Healthy changes

Five stages of change

  • By
  • | 6:49 a.m. January 19, 2011
  • Winter Park - Maitland Observer
  • Opinion
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Have you made a New Year’s resolutions for a healthy change? Are you ready for the change you want? Change happens in five stages, with no short cuts.

The first is when you are not thinking of making a change. For example, you know smoking is not good for you and your spouse wants you to quit, but you are not ready to think about quitting.

In the next stage, you start to think, “Hey, maybe I should make some changes.” Lots of self-talk later, you start the planning phase — looking at diet plans or quit-smoking methods, mapping out the Winter Park and Maitland walking trails, buying good walking shoes from Track Shack, and talking with friends and family about how you may make a change.

The next step is action, making the changes. You throw away your last cigarettes (and don’t scrounge around looking for more), you start taking advantage of Central Florida’s great winter weather and start to walk every evening, or you enroll in a weight loss program. But the real challenge then is sticking to it long enough to reap the benefits. Many people start “healthy eating plans” Monday morning only to stop by dinner. If you are prepared, you can get through that first day and first week and keep going. The final step, maintenance, is sticking to the change, making it a permanent part of your life.

So you see, it is not as easy as “just do it”. We all work through these stages on our way to making the changes we want. We too often jump straight to “action”, without going through the stages to prepare ourselves. If you’ve seen the crowds at the gym in early January, you’ve witnessed people with great intentions who jumped to “action” for change before they were ready and committed.

So, if you are thinking of making a change, congratulate yourself for taking that step — you are already on step two! Write down exactly what you plan to do (example: walk two loops — 1 mile — around Maitland Community Park on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 6 p.m.). Think of the reasons you (and only you, not someone else) want that change. Think of why you don’t want that change. Almost everyone has mixed feelings (who wants to give up food you enjoy?) Write down your reasons. Write down what will help. Write down what might be a roadblock and then write down how you will get around that barrier. Then decide if you are ready to go forward.

Once you have resolved your ambivalence, you are likely to succeed in your efforts. Ask friends and family for support. Consider having a health coach to help you stay the course. Each step through the stages of change will get you closer to the change you want for yourself. You can do it, you will do it, and you will feel great.

Nancy Rudner is a Maitland resident and President of Health Action, which stands for employee health improvement. Contact her at [email protected] or visit


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