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Wednesday
Aug012012

Ready, Set, Change!

 

Have you ever set out to change and failed?  Most people have at least once.  Change is one of the most difficult actions we embark on, especially when trying to attempt lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or losing weight.  And if you’ve thought “you just weren’t ready to change” after a failed attempt, you were absolutely right.  In fact, one important thing people fail to do before they attempt change is spend time identifying “how ready” they are to make that change.  Being coached through a behavior tool referred as the “readiness-to-change” model, has given my clients their best and most permanent results.  Got a change to make?  Read on below to learn what stage of change you are currently in as well as the right tactics to get you to complete it!  

The Stages of Change

Being able to identify exactly how ready you are to change comes from a behavior change tool know as the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, or TTM.  TTM doesn’t look at change as a turn-key approach, but more, a progressive, five stage approach including precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance.  Each stage has its own definition to help a person understand their readiness to change as well as what strategies will most benefit them to continue on to the next stage towards their end all goal. It’s important for goal-setters to understand that every person moves through the five stages at different paces and that you can move back and forth between stages multiple times. 

So how ready are you to change? Read on to learn what stage of change you fall on and how to get to the next change until you reach your goal!

Stage 1:  Precontemplation

People who are in this stage are nowhere near ready to attempt change in the near future.  Their cons for making that change outweigh their pros so they might not even be interested in attempting it.  Other people around them might be encouraging them to do so, such as their doctor or loved ones, yet they ignore or get irritated with the advice.  I’ve actually done many consultations in which the person’s sole reason for being there was because their wife or husband wanted them to or even bought them a session (or a gym membership!) to help them.  But if this desire or want doesn’t come from the person who needs to change, it just will never work.  

To move through precontemplation to the next stage, contemplation, the person really needs to connect to that goal.  They should seek out education around the benefits to making that change and spend time on identifying what barriers exist that would get in the way of doing it.  If the goal is to eat healthier to lose weight, spend some time each day just thinking about the pros if you were able to make that change.  If you decide to work towards a change, it could take up to six months to get out of the precontemplation stage.

Stage 2:  Contemplation

Once a person enters the contemplation stage, they are getting “warmer” at getting to their goal.  To them, there is usually just as many pros as there are cons to them changing which is getting in the way of them taking action.  A person in this stage will fully acknowledge that they want or need to make a change but still isn’t fully committed.  Common reactions from someone in this stage include “I’m going to start at the end of the summer when the kids go back to school” or “My plan is to quit at the New Year” when asked about how their change goal is going.  Their plan is to make change in the somewhat near future, yet, there are still barriers holding them back that are causing them delay in taking action.

To move through contemplation to the next stage, action, the person really needs to identify and work on removing the barriers getting in away.  It’s beneficial for them to talk through what it would be like if they both changed or didn’t change to help them connect more emotionally to their goal.  I also encourage people in this stage to seek out family or friends that behave in a healthy way that could help influence them positively as well as help them reduce the cons to changing.

Stage 3:  Preparation

People at this stage are ready to start taking action towards their goal within a short period of time.  start to take smaller steps towards that goal to help make it become more real.  If their goal is to lose weight, they might have purchased an exercise DVD or hired a coach so they can start becoming more active.  They are usually open and willing to tell other people about their goal or what they are planning on doing. 

To move through preparation to the next stage, action, this person needs to continue to seek support from people they know and trust.  My overall goal for my clients in this stage is to help them plan smart, short-term goals and to emphasize the consistency over quantity of goals.  They need to continue thinking about how they would look and feel if they were to behave in a different way.  They also need to continue being educated around their goal so they can make sure they have all the tools necessary to work towards it.

Stage 4:  Action

In the action stage, the person has continually changed their behavior over several weeks to several months.  They are starting to create new habits and behaviors because of their consistency of practice. 

To move through action to the next stage, maintenance, this person needs to keep interested in their goal as well as continue to improve their self-confidence.  As a coach, I make sure to praise their progress, as well as encourage them to do so by may be buying new workout clothes if they’ve lost weight.  I also discuss with them a plan in the case of a relapse so they can continue back on track if need be.  It’s important for this person to avoid people and situations that might tempt them to go back to their unhealthy habits.

Stage 5:  Maintenance

Maintenance is maintenance.  At this point, the person has been practicing their new behavior for several months, but it’s still important to seek support.  The overall goal of this stage is to keep hooked on your goal and interested.  If you’ve been working out for several months in the same class, try something new that still caters to your goal but provides a new path for accomplishment.  I encourage my clients to recognize their self-efficacy and ask emotionally driven questions such as “How does being more active make you feel” or “What has been the most helpful for your success”.  Answering these questions continues them on the maintenance path because they can reflect and really own the changes they’ve made. 

Have you made a change?  Share below your experience!

Written By Anika DeCoster - Asst. Program Manager, LifeTime WeightLoss

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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Reader Comments (6)

I know change is possible: I lost 30 pounds about a year and a half ago. I was pushing 140 and could hardly ride a bike a mile. I thought, "oh, this is just growing older ( I was almost 40)-- when I went through a massive life change and used the Lifetime gym as my therapy. During this time I used the gym regularly and even met with a trainer every week or two, but also went on what felt almost like a cleanse. I stopped eating my favorite high end snacks: cheese, crackers, wine, and fancy desserts...I also cut my calorie intake by a third. I found that I did more--was just more physically active all around. Although I was going through a hard time, I felt amazing and so grateful for the gym and trainers and even for the life change that pushed me toward all of this. I believe I used this time in my life to improve myself and get stronger. During this time, I literally glowed. One day I found I could ride my bike across the city without feeling exhausted. What?! It was amazing.

A year and a half later, I find that I "splurge" on unhealthy foods like burgers ;/ more often than I care to admit. I also have lagged in my gym visits--something I really, deeply enjoyed. I have kept off the weight (still at 112-114), have a frig always filled with healthy foods, and I have to say, I am still in a LOT better shape than I was. But I have also noticed decrease in muscle tone (of course) and some belly fat making a reappearance. Honestly, my workouts are inconsistent.

I guess this is a relapse for me...So any more specific advice before this gets more out of control? I know I did a lot, and I am proud of it, but I really WANT this to be a lifestyle change, not just a time in my life that passes. Any help from you or other readers would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for your excellent articles, Tom.

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEM

I've made HUGE changes! Since last October, I have lost 70 pounds. I have overhauled my eating and my activity. I look forward to eating healthy now. I am in a small group training class now- I never thought I'd do. I climb the climbing wall each Saturday- was terrified of it months ago. I am saying no to my feeders now- I always thought that I would hurt feelings before. I completed my 1st 10K several weeks ago. I signed up for a 1/2 marathon- which was a goal for the future not months away. I am so grateful to my supporters. My Nutrition Coach/Registered Dietician Laura Burdick, RD, LD and my Personal Trainer Josh Lehman have been so supportive and are always there for me!

August 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Great story Denise! Congrats! You're an inspiration.

August 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

EM, you can get right back to it! You did it before so I know you can do it again! Find people to support you. My support system is awesome! A text or a call is sometimes all I need.

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Thank you Amy! :+)

August 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDenise

Very inspiring and motivating story. I would like to try this weight loss management plan. Thanks for sharing!

September 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKaty

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