of help. People in this stage tend to defend their current bad habit(s) and do not feel it is a problem. They do not focus their attention on their bad habit and tend not to discuss their bad habit with others.  This stage is often referred to as the “denial” stage.

This person sees no problem with getting absolutely no exercise; this person will drive two blocks to the corner store because they wouldn’t even consider the idea of walking.

Stage Two: Contemplation

In the contemplation stage people are more aware of the personal consequences of their bad habit and they spend time thinking about their problem.  They are able to consider the possibility of changing and are weighing the pros and cons of quitting or modifying their behaviour. It might take as little as a couple weeks or as long as a lifetime to get through the contemplation stage. (In fact, some people think and think and think about giving up their bad habit and may die never have gotten beyond this stage).

Here the individual recognizes that if they don’t start exercising and losing weight they could die at a young age of a heart attack like their father did, or they may not be able to play with their kids because it’s too painful on their joints.  They may also feel it’s impossible to get back on track, or it’s too painful to even try, or perhaps they’ve tired before and failed and they don’t want to fail yet another time.

Stage Three: Preparation/Determination

In the preparation/determination stage, people have made a commitment to make a change. Their motivation for changing is reflected by statements such as: “I’ve got to do something about this – this is serious. Something has to change. What can I do?”

People in this stage are trying to gather information about what they will need to do to change their behaviour and what resources are available to help them make this change.

Now the individual is calling different fitness club inquiring about cost or programs. They may ask friends or family what they did to get back in shape.  They maybe are looking at their schedule to see when they could fit exercise into their day.

Too often, people skip this stage: they try to move directly from contemplation into action and fall flat on their faces because they haven’t adequately researched or accepted what it is going to take to make this major lifestyle change.

Stage Four: Action/Willpower

This is the stage where people believe they have the ability to change their behaviour and are actively involved in taking steps to change their bad behaviour by using a variety of different techniques.

This is the shortest of all the stages. It generally lasts about 6 months, but it can literally be as short as one hour! This is a stage when people most depend on their own willpower. They are making overt efforts to quit or change the behaviour and are at greatest risk for relapse.

Mentally, they review their commitment to themselves and develop plans to deal with both personal and external pressures that may lead to slips. They may use short-term rewards to sustain their motivation, and analyze their behaviour change efforts in a way that enhances their self-confidence. People in this stage also tend to be open to receiving help and are also likely to seek support from others (a very important element).

Here the individual is using their new gym membership. They are choosing to go to the gym right after work because they know that if they come home they will get distracted.  They find a reliable friend to go to the gym with so they have extra support, and they find ways to reward themselves for their hard work!

Stage Five: Maintenance

Maintenance involves being able to successfully avoid any temptations.  They are able to anticipate the situations in which a relapse could occur and prepare coping strategies in advance.  The goal of the maintenance stage is to maintain the new status quo. People in this stage tend to remind themselves of how much progress they have made and remind themselves what they are striving for is personally worthwhile and meaningful. Here people may have thoughts of returning to their old bad habits, they resist the temptation and stay on track.

This individual will be able get through the holiday season or go on vacation without gaining 10 lbs because they have anticipated the temptations involved and have set out strategies before hand, such as picking a resort with a gym, choosing one course of a dinner party to indulge in instead of indulging in the whole meal.


It is common to cycle through the five stages several times before achieving a stable life style change – thus, relapse is considered a normal part of change.

The risk with relapse is that it can really make you feel like a failure and give you little confidence to get back on track.  On the flip side, by analyzing how the slip happened, relapses can be an important opportunity for learning and becoming stronger by finding better coping strategies for the next time a high stress situation arises or one is faced with temptation.


Eventually, if you “maintain maintenance” long enough, you will reach a point where you will be able to work with your emotions and understand your own behaviour and view it in a new light. In this stage, not only is your bad habit no longer an integral part of your life but to return to it is not an option.

In Summary:

  • Precontemplation (Not yet acknowledging that there is a problem behaviour that needs to be changed)
  • Contemplation  (Acknowledging that there is a problem but not yet ready or sure of wanting to make a change)
  • Preparation/Determination (Getting ready to change)
  • Action/Willpower (Changing behaviour)
  • Maintenance (Maintaining the behaviour change)
  • Relapse (Returning to older behaviours and abandoning the new changes)
  • Transcendence (Bad habits are no longer a integral part of your life – returning to old ways is not an option)

As you progress through your own stages of change, it can be helpful to re-evaluate your progress in moving up and down through these stages. Remember relapsing is normal and don’t let it paralyze you!  Relapsing is like falling off a horse – the best thing you can do is get right back on again.

