THE STAGES

…and why they matter.

Before we dive into what the stages are, maybe we should start with why it even matters.

Most of us tend to approach losing weight or changing our diet like this:

  • Ugh! Something needs to change.
  • Oh, look at this new diet everyone is raving about. I’ll try that. (Or we decide we’re going to cut out a food group, or run every day, or….)
  • Week 1: This is great – this is going to work!
  • Week 3 (or whatever) – I can’t do this. I’m never going to change.

And you go on to blame yourself, and feel like you’re the failure. Like you just don’t have the willpower.

But what if it’s not about willpower?

Researchers* have identified several stages successful habit-changers progress through. And they learned that most of us skip over Stages 2 and 3. Their research shows that skipping steps is what causes our downfall.

“If [you’re skipping preparation], you are setting your self-change efforts up for failure.”

Changing for Good, Prochaska et al, p. 146

In failing to assess the things that trip us up – mental, emotional, and logistical – we rush to a solution that may not be a good fit, then we’re blindsided by the challenges it brings.

On the other hand, when we understand what the stages are and what’s required in each, we can set ourselves up for quicker and more permanent success.

That’s what this website is all about. Helping you discover the things that have tripped you up in the past and find ways to work around them, so you can see more progress and enjoy it long term!

Below is a quick overview of the five stages. You’ll find more detail about each on their respective pages.

* The research I refer to throughout these pages is the work of three psychology professors and researchers: James Prochaska PHD, John Norcross PHD, and Carlo DeClemente PHD. Their research into helping smokers quit for good opened the door to a process which, they later realized, is helpful in many situations where people are trying to change habits. They identified several stages of change, and in working with real people, discovered that certain tools and exercises are critical at specific parts of the the journey. Their first published book was Changing for Good, published in 1994.

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The Stages

I can't change.

Stage 1: Hopeless to hopeful

If you’re at this stage: You probably feel deeply discouraged and afraid to try again, for fear of another failure. You might feel irritable or defensive when others talk about their diet or lifestyle changes. You may make jokes about your weight or food habits as if it doesn’t bother you. (But it does.)

For more information, visit Stage 1.

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changing my habits is too hard because...

Stage 2: Uncover your stumbling blocks

If you’re at this stage: You feel stuck and you’re sick and tired of it — enough that you’re willing to try one more time. You know you have a problem, but you don’t know how to beat it, or where to focus your effort. Is lack of time the real problem? Your deep love for food? Finding the right diet or meal plan? All the information and all the options feel overwhelming.

For more information, visit Stage 2.

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I'm eager, but I need a plan.

Stage 3: Plan for success

If you’re at this stage: You’ve uncovered the hidden reasons that kept you falling back into old unhealthy patterns. Now you’re ready to make a plan for beating it this time. You might still feel a little ambivalence, but you’re ready to push through that, and you’re planning to take action soon.

For more information, visit Stage 3.

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got my plan - let's go

Stage 4: Go time!

If you’re at this stage: Your work thus far has been mostly behind-the-scenes, but now you’re actively making changes that are visible to others. You’re putting those Stage 3 plans into action! Others are likely to notice and encourage you, fueling your motivation.

For more information, visit Stage 4.

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I will keep going.

Stage 5: Make it last.

If you’re at this stage: You’ve been living your new lifestyle for several months now. You’ve settled into a new normal where sustaining your new habits requires less intentional effort, and has just become the way you live. But this is also a time when you could lose momentum or even relapse, so you’re going to watch out for this and be ready for it.

For more information, visit Stage 5.

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Not sure what stage you’re in?

Take the quiz.