Are you ready to make a change?
This is one of the most important questions I ask when people come to me for help losing weight. I know that the weight loss program I’ve designed is effective – but real change comes only when the client is truly ready to take required action.
It isn’t easy to create real change in behavior, and there’s a lot of legwork that must be done first. It’s extremely rare for someone to call or walk into my office ready to change all of their unhealthy habits overnight.
In fact, that “cold turkey” approach rarely works. It’s too abrupt. You don’t have time to prepare, mentally or physically. When you try to jump in without considering what the changes mean for your life, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
That’s why I spent so much time developing my program to address every piece of the puzzle. I’ll talk more about that later, but know that I encourage clients to really think about the program before signing up, because it’s a big commitment, and to get the results you want, you truly have to be ready.
That doesn’t mean, however, that I can’t help you get ready. Just because you aren’t there yet doesn’t mean you’ll never be.
I was reading the other day about the transtheoretical model (TTM) of change. This is a model used to consider behavior change, and it makes a lot of sense to me. It prepares you for total transformation – and unlike some models, addresses the challenge and importance of maintaining new habits to sustain the change.
That’s a cornerstone of my weight loss program. I stick with people long after their six (or more) weeks are up. I help them not only lose the weight initially but transform their ways of thinking and behaving to KEEP the weight off.
Let’s take a closer look at this model of change, and how it relates to how I help people meet their goals.
What is the transtheoretical model of change?
The TTM was developed in the late 1970s by researchers studying the experiences of smokers. Some were able to quit on their own, while others needed further treatment. The question was why?
The answer, simple as it might seem, was that people quit smoking when they were ready. But getting ready is no easy task, and there are many stages to pass through before you hit that sweet spot. That’s what the TTM is all about.
This model focuses on the way people make decisions. It’s a model of intentional change. In other words, it doesn’t just happen; it takes effort to get to the “action” stage.
There’s a general assumption with this model that people don’t change behaviors quickly or decisively. Instead, behavior change is a process – and it’s not linear. You can shift from stage to stage in both directions, so knowing what each stage is allows you to understand where you are – and what you might be able to do to move out of one phase and into the next.
The Stages of the Transtheoretical Model
Originally, there were five identified phases in this model. A sixth has been added in more recent versions, but the termination phase, where there is absolutely no temptation or desire to return to old patterns, is so rarely achieved that I think it’s almost a disservice to include it. We are not striving for perfection, and if you think that eliminating the desire to partake in an old, unhealthy habit is the ultimate goal, you will almost certainly be disappointed.
That’s why I focus on the first five stages, with the most attention given to the last two: Action and Maintenance. That’s where you see real results. But that doesn’t mean the first three stages don’t matter – in fact, moving through these will likely increase your chances of success! So let’s look at each one and how it relates to where you are on your weight loss journey.
- Precontemplation. This is the very beginning of change. Action is unlikely in the next six months, since you haven’t realized yet that the behavior has a negative impact on your health. For instance, if you begin each day with coffee and a bagel you may not realize the profound impact this can have on your ability to lose weight. In this phase, the cons of changing behavior still outweigh the pros in your mind.
- Contemplation. As the name suggests, this stage is when you’ll start to realize how change could benefit your life. Many of my clients come to me in this stage. If you’re here, you’ve decided you need to alter your behavior in the near future but aren’t ready to do so just yet. You have given careful consideration to both pros and cons of behavior change but feel uncertain about whether the change will have big enough benefits to pursue.
- Preparation. This is the stage where things can really start to move. You’ve made a decision to start taking action within the next month, but you may not know how. You’ve decided that changing the way you eat will change your life in a positive way. I can help so much during this phase because I know that planning ahead is critical to success when it comes to weight loss. This is the stage in which you’ll learn the information you need to help fuel change. You may have a lot of reading to do. You’ll want to clean out your pantry and get rid of any foods that might send you off course. There’s a lot of other steps you can take to get ready for serious weight loss as well, and my program covers all of these.
