Understanding How We Change Our Lifestyles | Community


Many of us want to make changes to a healthy lifestyle, but find it difficult to make such changes.

If you’ve ever wondered why there are so many diets on the market, it’s because opinion polls show that people are generally unsuccessful in losing weight. In fact, studies show that most people who want to lose weight try several diets and other programs until they finally give up.

Few people lose the weight they want.

It’s important to understand that successful lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight. We are moving forward and backward through several stages of change.

The transtheoretical model (stages of change theory) is a way to understand how people change their behavior.

Let’s apply this model to smokers who may or may not want to quit. The first stage of change is called the precontemplation stage.

At this point, the smoker does not wish to quit smoking. Once smokers start thinking about quitting, they enter the contemplation phase. If they then buy a nicotine patch or read a book on smoking cessation, they have taken the preparation stage.

They have progressed beyond contemplation and are preparing to take action.

The action stage occurs when the smoker changes behavior, however small, such as reducing the number of cigarettes smoked.

The fifth and final stage is called maintenance and is reached when a person finally stops smoking for a relatively long period (eg six months).

It is important to understand that people move from one stage to another in an upward or downward direction. People in the action phase can move on to maintenance or return to contemplation. This is typical of the dieter who begins a diet but does not lose the desired weight and then quits, even though the desire to lose weight is still there.

A successful lifestyle change occurs when maintenance is achieved.

Although relapse is possible, it is generally less likely to occur once the maintenance phase is reached. This is because the new behavior has been incorporated into a person’s lifestyle and it becomes easier to maintain.

For example, a person who has successfully quit smoking is not tempted to smoke in the same way as someone who is trying to quit smoking.

For people trying to adopt positive lifestyles, it is helpful to understand the stages of the theory of change as they come and go from stage to stage, depending on their life circumstances.

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