The seasonal change from winter to spring often evokes thoughts of growth and renewal. Research suggests that extended daylight boosts mood, well-being and energy. With restored vigor, many of us are looking forward and setting goals to be healthier – with a common theme being weight management.
But in order to have success when it comes to achieving your weight related goals, it’s important that you first understand what’s called the Stages of Change – a model describing the process of intentional behavior change. It goes something like this:
1. Precontemplation – not ready to change
2. Contemplation – getting ready to change
3. Preparation – ready to change
4. Action – making changes
5. Maintenance – maintaining those changes with behavior turning into a habit
In essence, the model describes change as a process that unfolds over time – with ups, downs, and in-betweens. Knowing which stage you are in is crucial as it can help you understand what steps you should be taking, at any given time, to ensure you successfully reach your goals.
THE STAGES OF CHANGE
In the Precontemplation stage, you are not ready for change and do not plan to take action in the near future. You are considered uninformed regarding the consequences of your behavior. You may be unmotivated to make a change or completely resistant.
Contemplation is the stage in which you expect to make a change in the next six months. You are aware of the benefits of change, but are still caught up in any of the drawbacks associated with the change. Weighing the pros and cons of change can hold you captive in this stage for a long time. You are on the edge, but not quite ready to take the plunge.
Preparation is the stage when you intend to take action in the near future, usually within a month. You have done your research and have a plan of action to achieve change.
In the Action stage, you have made modifications to your lifestyle within the past six months that have positively impacted your health.
During the Maintenance stage, you have made specific lifestyle modifications and are continually working to sustain your efforts. This stage can last anywhere from six months to five years, with the risk of relapse decreasing over time.
Termination is the point at which you are no longer tempted; you have 100% self-efficacy. Even in a vulnerable state, you are able to avoid returning to your unhealthy ways.
KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL BEHAVIOR CHANGE
It feels good when you improve your life through change. However, the level of commitment and patience it takes to stick with the process is not trivial. It takes courage, goal setting, determination and perseverance. The following are a few “How To’s” when it comes to change.
How: Make a firm commitment to change and believe in one’s self. Self-liberation is both the belief that one can change and the commitment, as well as the recommitment, to act on that belief.
How: Counter conditioning is dependent on learning healthy behaviors. Strive to substitute healthy thoughts and behaviors for old unhealthy ways of thinking and acting.
CALL ON OTHERS
How: Get support. Seek out and utilize social support to make and maintain changes.
How: Use rewards! Reward yourself with something you enjoy like music, a massage or a movie for healthy behavior changes.
How: Manage your environment. Remove triggers that encourage you to engage in unhealthy behavior. Develop and take cues that spur you to engage in the new healthy behavior.
With each action taken, we are driven toward obtaining our health goals. Each success, big or small can provide energy and confidence to continue setting more goals. Through the process of change you will be inspired and in turn inspire others around you.