We go through transformation all the time, at every moment of our lives. Whether we like it nor, whether we are aware or not, we are facing continuous change around us and within us. Even our strongest forces, convictions and attempts cannot stop the only permanent force there is: “change”. An Indian sage (Swâmi Prajnânpad who died in 1974) – whose messages I appreciate a lot – said that “difference is a guiding principle in human life, and change is just difference over time”.
Management coaching looks at transformation thoroughly. It offers, amongst others, a simple framework called the “transformation curve”. It exists in numerous versions, some have parallels with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s concept of stages of grief. This one here I was taught in coaching school (even though I did a bit of my own hybrid version of 2 models J):
It shows the path from a “crisis situation” to “transformation” passing through the stages denial, anger, sadness, rebellion and fear (fear might actually appear at different moments in the process). Negotiation is interesting: here, we consciously know that a certain reality exists and cannot be erased, but still, we try to pretend it is not there and/or we literally try negotiate with life/fate (“if I do this, then…”). Eventually we’ll end up accepting and, hence, gradually move towards action and a “transformed/new” reality. Note, however (I will not go into details here), that this cycle of change continues: once we are in a new pattern, there might be (rather “will be”) innocent enthusiasm leading to some necessary “wake-up”. Such a new (mini)-choc demands adjustments. This adjusted realism will then be the new basis for a durable and successful journey.
On paper this looks rather clear and straight forward. At the same time we all know from personal experience that going through such a curve can be intense in real life …
Now, coming back to nutrition and our eating habits… the hardship of moving towards healthy eating can effectively be monitored and understood through this transformation curve. Changing how we eat, becoming more responsible for our choices and taking better care of our bodies – from a transformational point of view – is not different from changes in managerial conduct. In both cases, besides knowledge and competences, we may touch emotional issues, such fear, old beliefs and underestimating our full potential – often at an unconscious level.
To make it very clear, let’s go through the stages and relate them with statements I hear from clients and we know from ourselves or from our environment. This also allows a first assessment of where we might stand in our own path of transformation:
Choc/crisis: Basically, our body alerts us, when things are not going well. This ranges from fatigue, lack of energy to issues such as food allergies, weight gain, digestive problems and even to more serious illnesses (such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases).
Denial: Denial can be twofold, we deny the situation itself and/or we negate a link with our lifestyle (“no study shows that…”). There is hardly any expression of emotion. We tend to trivialize (“my condition is not a big issue…”), to ridicule (“I do not eat like a rabbit…”) or we may refer to external factors to justify our situation (“it is in my genes…”, “this is normal at my age..”).
Anger: A necessary stage where we (re)claim our “rights”, our self-ownership. We might assert “one has to enjoy life a bit…”. Typical underlying mechanism are discrediting (“eating like this is too extreme…”), rejecting (“but x says, eating this is healthy…”) or condemning (“human evolution allows us to digest fairly everything…”).
Sadness: “Eating would be no pleasure anymore…” would fit the bill here.
Rebellion: A phase where I observe a fairly high level of liveliness, many “but” and lots of arguments. Strategies include exaggeration (“really, then I cannot eat anything anymore…”), but also complexification (“eating healthy is too complicated and complex…”) and – a favourite – sublimation of regular eating patterns (“eating is a pleasure for me…”, “I like this just so much…”).
Fear: I often hear “I will never manage to…” or “Then I will not be able to go out with friends…”. Together with fear we may also experience a feeling of disillusion and discouraged enthusiasm.
Negotiation: A large number of individuals who do not manage to move durably towards a healthy (eating) lifestyle remain trapped in this negotiation phase. Here, we still try to believe that “doing a bit of this, will be enough to get back where we were before the crisis hit”. I observe that we may be very imaginative through attitudes such as amalgamation (“I cannot change the way I eat, as eating create social links…”), justification (“it is the balance in eating that counts…”), reassure oneself (“I already made such an effort…”) or victimization (“life is already hard enough…”).
Acceptation: In a way the real transformation (regarding eating habits, lifestyle, any other area) only starts with acceptation. Indeed, to get to this point is rather laborious and sometimes very painful. Only at this stage we start to understand and to integrate… “food has a considerable impact on my health…”, “this ingredient is detrimental to my wellbeing, my digestion…”, “I use food as a substitute for other emotional pains…”. The journey towards the light at the end of the tunnel really begins. Or one could say, at this point the light at the end of the tunnel starts to be actually visible!
On track: Things start to happen here, we get informed, we experiment with different foods and flavours, we buy cook books on healthy eating, we see a coach or a nutritionist. This is an exciting phase of action, moving forward, moving towards objectives, experimenting new things, adopting different behaviours, dismissing others. We shape our present and therefore we influence our future.
Mobilization: Finally, things settle in, the novelty of our modified attitude becomes routine. We also assume “our (new) way of doing things” in public. Basically, there is no tremendous need to discuss and explain what has changed within us and what changed in life, it just becomes a part of the changed “I”.
And – certainly – this is not the end, life moves on, and we too, we continue to be exposed to the ever changing world. There is no right or wrong way of going through a transformation process, just a personal one. Quick or slow, with more or less clarity, facing small or serious issues, the good – and comforting – news is that nothing ever remains eternally unchanged. Our denial, anger, sadness, fear, rebellion will eventually shift. Like water in a river, we move or we are moved by life itself…
One final note on “acceptation”: Swâmi Prajnânpad, the Indian “monk” mentioned earlier, suggests that the biggest hurdle for mankind is “not accepting what is” (“If he had not said this,…”, “if she had not done that…”, “if I had not eaten this…”,…). His point is that we all go through anger, sadness, rebellion and fear because we do not accept what is. “If he had not said this…” actually includes our intellectual confirmation that “he had said it”. So, our complaint about it also contains our confirmation of what is really happened… Now, “accepting” is not equal to “not doing anything and being passive” – quite the contrary. Prajnânpad suggests that first, we shall accept (not for spiritual reasons, but for being more serene and at peace with our life) and only then, we can see and think about what can be done (“our action”). A fabulous wisdom, worth being written more about in a future blog…
©The Vibrant Factory
About Stefan Lehner: Nutrition Coach & Educator based in Paris, available worldwide. Previously worked in management in an international corporation. Advocates the tremendous impact of food and lifestyle choices on our health and wellbeing. He concentrates on durable transformations and jeopardises quick-fixing.
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