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Which Stage of Change Are You In?

Most of us probably were raised to believe that if you want to change, you simply need to try hard enough and you will. In some circumstances, that can be true. Pushing yourself a wee bit more can sometimes initiate or accelerate change. But most of the time that we say we want to change, we’re still actually deciding about whether or not we want to. When you first think about or express a desire to change, that is just the beginning. Change itself comes only after you’ve gone through the following stages.

There are Six Stages of Change according to The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska, J.O., Butterworth, S., Redding, C.A., Burden, V., Perrin, N., Lea, Michael, Flaherty, Robb M., and Prochaska, J.M. (2008). Initial efficacy of MI, TTM tailoring, and HRI’s in multiple behaviors for employee health promotion. Preventive Medicine, 46, 226-231).
1. Pre-contemplation (not ready): You’re attracted to the idea of changing, but are not yet thinking much about the consequences of your behavior and have no intention of taking action soon. You may feel demoralized from past failures at trying to change.
2. Contemplation (getting ready): You’re more aware of the pros of change, yet highly aware of the cons. You have mixed feelings which may be about equal. The desire for change prompts more thinking about it, but there’s still fear of taking action.
3. Preparation (ready): You intend to take action sooner rather than later. You may already have taken baby steps toward action or even have an action plan in mind.
4. Action: You actually make changes that are noticeable and you’re deliberately moving toward your goals. We might call this stage “finally doing it,” whatever “it” is.
5. Maintenance: You regularly repeat new behaviors and are sustaining them without turning a lapse into a relapse. Confidence, competence, and empowerment grow.
6. Termination: You have 100% self-efficacy and don’t fear relapse because you’re firmly on a now comfortable path of engaging in new behaviors. Not everyone gets to this stage. Some people are never really sure they won’t return to old behaviors.

To know what stage you’re in regarding your eating recovery, ask yourself: Did I recently realize I’m done with dieting and sick of bingeing? Am I still weighing the pros and cons and find it difficult to imagine being a “normal” eater most of the time? Am I eating “normally” more and more of the time, but still have times when I return to mindless, emotional eating or dieting and food restriction? Do my new patterns feel so ingrained that I know I won’t return to those days of deprivation and restriction or binge-eating and food obsession? Acknowledge the stage you’re in right now and keep inching forward into the next stage, persevering until you’ve moved through them all.

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