change3By Shirley Ley, Certified Canadian Counselor

Success in staying physically fit and eating healthier all starts with how “ready” you are!

Have you ever wondered how some people are able to set exercise and nutrition goals, carry through with them, and achieve them successfully? You may have thought to yourself, “What’s their secret? What do they know that I don’t?”

The truth is, there is no secret.  You may have all of the right information and tools you need to obtain your exercise and nutrition goals. You may have even consulted with a trusted nutritionist or fitness trainer.

But even with the exact prescription for diet and weight loss, I can say with some confidence that you still won’t be able to make those very important lifestyle changes, unless you have one thing  – READINESS.

Said plainly, you may not be ready to make the changes that you need for a healthier you.  If I asked you if you were ready to start exercising or eating healthier your answer won’t be as black and white as “yes I’m ready” or “no I’m not ready”.  In fact, your answer will lie somewhere along a continuum.

And that continuum is what researchers call the stages of change.  To increase your chances of successfully reaching your exercise and nutrition goals, you will need to find out which of the five stages you’re in.  Each stage requires different strategies, tools, and action steps that help you move you closer to your health goals.

Research has shown that people who are successful in reaching their goal of making positive behavioral changes, like adding exercise to their daily routines, cycle through the five stages of change.

Have I piqued your interest? Find out which stage you’re in and what you should do to move yourself to the next stage of change below:

1. Precontemplation

-You have no intention exercising or eating healthier, deny you have a problem with your health, or resist change.

*What to do: Learn more about exercise and eating healthily, think about the pros of changing, and feel the emotions about the effects of unhealthy behaviors.

2. Contemplation

-You start to seriously think about solving your health problems like inactivity or eating unhealthily.

*What to do: Think about the kind of person you would be if you changed your unhealthy lifestyle and learn more from the people who behave in healthy ways.  Reduce the cons of changing your unhealthy habits.

3. Preparation

-You are making plans to change your current lifestyle within the next month.  This stage is extremely important.  People who cut this stage short will lower their chance of successfully achieving their health goals.

*What to do: You’ll need to develop a firm, detailed plan for action to carry you through.  Find support from people that you trust.

4. Action

-You make the move that you’ve been preparing for (eg., start exercising and eating healthily).  This stage requires the commitment of time and energy.  Others might start noticing and complimenting on the gains that you’ve made.

*What to do: Substitute activities relating to unhealthy behavior with positive ones, reward yourself for any positive changes you’ve made, and avoid people or situations that may tempt you to behave in unhealthy ways.

5. Maintenance

-This is where you maintain the gains you’ve made in the action stage to avoid going back to your old routine. This stage is a long and ongoing one. It’s not uncommon for someone to lose many pounds on a diet and exercise plan, only to regain them all in a few months.

*What to do: Seek support from people you trust, spend time with people who behave in healthy ways, and find effective ways of coping rather than turn to unhealthy behavior (eg., forgo your diet plan or skip exercise).

Bottom line is this: You’ll set yourself up for failure if you set up goals for yourself that you’re not ready for.  Similarly, if you choose goals that you’ve already achieved, then you you’ll lose steam and delay your progress.  BUT if you match your goals to your stage of change, then you’ll maximize your chances of successfully reaching your exercise or nutrition goals.

Meet the Author:


Shirley Ley is a Canadian Certified Counsellor, a people enthusiast and an aspiring legacy maker. She thrives off of engaging, meaningful, and life changing conversations and is driven by her passion to enhance positive mental health wellness through one counselling session, one blog, and one workshop at a time.

You can learn more about Shirley and read her blog at:

Reference: Prochaska, J.O., Norcross, J.C., Diclemente, C.C. (1994). Changing for Good. New York: Avon Books.