I was born condemned to be one of those who has to see all sides of a question. When you’re damned like that, the questions multiply for you until in the end it’s all questions and no answer.
– Eugene O’Neill
I hear so many questions around food choices.
“But isn’t diet soda better than regular soda if it has zero calories?”
“How many hours should we fast? But didn’t they say breakfast was the most important meal?”
“How can it be okay to put whipped cream on fruit — aren’t saturated fats bad for you?”
“If I get rid of sugar, what else can I put in my coffee? Aren’t artificial sweeteners even worse?”
When we are dealing with information overload, there are myriad health issues that cause people anxiety. Every day, there are conflicting and contradictory news items bombarding us with diet options and admonitions about product ingredients to complicate things. We aren’t sure which experts to believe. And even if we think we know a particular food isn’t good for us, we aren’t really ready to give it up. It’s no wonder that tackling weight is not an easy fix.
Ambivalence is actually a natural part of the transformation process. The road to change is not straightforward. There’s often a lot of negative self-talk going on, often fraught with doubt. When it comes to the topic of weight, there’s emotion at play. Sometimes a lifetime of shameful feelings keep us in suspended animation. We may be limited by old beliefs that are so ingrained that we are unable to suspend those negative beliefs and try something new. Sometimes we think that time is on our side and there’s no rush.
According to William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick, authors of Motivational Interviewing, ambivalent conflict comes in four basic flavors:
- Approach/Approach: Here a person is torn between positive choices, the least stressful situation. Either way it’s a win-win.
- Avoidance/Avoidance: Here the choice is between two unpleasant alternatives. It is the “lesser of two evils.”
- Approach/Avoidance: Only one positive choice is being considered and it has significant positive and important negative aspects.
- Double Approach/Avoidance: The most vexing type of conflict, there are two options: X and Y, each of which has both powerful positive and important negative aspects.
Contemplating change involves self-talk – either self-motivational statements or preparatory talk. These are expressions of DARN –desire, ability, reason, and need. Here are some examples of statements that indicate you are in a stage of contemplation but without a clear determination of when or if you can or will take action.
- Desire: I want to lose weight.
- Ability: I’d like to run, but I don’t think I can do it yet.
- Reasons: I might sleep better at night if I stopped watching tv earlier.
- Need: I think I need to drink more water.
Mobilizing change talk signals movement:
- Commitment: I have good reasons to eat my biggest meal at lunchtime.
- Activation: I’m ready to get rid of all the processed food in my kitchen.
- Taking Steps: This week I walked a mile around the track.
When we move past contemplation talk into taking actionable steps, we are mobilizing ourselves on road to transformation. Once we commit and act, we can move forward from intention to goal. This is where our work begins.
Ambivalence can be a sticky place, but let’s not get stuck!
♥ Susan L. Ward
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
Ambivalence is like carbon monoxide – undetectable yet deadly.
— Chérie Carter-Scott, PhD, MCC