Finding Your Purpose

Why do we spend so much time thinking, breathing, learning and focusing on our health? What keeps remotivating us each year to set specific health goals, like losing weight or exercising more consistently?

Part of it is that we have enough knowledge to know that being overweight, or eating too many fats or sugars will increase our risk factors for developing chronic disease.  Or, some of you may have had a health scare like high cholesterol or a heart attack that motivates us to make changes.

For most of us we feel that improving our health is going to get us something specific. This could be more confidence, more energy, the ability to exercise, travel or play with your kids or grandkids. The truth is, your health is a vehicle to achieving what is most important to you in life.

The way to be successful in achieving the health you deserve is to first decide where you want to be and set specific goals about how and when you are going to get there.

The second step is to define why you need to do this, or what is driving you to make this happen.  For some of you the driving force may be that being at an optimal weight will give you the confidence to find a new job, or join a dance class. For others, it may be that at a lower weight you will be more flexible, have more energy and have an easier time getting around to play with your kids.  Whatever the reason,  we need to determine what it is that excites you, what makes you feel alive and in the those tough moments what you are going to focus on to remotivate you to exercise or eat well.

So, what I would like you to do is visualize yourself in the body you deserve. What is your optimal weight? Get in the body of you at your optimal weight…see it, and believe it!

In this state, I would like you to write down all of the ways that your life is going to be different in this new body. How will you feel? How will your confidence be? What will your energy be like? What will your health be like? What will you be able to experience?

I would like you to write down exactly how you are going to feel in this body, and be specific. When you are done brainstorming, I would like you to rank these in priority of which reasons make you feel most inspired.  Once you have these, I would like you to post these beside your goals and read these everyday.

Example – Jane Smith  130lbs  (current weight 175lbs)

1. At 130lbs, I have the confidence to go and interview for my dream job
2. At 130lbs, I feel more attractive and sexy
3. At 130lbs, I have the confidence to learn to salsa dance
4. At 130lbs, I have more energy, and be able to get down and play with my children

If you notice, all of these statements are in the present tense. Write this as if you are already in this body – feel how it would feel, and get excited!

It is important that you focus on what you want, and where you are going. When you do this, you are going to be more committed and your brain is going to see the possibilities and find a way to make this happen. It is also going to be much easier for you to stay on track and avoid temptation when you know exactly what you want, and where you are going.

Get inspired, you deserve it!!!

The Best Things in Life Are FREE

I spent my holidays in Florida this year where the warm temperatures gave me the opportunity to get outside and run.  This routine of running daily allowed me to jump-start my New Year’s resolution of incorporating more movement into my day.  Running is nothing new to me, but it had been a long time since I’d been on a regular running routine.

Feeling energized after returning home I was motivated to continue running, but found the cold outdoor temperatures too much to bear.  Although I have access to a treadmill at my office/clinic, I remembered enjoying my experience of running on the track at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex a couple years ago and decided to give it a shot again.

Not only did I find refuge from the cold, but the track at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex is FREE to the public most of the week, making it easier to find time that fit my schedule.  I made a running schedule, writing down the days and times I would go to the track, knowing I would be more likely to succeed in carrying out my resolution if I scheduled it into my weekly routine (see The Power of Goal Setting- Commit to a Better You).

Wow, a FREE and warm place to run, but my experience at the track extended far beyond that…

It was inspiring to see people, lots of people, people of every size, shape and age all on a healthy mission to GET MOVING!  And whether they knew it or not they were doing wonders for their body composition (see What is Body Composition?).  There were a group of woman walking together catching up, moms walking with their babies in strollers, and a senior couple walking hand in hand as they circled the track with a brisk walk.  The more experienced runners were taking fast powerful strides around the track, while others were incorporating walking sticks to give the upper body more of a workout.

My favourite group on that first visit was a dad and his young daughter (who was around 7 years old) running around the track together.  Everyone was moving to their own beat, transferring energy and inspiration to their fellow track visitors!  It was the energy of the track full of people that I really enjoyed.  It was wonderful to see so many people of vast levels of fitness and age making time to give their body the power of movement!

