Web Content Viewer (JSR 286) - Healthy Weight

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Hand writing in diaryChanging our behaviour doesn’t happen overnight. It happens gradually, often with two steps forward and one step back.

Psychologists and behavioural scientists have described how this happens using the term ‘stages of change’. It’s a useful way to think about the way we change our behaviour, as it allows us to see how ready we are to change.

Take the situation of someone who is overweight.

At first, they might not think there is a problem. They might not believe they are overweight so they are not likely to change their behaviour any time soon. They're in the stage known as pre-contemplation.

Later, they might acknowledge that they are overweight. ‘Yes, I’m a little overweight’, they might think, or ‘I really should lose a little weight’. But while they’re thinking about making some changes, they’re not quite ready to do so. They’re in the stage known as contemplation.

After a while, they may start to think, ‘I’m going to lose some weight’ and might start planning what changes to make. They’re in the stage known as preparation.

Then, they might act. They make some changes. They start to eat differently and they become more active. They’re now in the stage known as action.

Later, when they have made changes and the new behaviours have become habits, they’ve moved into the stage known as maintenance.

But changes sometimes don’t last. We’re human and we slip up. So the person who had worked so hard to make healthy changes slides back into old habits. They may become less active, eat less healthily and put on weight. They’re now in the stage known as relapse.

That person then has a number of options. They can stay in relapse, move into contemplation, or preparation, or even straight back into action.

Even though it sounds like people move from one stage to the next, things are less predictable than that. Often, people move around between stages, going forwards, then backwards, and entering and leaving the cycle many times before they settle on a stable set of behaviours.

If we think about the stages of change approach, we come to accept that:

  • When trying to change our behaviour, we’ll find it easier at some times than at others, and will probably change our approach from time to time, so there’s no point blaming ourselves if this happens
  • Every time we slip up, we learn something, and this takes us a step closer to making the changes we want to make.

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