Changes Without a Safety Net

A few days ago, I had a very interesting conversation with a checker during my weekly grocery run.  While ringing up my order, she asked what a recipe meant when it said to cook chicken in olive oil.  I thought the question a little odd since I wasn’t buying chicken and I had never met this young woman, but I’ve never been one to shy away from an impromptu cooking discussion.  I’ve also discovered through the years that an odd question like that usually signals that there is something more important on a person’s mind.

It turns out that this woman, I’ll call her Carla, had recently decided she needed to lose some weight, and had begun a diet.  There was only one small problem—she didn’t know how to cook, and she felt the food served in her home was contributing to her increasing waistline.  Since the person cooking wouldn’t change anything to help her achieve her goal, she decided to learn how to cook for herself—alone.

Carla had a great attitude about the whole situation.  She knew she needed to make a change and was pretty specific about the type of change.  She even charted a course of action for herself, in this case choosing a diet. She finally said she was doing her best to lose the weight, but was afraid she didn’t have the self-determination to reach her goal and that she would just stop trying after awhile.

Carla is a great example of someone looking to make a change in her life, but who will most likely not succeed.  She is actually pretty far along in the behavior change process, but is missing a crucial component—a strong support network.   Any kind of change is difficult, even if we know that change will result in a more rewarding or healthier lifestyle.  We can decide what we want to change, how we want to make the change, and even how long we want it to take.   Without the support of family, friends, and sometimes even co-workers, it is much more difficult to create the lasting lifestyle changes we seek.  This is not a new concept, but for someone who is trying to make changes on her own, it is vital.

It was apparent that Carla was reaching out for support from a total stranger.  I happily explained how to cook the chicken, and applauded her choices.   I asked her how she felt about discussing her plans with family members.  She said they wouldn’t be very interested but that maybe she should try to make them understand how important it was to her to lose the weight.

I asked her what her family’s support would mean to her. After a thoughtful pause, her face lit up and she said it would make losing the weight so much easier.  In that moment I think she realized the difference a strong support network would make in achieving and maintaining her goal.

All this took place in the time it takes to ring up a weekly grocery order.  As we ended our chat she thanked me and closed her line, finished for the day and ready to go home and have that conversation.

Hopefully that conversation went well, and Carla won’t have to try to make these changes without the security of knowing she has a safety net to catch her in case she stumbles.

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