There are Five (5) Stages of Change when trying to get fit and healthy. Change is a process that develops over time and does not occur in one single event. Individuals can go back and forth between stages. The first stage is called the Precontemplation Stage. The individual is not ready to make any immediate changes (that is, in the next six months). Individuals in this stage may be unaware of, or even denying, the need for a lifestyle change. They can be pessimistic that change is possible either through their efforts or through a proven method. They are likely to filter information so that they can continue to justify their unhealthy lifestyle. For example, smokers who understand the health risks but continue smoking are obvious precontemplaters. Another precontemplater is one I see often at gatherings that involve food (birthday parties, BBQs, holidays, etc.). I will often be asked by someone who has found out through casual conversation that I am a fitness trainer how can he lose his gut (while holding a plate with an overstuffed hamburger, a pile of chips, and a large side of potato salad, with a soda in the other hand). I have learned to only spend a few minutes on this topic, giving basic advice such as watching what we eat and exercising regularly. Within a few minutes, I can already tell who is in the Precontemplation Stage. He usually answers by agreeing quickly to the advice, having been told by the wife, the doctor and the best friend but assures that he will do so as soon as things get less stressful at work. In fact, I have interacted with many in this stage, in different social settings, whether in a business networking meeting, at church or at my daughter’s soccer game. You’ve met them; you may even be at this stage. How do you know? Here are some signs: no plans to join a gym, seeing or hearing information about lowering your cholesterol by eating clean but choosing not to or telling yourself you’ll start on Monday, thinking that the stroke or heart attack that happened to your neighbor won’t happen to you. If you’re in this stage, it’s time to think about what is stopping you from making lifestyle changes or what motivates you to make a change.
CONTEMPLATION is the 2nd Stage of Change in The Five Stages of Change. This is the period in which the person weighs the costs and deliberates what it will take to become healthy and fit. Costs may include time, effort, program effectiveness and finances. They may be considering joining a gym or weight loss program in the near future. Having googled the closest gym and having found out the pricing doesn’t mean this person will take action. In fact, someone can stay in this stage for months or up to years! Although this may seem like a step in the right direction or taking action, it really is not. Why not? Because there is no commitment. He hasn’t actually driven to the gym to see the time it will really take nor has he paid any money to see how it will affect his finances. And most of all there’s no accountability to himself, to a workout partner, or to a trainer.
This can be a frustrating and/or deceiving stage because it is often characterized by uncertainty towards which approach to follow and fluctuation between decisions towards an action then away from it.
I recently met with a former client who expressed to me how he misses the fitness level and weight loss he attained while training with Sommet Fitness. He wants to come back, but it’s been almost a month since we talked. And I know he is not doing any other fitness activity. So what is stopping him from starting or re-starting a fitness program? It could be time, willingness, or any number of factors.
If you are in this stage, it is good to recognize it so that you are not deceived that you are taking action when you aren’t. Remember, finding out information, putting it in your budget and/or schedule are still only contemplation until you actually go do the activity or workout. My challenge to you: Make an appointment at that gym and show up; or at that trail you are thinking of and hike it; or that tennis court you’ve planned to see and swing that racket. You’ll be glad you did.