Triple “A” Process for Positive Change

How many times have all of us asked ourselves why we get this uncontrollable urge to eat when we get upset over something (and of course many times we give into this urge)? Numerous patients over the years have asked me the same question. There isn’t a simple answer but, when I am posed with this question I usually pull out a little slip of paper and write down three words under each other beginning with the letter “A”:

  • Awareness
  • Acceptance
  • Action

To make changes in our life, we have to go through this “AAA” process. We first have to become “aware” of why we do the things that we do. (As the saying goes, you’re half way there when you become aware of the problem). We actually begin to associate food with our emotions long before we are even aware of it. It all started as a baby when we cried and got fed. Then, when we were a one-year-old and had our first bleeding nose (and after we were all cleaned up) we got a cookie or an ice cream cone to “make us feel better”. This nurturing our emotions with food continued throughout our lives as we got older and our problems got bigger. Becoming aware of this association with food and our emotions is the first step to change, because it truly does makes sense when you reflect back in your life and analyze it in a proper manner.

The next step for change is “Acceptance”. We have to go through this step before we can perform the right “Action”. We have to accept that this is what happened when we were young and how we were raised. We have to also accept that we are all human and that we have these human qualities. Willingness to accept these things allows our guilt feelings to decrease and consequently our stress level goes down. This in turn will enable us to think things through in a calmer, methodical manner resulting in better decisions being made. If we don’t go through the acceptance phase properly and we keep denying our past, keep blaming others for how we act, or we keep refusing to accept that we are all human, we won’t be able to take the next step in a correct fashion. However, if we go through the first two stages properly we’re ready to proceed to the next phase-“Action”.

The right course of “Action” is to begin using positive self-talk (affirmations) and avoid the negatives. Negative self-talk such as, “why can’t I just get control of myself” or, “what’s the matter with me” only increases your guilt and reinforces your negative behavior. Use positive affirmations such as, “I accept myself and other people and things for who or what they are” or, “I’m in control of my emotions and I eat well, I’m proud of myself and I like to reward myself positively”. This positive self- talk should be followed by your mental movie visualizing yourself performing your new positive course of action.

Looking at weight control in general, one certainly has to apply the “AAA” process to be successful. Many people often jump right to the “Action” phase and think that the first thing to do when they need to lose weight is to go on a diet. When the diet is over and they gain their weight back, they blame the diet or feel like a failure and the viscous yo-yo cycle starts. An overweight person has to go through all 3 phases. They have to become aware of the complexity of their problem and that it will require a life long commitment to be successful. They have to accept these challenges and then they are ready to take the proper action: a proper diet, increased activity (physical exercise) and water drinking, all combined with a positive attitude and self- talk (motivational exercise).

Applying the “Triple A” process of “Awareness, Acceptance & Action” in the future not only will improve your weight control success, but will assist you in making positive changes whenever the need arises throughout the rest of your life.

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