The stages of change, or the transtheoretical model of behavior change, attempts to describe the common phases people go through as they make lasting health-related changes to their lifestyle. Changing behavior is rarely easy, and losing weight is no exception. It requires discipline and perseverance. An understanding of how sustainable change happens can help you succeed with your weight loss goals.
In this first stage, you are not considering change within the next six months. You may either not be aware of any need to lose weight or not interested in making any changes in order to lose weight. Perhaps you don't think you have a problem or you think that it isn't that serious. But if you are in the precontemplation stage, you may want to evaluate your current behavior and engage in some self-exploration.
When you move on the contemplation stage, you may feel ambivalent about changing, but you recognize the need to reduce your weight, and are considering changing your habits within the next six months. While you are sitting on the fence, you may read up on the health benefits of losing weight and the risks or potential long-term consequences of being overweight. Wanting to learn about different weight loss strategies and programs is typical for this stage.
In the preparation stage, you plan to make a change. You may learn about nutrition and about how to adopt permanent lifestyle changes that will allow you to lose weight and keep it off. It is wise to consult your healthcare provider to ensure you are on the right track. Set a realistic weight loss goal. Choose a workable program and write down the steps you are going to take to help you lose weight. Think about ways to set yourself up for success. During preparation, you may even begin experimenting with small modifications or adjustments to your lifestyle that could affect your weight.
In the action stage, you make definite changes to your eating and exercise habits. The effort you have invested in contemplation and preparation will begin to pay off now. Weigh-in weekly and keep a record of your progress. It may be helpful to chart your exercise sessions and keep a food journal as well. Make sure you reward yourself as you reach specific milestones. The action stage spans from the third to the sixth month of your sustained behavior change, according to UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
Once you have stuck to your new course of action for a minimum of six months, you are considered to be in the maintenance stage. During maintenance, you sustain the eating and exercise habits you have formed. You have probably developed some relapse prevention skills, which you rely on as needed. You can see the positive results of your efforts. The maintenance stage may last up to five years, according to UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.
A lapse back into old patterns is no reason to give up. Many people involved in changing their behavior struggle from time to time. It is normal to move back and forth through the stages described above before you establish a real and lasting lifestyle change, a change that will help you maintain a healthy weight. Use your failures as an opportunity to learn, and make adjustments accordingly. Keep your goals in focus.