Change Habits, Change Weight
Behaviorists' Stages of Change model can help you unravel unhealthy habits and reweave healthy ones.
So you’re determined you’re going to do something about your weight. But what? Being overweight is not in itself a behavior. You don’t do overweight. Being overweight is an outcome of many behaviors that add up to consuming more calories than you're expending. (Yes, there’s a genetic component too, but you can’t change that.)
The good thing is that this gives you lots of places to start moving toward your goal of losing weight. The challenge is sorting through them all and finding what will work best for you. So here’s the question: What are you most ready to change?
Behavioral researchers have identified five stages in behavior change:
1. Precontemplation: You’re not even considering it. No way you’re gonna give up your pizza and beer. Gym-going is not for you. Why walk when you can ride?
2. Contemplation: Well, maybe you could live without pizza and beer *every* week. Gym is out, but you always liked swimming, maybe a pool. The walk in the park with your friend was pleasant last weekend, maybe you could do it again.
3. Preparation: Next week you’re going to skip that pizza. You found out the local Y has a pool and their family rates are affordable. You talked to your friend about doing more walks sometime.
4. Action: Two weeks and no pizza. You joined the Y and you’ve swum laps there a couple times. You and your friend have gone walking the past three Saturday mornings.
5. Maintenance: The weekly pizza has been a thing of the past for six months. Swimming is so much a part of your daily routine that you don’t feel right if you skip it. Those Saturday walks are don’t-miss tradition.
In fact, this readiness to change model is behavior-specific. That is, you might be in the action stage with the pizza but still in precontemplation on that exercise stuff. You’re not likely to be very successful if you flog yourself for not swimming laps every day, what you want to do is move yourself to the next stage: List the pros and cons of regular exercise and guess what, you’re thinking about it and that means contemplation.
So think about the behaviors you can change to lose weight. What stage are you in for each of those behaviors? In each case, what can you do to move yourself to the next stage? What are you most ready to change.
About the Author
Michael Hallinan is a personal coach helping clients find their healthy way to their healthy weight. Subscribe to his free email newsletter of tips, support and motivation at http://www.healthyweightcoaching.com.