Stages of change

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Are you ready to change?

by Julie Wehmeyer, UIC Dietetic Intern (1999)

        Where are you on the road to a healthy lifestyle? Are you still deciding which route to take? Most people struggle with making changes to their lifestyle. There are several stages you may experience on your journey to happiness. You may follow these stages in order. Or you may be like most people and accomplish a few stages, but then relapse into a previous stage. Do not become discouraged. You can advance to the next stage and continue your path to success.

        The first stage is unawareness of the problem, or precontemplation. For example, you do not perceive your high cholesterol as a dangerous situation. Once you acknowledge the problem exists, you wonder how to accomplish your shift to a healthier life. You begin thinking about changing, which is the contemplation stage.

        Then it is time for getting ready to take action or preparation, but you still need some direction and encouragement.  Once you take that first step towards your goal, you are in the action stage. While you are here, you need help reinforcing those decisions you've made. After time, you will have accomplished consistent action and feel self-confident about your choices. It is here that your new courses of action become your lifestyle habits.

        Lapses are still possible, but they don't have to become relapses. It can take several months to years for new practices to become habits. Even the professionals must stop and ask for directions sometimes.

It can help to know where you are on the highway to change. If you try to go from contemplation directly to habituation, you are destined to failure. The best strategy is to move from one stage to the next. If you are in contemplation, your goal should be to move to preparation. It is normal to have lapses as new habits are developed. It only becomes a failure if you don't reenter the cycle.

        Trying to move before you are ready is the cause of much failure in developing new healthy behaviors. Small steps on the road to change are your best bet for long term success.

        If you would like to learn more about adapting to your stage of change, click here to read more about the book, Changing for Good.


1999 - 2010 Transitions Nutrition Consulting

Northbrook IL, tel 888-794-0788.

If you have any comments or questions, email us at This page was last updated on January 09, 2010.

Original web design by Julie Wehmeyer, while she was a dietetic intern at UIC