Losing weight/body fat and improving your overall fitness are not things that happen overnight nor is it necessarily simple. What most don’t know is in order to be truly successful, important steps need to be taken before you even start a diet or exercise program. TO START YOU NEED TO IDENTIFY WHAT PHASE OF BEHAVIOR CHANGE YOU ARE IN.   There are five distinct stages of behavior change. Do you know what stage you are currently in?

Knowing what stage you are in will help you to create a plan to the next stages and help you to be successful in your fitness goals. Below are the five major phases:

  1. Pre-contemplation: This is where you don’t feel that any change in your lifestyle is needed. You will possibly feel like exercise takes up too much time and that fast food is convenient and oh so tasty. Starting a fitness or diet program during this stage would probably result in failure. The best thing you can do during this phase is educate yourself further about health, proper nutrition, the positive effects of working out and the negative effects of not working out and eating healthy.
  2. Contemplation: During this stage you may start thinking that a change is necessary due to slight weight gain and/or not feeling great. So, you think that maybe cutting back to eating fast food only three times a week is not so bad and you might be able to at least take a walk once in a while. This is a good time to learn more about the benefits of healthy eating and regular exercise.
  3. Preparation: This is the point where you are getting more serious about taking action.   You have made plans to go do a group fitness class with a friend and headed to the grocery store to buy food to cook some healthier meals. You may want to research exercise equipment, gyms, personal trainers, and nutrition programs to learn more about what you can do (with the help of professionals and/or equipment) to get in better shape.
  4. Action: Here’s where you actually take the first step. The first step may be as simple as wailing to work or parking further away from work and walking, reducing your fast food visits to twice a month or just cutting back on daily sodas. You may go as far as hiring a personal trainer or joining a gym. During this stage it is very important to learn coping mechanisms and proper maintenance plans that will help you avoid relapse into your old ways. One way to avoid being one of those “resolution” types is starting slowly into a new program and making permanent lifestyle changes versus quick fix plans that get only temporary results.
  5. Maintenance:   This is the phase that everyone should strive to end up in. This means that you have been doing a regular fitness program consistently for quite some time. You continue your new lifestyle by setting new goals and making health and fitness apart of your daily routine. It’s important throughout this stage (which should last a lifetime) that you include a variety of workouts that change frequently. Having your family and friends on board, supporting you, will help you remain here.

So, now can you identify what stage you are in? You may find that you are in the pre-contemplation sage for nutritional habits but that you are in the preparation stage for workouts. That’s fine as long as the one eventually catches up to the other. It’s not critical for you to force both areas into the same stage. You can work on changing your nutritional and exercise habits separately.

The key to success is first identifying your stage and then taking steps to advance to the next level. If you feel you are in the maintenance stage, it’s very important to set new goals to challenge yourself!

Never think because you reached your goal that you can now relax! It’s a lifetime of smart choices and action! Use the suggestions mentioned above in each stage to help you move to the next phase.

For example, if you are in the pre-contemplation stage, then research and read as much as you can on the subject of health risks and how they relate to an individual’s lifestyle. From there you will probably want to learn more about the consequences and benefits of specific lifestyles. Education is a powerful thing. The more you fully understand and can relate directly to the causes and effects of your action, the more inclined you will be to change.

It’s also important to tune-in to your fears, pasts struggles and expectations. Making nutritional and exercise changes is not easy and should be approached slowly. Make small obtainable short term goals that will reach our ultimate long term goal! Like a flow chart. Remember small changes = one big result! Don’t try to go from a completely sedentary lifestyle to an hour of continual exercise in just one day. Build up slowly with a plan! And lastly, be sure to inform your family and friends of your plans and enlist their support. Support is extremely important for your success.

If you aren’t sure of how, what, where, ask a fitness professional for help! Hiring a Personal Trainer, Online Coach or Wellness coach, is a great way to get started on the right track! Otherwise it may feel like you are a hamster in a wheel getting nowhere fast.   It’s just like when you build a website. You can do it on your own but more than likely it is not done exactly the way it should be. You run into problems and spend more time figuring out how to do things than you do benefiting from it. Why not invest in someone to help you build something great! Time is money! 7 out of 10 people starting an exercise program without advice end up with very little or no progress in 2 months. Or they hit a point where change stops and you hit a “plateau”. It is hard to get out of a rut once you are in it!

Bottom line if you fail to plan than you plan to fail. Knowing where you are in the behavior change will save you time and frustration. It’s not just about working out and eating better! Without recognizing and changing behavior you will always end up where you started!

Not sure what stage you are in?   Know what stage you are in but don’t know where to start? Let’s talk! hello@carmenshawn.com

Live well, Carmen.