Ready to change how you eat? Ask yourself these 5 questions to find out.

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Have you ever noticed that sometimes it’s easy to change something about yourself or your life, and other times it seems impossible?

Why does that happen?  Are you less enthusiastic?  Have less willpower?  Just unlucky?  Did it seem like the odds were stacked against you?

Perhaps it just took trying something several times before it “stuck.”  Why did the last time stick when previous attempts at change failed?

Those previous attempts weren’t failures

Anyone who attempts to create major change in their life must pass through five stages before achieving success.  While it’s possible to pass through all the stages easily, that’s not what always (or usually) happens.

These stages are called stages of readiness to change.  They are:

  • Pre-contemplation
  • Contemplation
  • Preparation
  • Action
  • Maintenance

The last stage, or the successful stage, is called Termination (I think they could have chosen a better term).

Pre-contemplation

In this stage, you may not be aware any change needs to happen.  You simply don’t have any information or sign that you should be doing things differently or better.

You could also know something should change, but you don’t want to.  You’re reluctant.

RebelliousPerhaps you have a rebellious streak.  You’re deeply invested in your current behavior and you have no intentions of changing.  You don’t want to be told what to do!

Maybe you’re resigned to how things are now.  You feel hopeless and too overwhelmed to consider any change.  It could be you tried to create change in the past and failed so you’ve given up.

Then there’s the possibility you’re rationalizing.  This means you can give plenty of excuses and reasons why you are the way you are.  You believe change isn’t possible.

While in this stage, there is no chance that change will happen.

Contemplation

Contemplation means you’re at least thinking about making a change.  This is a step in the right direction!  But you can still get stuck here.  You weigh the pros and cons.  You gather information but don’t do anything with it.  You just think about it.

You know you want to make a change.  You may know plenty of reasons why you should make a change.  Yet you don’t make a decision.

Preparation

In the preparation stage, you tentatively take your first step.  It’s possible you’re not sure where to begin or what steps need to happen first.  You try some things.  You put some plans in place.

However, you’re not consistent.  It doesn’t take much to derail you.  From this stage, it’s easy to slip back into contemplation.

This stage can be frustrating and it’s when you’re most likely to beat yourself up for being inconsistent.  You’re trying though!  And trying is better than doing nothing.

The more you try, the closer you get to…

Action

Now we’re getting somewhere!  When you’re taking action, you have your change in place.  You haven’t been doing it for very long though.  As you continue to take action, you embed the new change so that it’ll eventually become habit.

When it comes to changing how you eat, one month is not long enough to put that new habit in place, unfortunately.  Some people take six months, but the real benchmark is one year.  Maintain any new eating habit for at least a year and you can consider yourself in maintenance.

Maintenance and Relapses

As you can see, it takes a bit to get to this level.  It takes a long time.  When you’re in maintenance, you know what you must do to keep the ball rolling.

The nice thing about being in maintenance is you’re doing your change out of habit.  You don’t really have to think about it anymore.  It just happens; even when your routine gets disrupted by normal stresses like needing to work overtime.

Relapses can happen, though.  Something else can drastically change in your life to throw you off-balance; a lost job, a divorce (or marriage), a death of a loved one.

A major illness, grief and depression are the most common reasons for healthy habits to come to an abrupt end.  You might slip back to contemplation or preparation stage while dealing with the new disruption.

Termination

Once you reach this stage, you have complete confidence in yourself.  You know you have the skills you need and the information you need to prevent relapses.

Determine your stage to know if you’re ready to change

Let’s say the change is increasing fruit and vegetable servings to at least five per day.  If you find what stage of readiness you’re in, you’ll know how much work you have ahead of you to successfully create that change.

Readiness for changeQ.  Am I intending to do this?

  • If you have no desire to increase how many fruits and vegetables you eat in a day, you don’t intend to do it.  That means you’re in Pre-contemplation Stage and not ready to change.

Q.  If I’m not doing this, am I at least thinking about it?

  • Maybe you know you should eat more fruits and vegetables and you think about doing it, but you’re not doing it yet.  You might be telling yourself all the reasons why you can’t make it happen.  You might be looking for more information on how to make it work for you.  This means you’re in Contemplation Stage.  You’re on the fence.  As long as you stay on the fence, you’re not ready to change.

Q.  Am I doing this some days during the week, but not all?

  • If you answer yes to this question, you’re in Preparation Stage.  From here, successful change is possible but you have a lot to figure out to get there, including what barriers are keeping you from being consistent.

Q.  Have I been doing this daily for less than six months to a year?

  • A yes answer here means you’re in Action Stage.  You’re well on your way to success.  Just keep up your consistency until you reach the six month mark (or year mark if you’re really playing it safe).

Q.  Have I been doing this daily for longer than six months to a year?

  • If you’ve been consistent for this long, you’re not only ready, you’re doing it!  You’re in Maintenance Stage, Baby.  By this point, your change should be well established habit.   It’s going to take one seriously major life disruption to knock you off course now.

healthy snackMoving back and forth between the stages is part of normal evolution.  Sometimes you’re in control of that movement, but not always.

Think back to the last time you tried to change something in your life.  If it felt like change came easy, was your readiness stage already high?  If you struggled, did you spend a lot of time in contemplation and preparation, perhaps moving back and forth between the two many times?

When it comes to making changes to how you eat, focus on the habits that are in preparation stage or higher.  These are the habits you’re ready to change or have already changed.

My personal experience has been that as some of your eating habits improve and solidify, eventually, you’ll want to change the others.  They’ll become part of your evolution naturally.

So there’s no need to try to force things.  Allow your body and health to reap the benefits of what you’re ready to change now.

Your turn

What’s one thing you know you want to change?  Use the above questions to figure out what stage of readiness you’re in.  Are you ready to make your change?  If you’ve used these questions to decide which goals to focus on please share your progress in the comments below!

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Comments

  1. Tammy R says:

    Oh boy, Lori! I like this. It makes me realize how we have finally come to this diet that is nutritious and delicious. It seems that, for years, we were stuck in the first three phases and when we did take action it was not the best action (Slim Fast Shakes, for one. There are many others.) I do find that once you move to action you’re less likely to slip back into inaction. It’s been steady progress ever since we really got serious and starting talking over every little thing. We still have things we want to improve!

    • Lori Stalter says:

      Hey Tammy! Yeah, discovering this information really made things click for me on all sorts of levels, too. It explained much of my own behavior whenever I tried changing something in my life. And it explained why I could have seemingly productive conversations with people about making a change…and then they would do nothing. Now I know if I ask these questions, if I get an honest answer to them, I’ll have a better understanding where I (or others) are on this spectrum.

      Thank you for stopping by!

  2. cj says:

    It is still the perfectly flat belly, Lori! I am in the action stage, but I need more, a better solution than planks and side planks. It is time to go get that Bosu Ball – this weekend! Have a dilly of a day, Lori!!!

    • Lori Stalter says:

      Before you run out for that Bosu Ball, what are you hoping to accomplish with it?

      • cj says:

        Lori! I am hoping that in conjunction with all my planks, it will help me achieve my flattest belly yet! Your thoughts, Madam?

        • Lori Stalter says:

          I think the Bosu is going to give only more of the same. Would it be safe to say you already have relatively rock hard abdominal muscles even if they’re hidden beneath a layer of fluff or bloat?