Wellness Wednesday #9 – Stages of Change

Some things never change and some things around us always seem to be changing. For example: I have always been a feminist. I played basketball in a co-ed summer league as a pre-teen and constantly competed against the boys to show them that girls were just as good. As a teenager I sported my Rosie the Riveter t-shirt with pride and discounted any guy who referred to me as a “chick” (I’m not a little yellow fluffy bird). Yet, I grow older and the world around me seems to change and I with it.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the three phases of creating Health Habits. This week I’m delving more into Behavior Change to talk about the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change (TTM). Why is this important to Wellness? Learning the stages of change may help you understand a few more things about why you are or are not making changes that you set out to make.

The June 2018 issue of IDEA Fitness Journal included a graphic from the American Council on Exercise (ACE) Health Coach Manual (2013) about merging the TTM Stages of Change and strategies for trainers to reach clients at whatever level they’re currently at. So, let’s figure out where we are….

Stage 1 – Precontemplation

People who are in Precontemplation in some area of their life do not want to make a change in that area. Former President George Bush had decided that he was not going to eat broccoli any more. That was a change he was not interested in making. I wonder how many times the cooks in the White House served him broccoli or had it at state dinners?

Most of the time, when we’re talking about Precontemplation, we’re talking about people who don’t see the need to change their health, fitness, and wellness behaviors. They’re perfectly fine with the way things are. They’re going to keep smoking forever because they know someone who lived to be 100 who smoked and therefore they can too. They know someone who ate bacon every day for breakfast. They know someone who never exercised a day in their life. They don’t do doctors or therapists or fitness or wellness or tofu. It doesn’t apply to them.

This doesn’t ever seem to be me when it comes to my fitness routine….I am always striving for more! However, Precontemplation can sometimes be a good thing if you look at it from a yoga perspective….finding contentment and being okay with the way things are. We’ll get back to that at the end of this post.

When it comes to your wellness (and specifically the 12 Dimensions we’ve been discussing) are you where you want to be/need to be? Or are there some change to be made?

Stage 2 – Contemplation

Most people don’t move easily from Precontemplation into the Contemplation phase. Lots of times we talk about how something major has to happen in their lives for them to see the need for change.

The example I always give to participants in my Personal Training Workshops is to think of someone with whom you align yourself….maybe a spouse, a best friend, a sibling. Someone you do a lot with and have a lot in common with. If all of a sudden that person who you’d been living like dropped dead….it might make you think about some of the lifestyle choices you’ve been making.

Contemplation happens for a lot of people right before the new year or when they’ve been to their doctor or when a big life change happens (a baby, a divorce, a lost job, etc). It is basically the moment when you say…..I think something needs to be different in my life right now.

Every time I meditate I am asking myself, what needs to change? When I journal, or read certain books….this is my constant question. What needs to change in my life to get me to where I need to or want to be?

Stage 3 – Preparation

So, you’ve decided to make a change? Now you need to figure out what that looks like in your life. I am currently floating between Contemplation and Preparation on a few areas of my life right now. I know I want to make some changes, but I haven’t defined them completely. Once I do, then I have to make a plan for how to make the change. This is Preparation.

This is where SMART Goals happen. It’s when we make our checklists and investigate all the information we need to be successful. It’s when people go out and start getting the memberships and gear and the food that they need to start their new life. They download apps and ask friends about which gyms to join, videos to watch, diets to follow, Instagrammers to follow, YouTubers to follow,……bloggers to follow? This is the time to prepare for that first big day: Commitment Day!

Stage 4 – Action

Oh wow! It’s January 1st and the time has finally come to take some action! We talk about this all of the time in our industry. If you work on a college campus it happens at the beginning of every semester and also right before Spring Break. I mean, how many times have I written about Resolutions?!

So the first day comes and you take Action. You were prepared and now you’re working out, eating better, getting up early, going to bed on time, shutting off the screens, going to therapy, meditating, throwing out the clutter,……whatever it is you were going to do….today was day one. And then comes day two and then day 12 and then day 37 and eventually we move on to the final phase of these Stages of Change…..Hopefully.

Stage 5 – Maintenance

This is when action and change become Habit. Maintenance is the place where life looks amazing again and you just keep on trucking along with what it was you wanted to change. It’s almost like Precontemplation again. I never quite feel like I’m in the Maintenance stage of anything. It’s kind of like reaching Samadhi or Enlightenment in yoga…..like a moment of blissful clarity that can dissolve at any moment.

For me Maintenance can become boring and so I’m quickly going back into Contemplation. But for others Maintenance becomes Precontemplation and they don’t see anything wrong with doing the same thing day in and day out despite the outcome. They truck along with the same routine of eating and exercising. This can be great if your body never changes. But, you can’t do the same things at 80 that you did at 20….at least in most cases. Biology plays a role in this and we have to keep changing with the times.


So, there’s a couple of things we have to talk about that aren’t as pretty of a picture as the neat and tidy Stages of Change. It would be a perfect world if we just moved right along hitting our stride and checking off our goals and progressing like nothing could ever slow us down. Except, that’s not life and life happens.

It’s how we deal with it that’s important. If you have a day that you have to skip your workout or you want to take a nap or you just don’t have it in you mentally or physically or emotionally to commit to your goal….That’s OKAY! It’s one day. This is known as a Lapse. Lapses can be more than a day sometimes too. They’re not defined by the time frame, but rather by your frame of mind. Have you lost commitment or desire for the goal? Or is something just taking precedent for the time being?

How many times have I written about being injured or sick? Neither has completely derailed my life and my goals and my determination to be a Fitness Professional. I’ve had set-backs galore, but I’m still here. I failed at getting this blog to have hundreds of followers and sponsored posts, but I still keep writing. My frame of mind is still set on being successful with my goals, so lapses are short and I always come back.

Relapse is a totally different scenario. With a lapse I give myself compassion and time. With a relapse you have given up and returned to Precontemplation. This is the moment when you have decided that whatever you set out to do was not worth it. This is total derailment. So, how do we avoid Relapse? Remember what I said four sentances ago? Compassion and time. Keep your eye on the prize and understand that whatever is in the way at this moment is only temporary.

This may mean re-evaluating the goal or the plan or the action in some way. For example…..my gym membership is up for the summer, so I’m working out at home. I modify. I couldn’t finish my run the other day because I prioritized other things over the run and didn’t leave myself enough time to do all 3 miles. Plus, it was HOT and HUMID, so I ran 2 and walked 1/4 mile home and got my kids on time. I didn’t beat myself up and I didn’t let it mean that I had failed on my goals.

The big take-away from all of this is that it doesn’t matter where you fall right now, there’s still time and you have infinite number of opportunities to make change happen if you want it.

What are you contemplating changing?

And what are you working on?

And what was the best change you’ve ever made?

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