As with many things in life, we go through change in stages. Weight loss is no different.
Successful weight loss is about changing your lifestyle. That’s just another way of saying you need to change your behaviors.
The stages of behavior change have been studied in depth. Below is my take on the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (I know, fancy wording), and how it corresponds to successful weight loss. What stage are you in?
In the first of 5 stages of weight loss, people have no intention of changing their lifestyle. They either don’t think there’s a problem, or they’re happy just the way things are.
In this stage, people rationalize their lack of action. They may think to themselves “losing weight is too much work” or “life is good just the way it is” or “I don’t need to lose weight to be happy“.
Or you could even put down other fitness enthusiasts’ lifestyles to make you feel better about your own. The point is that the resistance to change is very strong in this stage.
The good news? If you’re reading this article, you more than likely have made it past this phase and into one of the next phases.
Contemplation is the 2nd phase of the 5 stages of weight loss. It’s also the stage that the majority of people wanting to lose weight are in. And unfortunately, a lot of people get stuck in this phase.
It’s in this phase that you make a conscious decision to make an effort towards either losing weight or changing your lifestyle. Maybe you know what to do, or maybe you don’t have a clue, but you’re usually seeking out information to try to figure it out. You very well might be in this stage right now.
The contemplation stage is where you figure out your “why” for wanting to lose weight. It’s what creates that initial burst of motivation and gets the momentum moving forward.
In stage 3 you feel like the risk/reward ratio for taking action is about equal. In other words, you feel like it’s not out of your reach to make a positive lifestyle change, and the effort will match the reward. You no longer feel hopeless.
It’s also the phase where you start outlining a plan to take action. You may even start making some small behavioral changes like drinking more water, going for walks, joining a gym, or hiring a coach.
Moving from the contemplation phase to the preparation phase is a big deal. You’ve successfully sorted out all the confusing and conflicting information that’s out there, and you’re ready to set a plan in motion.
The preparation phase is also one of the most important phases. It arms you with the knowledge and expectations that lead to successful change. Be careful here though. It’s very common to overanalyze things and become frozen with perfection. Analysis paralysis is very real.
Stage 4 of the 5 stages of weight loss is one of the most difficult. It’s the phase where many people make it to, but end up failing and relapsing back to the 1st or 2nd phase. The action phase is where you set goals and start taking action on the plan you’ve laid out for yourself. It’s one of the most difficult phases because it’s when you are actively changing your bad habits and replacing them with good ones.
It’s the time when you’re repairing your relationship with food, the scale, and your body. It’s the time where you’re questioning if you have what it takes to do this for the rest of your life. It’s when you’re relying on willpower to keep you going until those new habits are formed.
You have to fight all the naysayers that don’t support your changes, and you have to deal with all your inner struggles. The action phase lasts about 6 months, and if you can consistently maintain your lifestyle change for these 6 months, you have likely made a lasting change in your life.
In the final stage of weight loss, you have successfully changed the majority of your bad habits and have lived a healthy and active lifestyle full of whole foods and exercise for over six continuous months. It’s in this stage that you start thinking about your life differently.
Suddenly, that bad food you had such an emotional attachment to doesn’t sound so appealing. In fact, you have no intention of engaging in that behavior ever again. You know how harmful that was to you, and eating healthy food makes you feel so much better than the temporary happiness emotional eating provided.
Your confidence levels are sky high, and your body has undergone a complete transformation, both on the inside and out. People (including the original non-supporters) are now complimenting you on your weight loss and asking you how you did it.
Congratulations, you have successfully changed your life for the better, and living this new healthy lifestyle is just as easy to do as living the unhealthy one was in the past. You might mess up here or there, but the default corrective action is now a healthy one.
So, what stage are you in? Are you making plans to move up into one of the next stages of weight loss?