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5 Steps to Create Permanent Lifestyle Change

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dreamgirls

I Am Changing

Are you looking to lose weight? Eat more healthfully? Enjoy a more active life? Replace a bad health habit with a good one? Then you are in one of the 5 Stages of Change people must go through to improve their lives. Which one? And will knowing your stage help you succeed with your desired change?

Change is Scary

Kymberly: “Change is not simple; it is scary.” Anschutz Medical Center faculty member and licensed psychologist, Denise McGuire, PhD laid this on us at the recent FitSocial conference. Her presentation on making lifestyle changes covered the phases we pass through to meet our new goals.

Willingness, Not Willpower is Key

According to Dr. McGuire, one of the mistakes we make is thinking we can change something once, then be done. For example, long term diets don’t work for 95% of people who try them. Yet it is a myth that people don’t or can’t really change. They can–YOU can!–if you know what stage of change you are in and adjust accordingly. Willpower alone is not sufficient. Willingness, not willpower is key. To change, you need to be willing to go outside your comfort zone. And that can be scary!

Power Up, Pac-Men & Women!

Power Up, Pac-Men & Women!

Alexandra: We aren’t fans of attributing lack of success to willpower, which has a sense of fighting against yourself and leads to self-recrimination. It has a negative feel to it. It’s far more empowering to either be willing or unwilling to do a behavior that leads to change. In other words, you didn’t LOSE a battle so much as you CHOSE something else instead. So Power Up! (lovers of video games will recognize this phrase as a way to instantly gain benefits and abilities).

Kymberly: Unfortunately, fewer than 20% of people in problem populations are ready for change. (What do you define as a “problem” population? The obese? Smokers? Sedentary individuals? Dr. McGuire implied all of the former, but did not really cover this so you can decide whether you consider yourself in a problem population). Are you in that 20% elite ready to improve your life?

5 Stages of Change

1) Precontemplation

People in this initial stage are resistant to change; they deny they have a problem believing they need to change those around them.  Precontemplators can be demoralized and feel their situation is hopeless; they are defensive and rarely take responsibility for their behaviors.

This stage is a relatively safe place to be as there is no risk of failure. It’s a comfort zone though not a healthy one!

Alexandra contemplating in Thailand

Thinking, thinking, contemplating, thinking….time for a nap

2) Contemplation

Progress! People in this phase accept that they, not others are the ones needing to make a change. However they are still not ready to take action.

3) Preparation

If you are in this phase, you plan to take action within the month. You are aware of your problem, have increasing confidence in your ability to tackle it; have gathered the necessary information and want to take action, but are not quite ready. Almost though!

4) Action

While you might consider this the easy phase, Dr. McGuire revealed that the Action stage requires the greatest amount of commitment, support, and energy. To succeed you must engage in self-talk to bolster your resolve; you need to be clear about your motivation; and you will do well to write down your reasons for change and read your notes daily.

Keep in mind that the Action stage does NOT mean you are continually moving forward; you will go back sometimes, then forward. But you WILL get to your goal. Think of it as walking against waves: slow going with resistance, yet you eventually DO get to smoother waters (aka it becomes a habit). Be prepared — people in the Action phase usually need 4-5 attempts before progressing to the fifth and final stage.

5) Maintenance

This phase lasts anywhere from 6 months to life, and is where new habits are formed. To stop yourself from moving back to an earlier stage consider these 5 tips from Dr. McGuire:

  • be clear about your motivation (how does this new habit improve your life?)
  • tackle just one issue at a time
  • get support
  • track your progress
  • learn from setbacks
Five Stages of Change with an extra for good luck

Five Stages of Change with You Accounted For

Alexandra: The Maintenance Phase is also an important stage to work on the words you use to describe yourself and your actions. For example, “relapse” has a more negative feel to it than “setback.” Which word sounds more successful to you? Another way to frame your behavior in this stage is to focus on the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made.