I encourage you to come check it out!  A FREE indoor track is the perfect opportunity to overcome the barrier of cold winter weather that may be keeping you from getting active.  There is no obligation to join, and no need to invest in a membership – it’s FREE!  If you’re just starting, or thinking of starting, a regular exercise routine and don’t have access to a treadmill (or even if you do), come out to the track for a walk or run and enjoy being inspired by fellow track visitors!

Here are some ideas to get you to the track…

  1. Instead of meeting a friend at Starbucks for a coffee suggest going to the track for a brisk walk while you catch up.
  2. You can ask your husband or wife to join you for an entertaining night on the track, and keep yourself motivated by making dates with different people throughout the week!
  3. Or, you can go on your own and get lost in the music of your iPod like I do!  Strollers are welcome, so feel free to bring your kids or grandkids!

A few important tips:

  1. Slower movers stay to the left and those of you with speed keep to the right, which keeps the flow of traffic smooth.
  2. It is over a rink so you need to be dressed appropriately (But note, there are no gushing winds and the temperature is always the same, so you know what to expect!).
  3. If you warm up pretty fast while running a sweater or running jacket is plenty of clothing to keep you warm.
  4. You can always store your coat or boots on the bleachers, so don’t be afraid to bring extra layer.
  5. And there are also a few lockers and washrooms available for changing if needed.

Remember it’s FREE! And open for hours that will suit most anyone’s busy schedule.

Below is a list of FREE tracks and schedules in the KW area:

Waterloo Memorial Recreational Complex RIM Sports Complex Activa Sports Complex
Address 100 Father David Bauer, Waterloo (corner of Caroline St. and Erb St.) 2001 University Avenue, Waterloo Lennox Lewis Way, Kitchener (Cortland and Homer Watson, behind Peter Hallman Ball Park)
Phone Number 519-886-1177 519-884-5363

ext. 221

Hours of FREE Track Time Monday – Friday

6:00 am – 5:00 pm

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Saturday & Sunday

6:00 am – 8:00 am

8:00 pm – 10:00 pm

Hours are subject to change due to scheduled Hockey Games.

Paid track time available on weekends from 8:00 am – 8:00 pm

Walking Loop only

Monday – Sunday

6:00 am – Midnight

Track open daily

6:00 am – 11:00 pm

If you know of any other free indoor track facilities please email us and we will pass along the information!

The Power of Goal Setting — Commit to a Better You

Happy New Year!!

The start of a new year is always marked with possibility, resolutions and healthy habits.  I believe that people truly start out with the best of intentions, and while some succeed…most end up falling back into their old habits before the end of the month. We can see this if you walk into any health club in January and will have a hard time finding a treadmill while 6 weeks later it is more barren than the Sahara dessert.

So, why is it that people’s good intentions sometimes aren’t enough?

In 1979 there was a study conducted on students in the Harvard MBA program. The students were asked, “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?” Only three percent of the graduates had written goals and plans; 13 percent had goals, but they were not in writing; and a whopping 84 percent had no specific goals at all.
Ten years later, the members of the class were interviewed again, and the findings, while somewhat predictable, were nonetheless astonishing. The 13 percent of the class who had goals were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. And what about the three percent who had clear, written goals? They were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together.

In spite of such proof of success, most people don’t have clear, measurable, time-bounded goals that they work toward.

What Can You Do?

When I ask people if they have weight loss or health goals, many do but just like the study shows very few of them ever write them down. For most people this is actually a scary process…if I write them down it means I actually have to do something about them. This is exactly the point…writing goals down makes your nervous system and physiology engaged and makes you more committed to achieving them.

It is also important what language you use. A statement such as “I am going to try and lose about 5 lbs” is very open and frankly “wishwashy”.  It means that you are going to put something down because you feel like you should, but you are not going to make it too concrete so there is nothing holding you accountable to attaining it.

What if you were to switch that goal to “ I MUST lose 5 lbs by the end of January.” And..what if you read this goal every morning, and also came up with 3 action steps as to how you are going to do this.  Which goal is going to make you more inspired?

The second step to this is that everyone needs someone to be accountable to. This may be a friend, family member…but more often this is a professional that will push you to new limits and encourage you to set higher standards.

Your Action Plan

Do this for yourself, make 2009 the year for lasting change…your deserve it!!

  1. Write 2 goals using positive and encouraging language that commits you to moving forward. For example: “I MUST lose “x” pounds by “x” date”
  2. Set a short term and long term goal (I would set the long term one for the end of 2009), write or print them out and post this in an area where you and everyone else can see your level on commitment.
  3. Read this every day, and become excited about the person you are committing to becoming!!!