There are six distinct stages that individuals go through in the process of making a lifestyle change. These stages of change also apply to losing weight. Knowing that these stages exist and then being able to recognize them in your own life can help you stay on track towards your goal. The first step is to identify where you are in the process. Next, make a commitment to move through the stages with daily actions. A definition of each stage appears below.
Stage 1: Precontemplation: You know that excessive weight is a problem, but you deny or minimize it. “I have a few pounds to lose, but I will do it later, I am too busy now.” Others may notice the excessive weight. You may be reluctant to discuss your weight.
Stage 2: Contemplation: You are thinking about your weight and the costs and benefits of continuing with the weight or trying to lose it. You are open and willing to talk and think about your weight. However you have not, as of yet, taken definitive action.
Stage 3: Preparation: You commit to a time frame and a plan of action to lose weight. You understand that weight loss is needed and are ready to take action. You begin forming goals (healthy weight). You can picture yourself overcoming obstacles. You set a starting date. You have taken steps to enlist the help of others. You may have bought a new pair of athletic shoes or taken some other action of initiation.
Stage 4: Action: You are making daily efforts to lose weight. You follow a regular and consistent plan of action. You can describe your plan in detail. You have a commitment to facing obstacles that may stand in the way of your weight loss. You are losing weight!
Stage 5: Achievement: You have consistently followed your plan. You have resisted the urge to slip or abandon the program. You have met your goal weight. You can look back at your accomplishment.
Stage 6: Maintenance: You have basked in the glow of your victory. You are now focusing on maintaining your weight. You develop a plan of action that ensures that any lapses are controllable. You face lapses as natural developments in weight control. You remain focused on the behaviors that made you successful in your goal to lose weight.
Referring back to these stages regularly will ensure that you keep moving toward your goals. If you stay focused long enough the sixth and final stage, Maintenance, can be yours!