While you’re at it, throw away the word “failure.” That’s a word to apply to hard drives and car brakes, not humans. People do not go in a straight line: Success ——>  Failure; people go in labyrinths, circles and winding paths. As Gandalf wrote in his letter to the Hobbits, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Then his pen ran out of ink just as he was going to write, “And not all those who wander off the path are doomed.”

 Be undoomed and make a new good habit when you:

A) subscribe to our YouTube channel and blog.

B) Follow us on google +Alexandra and +Kymberly, on Twitter:  AlexandraFunFit and KymberlyFunFit and Instagram: KymberlyFunFit and AlexandraFunFit.

C) Hire us to speak at your next meeting or conference. Call (805) 403-4338 or email info@funandfit.org.

Photo Credits:

5 Stages of Change Pie Chart  http://www.readytoexercise.com/stages.html

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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20 Responses to 5 Steps to Create Permanent Lifestyle Change

  1. Jody - Fit at 55 October 10, 2013 at 7:24 pm #

    You guys always have fantastic information! I think that you give options to people & that is important!

    Willingness is a word I first heard Carla use years ago & I like it. I always said I had willpower but I guess it does come down to willingness & a word that people can relate to more… I lost the weight, I was NOT willing to go back there where I was & how it made me feel & I was willing to do what it took to be the way I wanted to be – just me. I know many don’t want to do what I do to maintain with age but that is what it is all about.. how a person wants to be for themselves & what they are willing to work at it to be there.. and yes, the words! :) I still struggle with the words but a good thing I have my mojo on no wanting to go back & knowing how hard I worked so … worth it to me to stay fit & healthy.
    Jody – Fit at 55 recently posted..Are you Fat? Is this Fat?My Profile

  2. Tamara October 10, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

    I have used the 5 stages of change analysis on many of my clients; it helps me figure out the best strategy for helping them (and moving them forward to the next stage, in many cases). Thanks for a clear and well-written summary of the ideas!
    Tamara recently posted..Strong is the new skinny; yay or nay?My Profile

  3. Pamela Mason October 11, 2013 at 5:54 am #

    I’ve never seen these stages laid out, but I agree with them. Right now I am in Stage 4: Action. And yes, it is the most committed of all. I joined the Y and not only is it a wonderful exercise gym, but a positive, uplifting, energetic space. I want to be there all the time! Use it for writing versus a coffee bar or library. But.. I digress.

    I think you should place a substage in here: support. I find the more actively one supports others and receives support from others, the more accountable one is to resist the sugar (or whatever unhealthy choice) and propel oneself to exercise — even a walk around the block is better than nothing. I belong to Facebook groups where we are writers who only post our moving or cardio achievements in order to keep the concept front and center in our minds.

    A body in motion stays in motion….

    • AlexandraFunFit October 18, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

      Action is a wonderful stage to be in! So empowering. Actually, your habit of using the Y instead of other choices is a life habit you might wish to share with others. If you aren’t in a coffee bar, you aren’t eating unnecessary kcals, plus the Y is full of people who give off positive energy!
      Your FB group sounds wonderful!
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Six Amazing (and Possibly Gross) Health Future TrendsMy Profile

  4. Aqiyl Aniys October 11, 2013 at 8:15 am #

    This is an excellent way to break down the stages of sustained change. The path through it are also its obstacles. Excellent!
    Aqiyl Aniys recently posted..Morning Hundred Sit-UpsMy Profile

  5. Tara Burner October 11, 2013 at 9:10 am #

    great info!!!!!

  6. BriGeeski October 11, 2013 at 9:27 am #

    Awesome tips! I just decided this week that I want to wake up at 5 so I have 2 hours to work before my kiddo gets up. The first two days were easy the last few have been hard. Good thing the weekend is here! I really need to read my notes daily!

