UNDERSTANDING THE BEHAVIOR CHANGE PROCESS
Any behavior changes that people try to make are marked with specific stages, say psychologists who study this process. Understanding the characteristics of each stage of the behavior change process may help when deciding to modify some aspect of life.
The Stages of Change
The stages of change model is commonly used when addressing physical activity levels and healthier eating habits. Once each step is understood, one may be able to identify which stage he or she is in, and get a feeling of where he or she needs to be heading in order to successfully make the behavior change.
Stage 1: Precontemplation
A precontemplator has no intention of changing their lifestyle at this point. They see few or no problems in regards to the way they are eating or exercising. If they do notice there are people or advertisements that are suggesting change, precontemplators see more barriers, or downfalls, in changing their behavior than benefits. The best way to progress to the next stage is education. Leading a sedentary lifestyle and not eating a nutritious diet may increase ones risk for developing heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, and other lifestyle diseases. After a precontemplator realizes that getting little physical activity or eating unhealthy is dangerous to their health may persuade them to start thinking about changing their behavior.
Stage 2: Contemplation
Once a person begins to think about exercising more or eating healthier they have moved on to the contemplation stage. In this stage the pros and cons of eating better or exercising more are being weighed. Getting reliable and specific advice and information can help sway a person to continue on in the behavior change model. Fitness staff and nutrition counselors are great resources during this stage to answer any questions about hesitations that may prevent change.
Stage 3: Preparation
Preparers have made up their minds to begin exercising more or start on a healthier eating regimen. They start telling friends about what they are planning to do to make their lives healthier. They may sign up for an exercise class, or set up an appointment with a nutrition counselor or join a support group. Unfortunately preparers sometimes have unrealistic expectations about the change they're about to make. Professionals in the field can help set realistic and practical goals, and give the support needed to keep a person from relapsing into a previous stage.
Stage 4: Action
The action stage is reached when a person actually begins eating healthier or exercising more, but they have not maintained the change for more than six months. Many people who make it to this stage will still give up on their resolutions to change. Lots of support is still needed in order to move to the next stage, rightfully called maintenance.
Stage 5: Maintenance
Exercising regularly or eating healthy for more than six months are some characteristics of the maintenance stage. These people have made it a habit to exercise and eat nutritiously. They understand the benefits of this healthy lifestyle change and seldom use barriers as excuses to not do the behavior. The maintenance stage may get monotonous, but again, professionals in the field can help overcome boredom and fitness plateaus.
Take time to figure out which stage you're in, in each area of personal fitness and nutrition. This guide will help you on your journey to optimum health and wellness.