Have you heard about the stages of change model? It’s often used to help people stop smoking or give up alcohol but it’s also used for weight loss too.  It can be useful in helping you to understand where you are in relation to change and can help you move forward to achieve your weight loss goals.

Seven Stages: What Stage Are You?

This model was developed by Prochaska and DiClemente and they identified seven stages in the change process and we can look at them each in turn and relate them to weight loss. You might identify where you are in the stages so read on to find out more.



In this stage the idea of change is not even on your horizon. You will be stuck in your diet mindset or in overeating and/or comfort eating. If people tackle the subject of your eating or weight with you, you will become defensive or dismissive. It sometimes takes an emotional trigger, a health diagnosis, or an event of some kind to move you out of this stage.  It can even be a photo of yourself when you come to the realisation that you really need to do something.


At the stage of contemplation, you are beginning to think about or start to discuss your weight issues. Reading this article is a good example. This is a stage of distress and discomfort as you think about the impact that overeating has had and the reasons why you are overweight.  This is a difficult stage to tolerate and it’s common to move back into pre-contemplation to alleviate the distress. Think about the benefits of change as well as the costs.


You are in this stage if you are planning to make changes and you are getting ready to move forward. If you come along to the Understanding Your Eating course that I run at the Affinity Centre then you will find out more about how vital this stage is to your success.  Preparation can feel overwhelming but thinking about small achievable changes can gain you some perspective. Is your plan realistic? Will it be effective? What obstacles might come your way and how will you deal with them? Who will you get to support you, what skills do you need to put your plans into action?


You are putting your plans into action and changing your lifestyle. The action stage can be hard work, frustrating and slow. It can also be empowering as you begin to be successful. Ken Goss writes that if you have a compassionate relationship with yourself then it’s easier to pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get back into action when things get difficult and you have a wobble.


The changes you have made become easier to manage; they are a part of your normal everyday life. Small changes over time can help you to stay in this stage. Reflection here at your success is important. You have made some amazing changes so recognize them and encourage yourself to keep going!  Think about how will you manage a lapse?


As in the song by Rag ‘n’ Bone Man: “I’m only human after all”

Lapses can occur as our new strategies are still becoming established or when we are faced with changes to our routine such as holidays, or unfamiliar and difficult situations. Pressure of work and family, being ill or nice things like birthdays and celebrations can throw us off track and we lapse.

Often if you try to push change too fast or too hard a lapse can happen.  Have you ever tried a couch to 5K running programme? They’re great and they’re designed to get you running stage by stage week by week beginning with only running for a minute at a time. If you decided to run 5K all in one go you could put yourself off running for good and injure yourself into the bargain. Sometimes when we lapse we could go all the way back to the pre-contemplation stage.


Your new strategies are integrated into your life and have stood the test of time!  Hurrah!

The model shows us that change doesn’t happen just in one step; it’s a series of steps that we can move between on our journey to change. If you are a yo-yo dieter or exerciser then it’s likely that you will be moving between contemplation, preparation, action and lapse.

To shift into maintenance and termination is, of course, the ideal. It’s not out of reach but it takes a new approach and a different way of doing things.  Learning to be kind and compassionate towards yourself and connecting with your values around health and well-being so you can make small changes in your habits over time are all key. It’s what Understanding Your Eating is all about!

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher

Hello, I’m Eileen Fisher. I’m an indoor and outdoor therapist and nutritionist. I offer counselling and psychotherapy for both individuals and couples, as well as nutrition advice and support around disordered eating.

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