- This is the step where you put all that planning in motion. You’ve changed your behavior in big or small ways. There’s a lot of middle ground here. You can take baby steps which have positive rewards and can motivate you towards making bigger changes. Or you can go all in and begin an intense program like the one I’ve designed. Either way, you intend to continue moving forward with the change. You know it’s not a temporary thing – you’re building new lifelong healthy habits and routines.
- This fifth step is probably the most important. In this phase, you’ve sustained your behavior change for a period of time and are working towards making it permanent. This is a crucial stage when trying to avoid undoing all the work you’ve done. It’s also the stage you’re most likely to slip out of – like what happens with yo-yo dieting. That’s why the other stages are so important – and why my program has built-in maintenance support once you reach this stage. Maintenance, when it comes to weight loss, means lifelong change in eating habits, exercise, sleep, and so many other areas. My program covers them all, giving you the tools that you’ll need to succeed long term.
Moving through the steps
There are some important processes that help you move through the steps of TTM. These processes allow you to develop concrete strategies to both initiate and sustain change.
While some make more sense in one stage or another, they are all useful processes that may need to be revisited often, in many different stages. There’s so many things we can learn about ourselves and our health, so you may find yourself in a constant state of change once you get going. That’s not a bad thing!
Some of these processes include:
- Gaining awareness of the behavior
- Identifying emotional responses related to the behavior
- Deciding that you want the healthy behavior to become part of who you are
- Realizing the impact of your behavior on others
- Discovering societal support for the healthy behavior
- Committing to change and believing change is possible
- Finding support to encourage the change
- Finding healthy substitutions for unhealthy behavior
- Rewarding positive behavior
- Changing your environment to set up reminders for yourself, to support the healthy
behavior or discourage the unhealthy behavior.
From planning to action
One of the problems I see all the time is that clients are super excited to begin. They start planning full force, but quickly become overwhelmed with all there is to think about and just get stuck.
This is especially true with weight loss. There are so many programs and plans to explore, you could spend hours reading through them all and still have no idea which one would work for you.
That’s why it’s so important to work with a professional who can ask all the right questions and individualize the program for your unique needs. There is no one size fits all diet plan. Any plan that claims that it works in one specific way for all people without any kind of screening or assessment prior to beginning is simply making claims they can’t substantiate.
That’s because everyone’s body is different, and there are so many factors that impact your ability to lose weight. Missing just one of the critical pieces of the puzzle could stop success in its tracks.
Planning/preparation may be active (for instance, you clean out your pantry, or you stock your kitchen with organic veggies) but it’s not the same as action. Action, in this case, means actually doing something that impacts your goal. Eating more vegetables and eliminating processed foods is weight loss action. Reading about which nutrients vegetables have is planning. See the difference? All the reading in the world won’t get you any closer to losing weight if your eating habits don’t change.
We all want to be at the maintenance phase as soon as possible and taking clear small action (baby steps) will help get you there.
Related article: Sustainable Vs. Rapid Weight Loss
Here are three simple things you can do to get started:
- Switch to water, seltzer or unsweetened tea instead of sugary beverages.
- Instead of hitting the vending machine, stash nuts in your desk for when you need a boost.
- Park at the back of the parking lot whenever you run an errand or go to the office.
When you start taking baby steps, you may find that the momentum moves you toward even bigger actions. That’s a perfect time to set up a consultation to see if my Slim by Choice program is right for you.
I promised to tell you more about this program at the beginning of this article. It’s a six-week online course that has helped countless people lose up to 20 pounds in six-weeks…and KEEP it off. It works because I’ve incorporated all of the essential information you need to understand the factors that impact weight loss, and the root causes of weight gain. It addresses genetics, food sensitivities, the media messages that impact weight, the emotional side of weight loss, and much more. You can get more information about this program at www.womenstransformationcenter.com.
We’ve all heard the phrase “action speaks louder than words.” When it comes to weight loss, no words will achieve the results you want. But with the right support and a commitment to action, you can lose the weight you want, and transform your life for good. Let me help!
Reviewed by Dr. Mark Menolascino, MD