    • KymberlyFunFit October 11, 2013 at 3:33 pm #

      Wow! Two hours early sounds so …. early! If you relapse, would an hour of kid free time be sufficient as you work up to two? I wish you total success with reading your notes daily so you set your new habit!
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Why You Want to Lose Weight Affects Your SuccessMy Profile

  7. Nicki Anderson October 11, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    As always, great stuff and worth sharing!
    Nicki Anderson recently posted..An overdue coversation with my bodyMy Profile

  8. Sandra Sallin October 11, 2013 at 3:00 pm #

    OK, I’m almost there. I need to start exercising and I know it. But what am I doing? I’m at the computer reading posts. How do you structure your day so that you exercise first? I guess that’s what you do. Ok, I will walk this afternoon, I will.
    Sandra Sallin recently posted..MAGIC! NOW YOU SEE IT. NOW YOU DON’T.My Profile

    • KymberlyFunFit October 11, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      Did you walk? Did you write it down first? As for me, while I don’t always exercise early, I do get in my daily workouts by one of two external ways: 1) I teach group fitness classes, so I have to show (and I want to). 2) I have an energetic, young dog who needs to get out every day so her pleading, eager eyes get me on a walk regularly. If I sit too long at the computer I get creaky and cranky so I know to get up and move. I put in my schedule. Happy moving!
      KymberlyFunFit recently posted..Why You Want to Lose Weight Affects Your SuccessMy Profile

  9. Nigel Chua October 18, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

    Willingness is the first and most crucial part to awareness, to making plans to change, to actively change and to maintain the change. Without this willingness, nothing will change.

    But you know, what really connected with me is when Alexandra wrote how

    “….it is also an important stage to work on the words you use to describe yourself and your actions. For example, “relapse” has a more negative feel to it than “setback.” Which word sounds more successful to you? Another way to frame your behavior in this stage is to focus on the work you’ve done and the progress you’ve made.

    While you’re at it, throw away the word “failure.” That’s a word to apply to hard drives and car brakes, not humans. People do not go in a straight line: Success ——> Failure; people go in labyrinths, circles and winding paths. As Gandalf wrote in his letter to the Hobbits, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Then his pen ran out of ink just as he was going to write, “And not all those who wander off the path are doomed.”

    I think it’s often when I experience setbacks, especially when it’s in succession, that I tend to “beat myself up” to continued setbacks, instead of looking forward positively with hope. I found that it was easier to quit than to continue forward, which is why willingness is much more important and vital to achieve a goal than willpower.

    As humans, willpower can go up and down, but willingness to stay the ground is what that will keep us going.

    Thanks for the great article =)
    Nigel Chua recently posted..Hydrolyzed Collagen BenefitsMy Profile

    • AlexandraFunFit October 18, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

      Hi again Nigel: Thank you for sharing your thoughts about what resonates for you, as we write to be helpful. I use the willingness tip on myself. Sometimes I decide one way; sometimes another, but I am always aware that it’s a conscious decision. When I feel in control, I feel happier about my decisions. I have always hated the paradigm of ‘battling willpower.” Why should I fight with myself?
      AlexandraFunFit recently posted..Why You Want to Lose Weight Affects Your SuccessMy Profile

  10. Jerry @ foam rollers October 19, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    For many of us contemplation make miracles. For me, it changed my life, definitively. My friend ask me what happened to me, you not sad anymore:)
    Jerry @ foam rollers recently posted..High Density Foam RollersMy Profile

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Reaching Your Fitness Goals, or How Are Those New Year Resolutions Coming Along |Motivation and Behavior Change | Fun and Fit: Baby Boomer Active Aging Advice from Fitness Experts - March 2, 2014

    […] Please don’t get discouraged. Keep at it. Being stuck or slow at achieving your goals isn’t an issue of willpower, so don’t waste time berating yourself about a perceived lack of it. It may be an issue of willingness or need for skill development, which we talk about in our 5 Steps to Create Permanent Lifestyle Change. […]

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