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The Five Stages of Change—How to Succeed in Making Lifestyle Changes that Last

Posted by Jennifer Stinson, RD, LDN on Jun 30, 2017 10:24:00 AM

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We’ve all tried to make changes in our lives, right? Whether it’s quitting smoking, eating less, exercising more or learning a new skill, chances are you went through these stages of change and may not have even known it!

Check out these five stages of change and learn how to reach success with your goals.

1. Pre-contemplation

Pre-contemplation is active resistance to change. Unfortunately, most people get trapped in this stage unless they have support from others.  As we become more aware of our problems, we become more receptive to the idea of changing. It is hard to imagine the consequences when stuck in pre-contemplation, and even harder to take responsibility for poor choices.  Let’s face it—most people get stuck here because it feels safe.  You can’t fail if you don’t try.

How to overcome this phase:

Acknowledge that you might not wish to change.  If you are concerned about a certain habit, but not ready to change it, try learning about the problem to achieve a greater understanding.  Think about what life would be like if you were able to make this change and constantly remind yourself of all of the positive outcomes that are within your reach!

 

2. Contemplation

Contemplation is the stage where you start to think seriously about making changes. This is a good time to evaluate the pros and cons of making changes. Ask yourself questions like these:

  • What are the positives of being active on a more consistent basis? 
  • What are the drawbacks of being active on a more consistent basis?
  • What are the positive aspects of not exercising?
  • What are the drawbacks of not exercising?

Write your answers down and be honest with yourself.  If the positive aspects of change outweigh the drawbacks – you are ready to move on to phase three.

 

3. Preparation

Preparation is the stage where you set yourself up for success. What will you need in order to make the change? For example, if you are planning on starting an exercise program, you may want to ask yourself these questions:
  • What time of day is best for me to add in some exercise?
  • What types of exercise can I see myself doing?
  • Will I need to get some clothing and shoes that will be comfortable for performing these exercises?
  • Who will I count on for support?

This is a great time to establish personal goals and actions.  Review the challenges that remain as you get started and brainstorm ways to overcome them. 

Set up goals that you know you can achieve.  This is not a race, so it is better to start with small, SMART (Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based) goals to build your confidence! Pick a date to begin and tell others your plan, as this will increase accountability. 

4. Action

The action stage is when you take steps to change behavior in a variety of different ways.
  • Use a tracking system, a food journal or an exercise log to show progress and highlight areas that may need more work.
  • Use prompts to help remember the behavior. Set out your walking shoes the night before!

Remember, you may hit a few roadblocks along the way, but don’t let that stop you.

  • Acknowledge difficulties, as well as accomplishments.
  • Formalize your commitment to improve your health by signing a contract. Hang it up where you see it daily to remind yourself of your commitment.
  • Stay positive about what you have accomplished and be patient with yourself.

5. Maintenance

As with learning any new skill, the more you practice, the better you become. It is not uncommon to slowly lose interest in making changes once you have met your goal. The maintenance stage is where it is important to think about all the effort you have put into making the change and how life is different as a result.  Be aware of warning signs that might make it more difficult to continue with your actions and have a plan in place of what you can do to get back in touch with your motivation.

Changing lifestyle habits is often challenging.  Try to remember that change is a process rather than a destination.  You may move forward or backward in the stages of change as you ultimately achieve long term adoption of a healthy lifestyle.  If you would like support on your journey of change, talk to your healthcare provider and see if the Boston Heart Lifestyle Program is a good fit for you.

In good health,
Jennifer

 

Reference

1. https://www.prochange.com/transtheoretical-model-of-behavior-change

 

Topics: Health and Wellness