Behaviour Change For Weight Loss

Weight Loss, Fat Loss

Are You Ready To Change?

How to lose weight is typed into google on average 40,000 times per month. It is a huge topic and one that is constantly in the media. Very little of the media concentrates on the psychologial challenges people face when trying to lose weight and ironically this is where many people struggle. There are a huge amounts of eating and exercise and nutritional plans available out there, some work and some don’t, but this is not what this blog post is about. Instead I will describe a psychological model to weight loss that is gaining a lot of momentum among health and fitness professionals who take their profession seriously. This blog post will be of serious use to you if you are considering losing weight or have already started but are struggling.

The Transtheoretical Model Stages of Change (TTM) is a psychological model of behaviour change that was initially used (successfully) with helping people to stop smoking. It also has interesting potential to help people to start off a healthy weight loss program and most interestingly, maintain it. There are 5 related but distinct stages to the model – Precontemplation, Contemplation, Preparation, Action and Maintenance. I will now describe these in more detail and hopefully you will be able to see exactly where you fall within the model as well as identifying techniques that will help you move from one stage to another. If you want to bring exercise and healthy eating behaviours into your life on a permanent basis, then this blog post can help you do just that.

Precontemplation For Weight Loss

Precontemplation is the stage in which a person has no desire to change behaviour in the foreseeable future (6 months). They might be resistant to change, or they might not even think about the behaviour at all. Some may fear failure, for example not being able to stick to a healthy eating plan and some individuals just lack information. For example, some older adults still believe that exercise is not good for a variety of health conditions and that exercise behavior should decline with age. Still others are overwhelmed by barriers to exercising, such as obesity, diminished vision, limited mobility, or lack of time to prepare healthy meals. The Obesity rate is still rising in the UK and clearly needs much more government intervention in order to help people move onto the next stage in the model. The government could achieve far more by working at an emotional level to solve obesity in the UK to make the public aware the seriousness of being obese. Not many people know for example that more and more research is identifying obesity as a direct causal risk for several cancers. All this information is out there on the world wide web, but people in this stage will not be searching for it. Another example could be to a national advertising campaign explaining the fact that nearly 80 percent of obese 10- to 14-year-olds with an obese parent will be obese as adults. This is bad news are these young adults will be at risk for all those horrible obesity related diseases from only 18 years of age.  The country is literally at tipping point with the obesity crisis and the fact that it now costs the UK tax payer 6 BILLION pounds per year to treat is shocking. Imagine how many schools and hospitals we could build with that money. This stage is a very tough one to ‘crack’ for the health and fitness professional and if we are going to solve the obesity crisis in the UK, the government will need to take drastic action to convince those who fall into this group to move onto the next stage – Contemplation.

Contemplation For Weight Loss

This is a fascinating stage and where many people find themselves. Here a person is considering about making a behaviour change to lose weight in the next 6 months. In laymen’s terms they have got their head out the sand from precontemplation and may be open to infomation about the benefits of the new behaviour and how they can effect change successfully. People in this stage might not want to change immediately but they are giving serious thought about it in the near future. If this is a stage that you think you are in now, try to get into the company of those who do regular exercise. These people can act as inspiration and help remove any fears you might have. If you know of a loved one or friend in this stage, try to constantly remind them that losing weight will only enhance their life. Informing them of a free exercise class at a local village hall or treating them to a personal training session might be all it takes to move them forward. It can be easy to get stuck in this stage, essentially, people in this stage just need a ‘nudge’ in the right direction to get to the all important next stage – Preparation.

Preparation For Weight Loss

Preparation is the stage when people are actively planning to make a change within the next month. People may take small steps toward change, such as signing up for an exercise class, buying a pair of running shoes, purchasing a healthy eating book and maybe even contacting a personal trainer! This is the stage where many of my existing clients picked up the phone and called me for more information about my personal training and ultimately booked a taster session. The key to this stage is to actually follow up the behaviour change. For example it is no good signing up to an exercise and cancelling the day before. I can not stress enough the importance of doing the ‘right’ behaviour at this stage as this can have huge implications over a persons weight loss down the line. For example I have many clients start personal training with me who initially signed up to exercise classes that were not suitable for their current fitness level. The classic Bootcamp “lose a stone fast” can seem like an attractive option. However many of these exercises at Bootcamps are just not suitable for the obese individual. I find many clients who start with me have tried these over-hyped ‘fast solutions’ and due to not being able to do the exercises dropped out from exercise in only a couple of weeks due to injuries and lack of support. Even worse, this has actually made them slip back down the model to the early stages and that has actually resulted in more weight gain! Try not to get sucked into the latest fad exercise class and if in doubt always start slowly. I can promise you there is no quick fix to weight loss. Just planning to go for a 20 minute brisk walk will serve you better than any bootcamp in the long run. This is why it is a good idea to start with a personal trainer, even if you can only budget for one session. A good personal trainer will ensure you start at the right level for your fitness level, we can even write you a program that you can do on your own. A person shows up to an exercise class, goes for a run in those new trainers, make a new healthy meal or arrives at my studio for a taster session have just jumped into the all important – Action stage.

Action For Weight Loss

At this stage a person has made a change and been engaging in the new behavior for less than 6 months. This stage requires commitment and energy for an individual to establish a new behavior and make it work. People are looking for reinforcement for their achievement and encouragement from others as they work on establishing a new habit. As a personal trainer we can give achievment reinforcement for example through identifying success using fitness tests as well as simply taking measurements of our clients identifying positive changes in body shape. If you have chosen to exercise by yourself or even joined an exercise class it is difficult to get reinforcement to the level a personal trainer can bring. However, family and friends can really help here. Telling people you respect them for their new behaviour and how great they look can go a long way to preventing someone slipping back to earlier stages in the model. In an ideal world we want all those who take action to move to the final stage – Maintenance.

Maintenance For Weight Loss

If a person has been doing the positive healthy behaviour for over 6 months they are now officially in the Maintenance stage. The challenge of this stage is in sustaining a habit and overcoming all the barriers that can cause relapse. For example, in the past I have run outdoor fitness classes in various parks around Bedfordshire. In the summer the numbers would be great, often over 15 people. However as the winter months came the numbers drastically declined due to many not liking to train in the wet and cold. There is nothing wrong with this and if this sounds like you ensure you have a plan in place for the winter months. Some of my personal training clients train outside with me in the spring and summer and then in late autumn and winter I typically take their workouts inside to my private studio. This ensures they exercise all year round and that minimises the chance they will slip back into earlier stages of the model. Getting to this stage can be the simple fact that a person still has more weight to lose, a good method to ensure you continue to exercise beyond the 6 month barrier (and hence enter a behavioural maintenance mode) is to mix up your sessions to keep your mind stimulated and focus on the end goal – you are not there yet! A personal trainer is worth every penny at this point as we have the ability to mix up your workouts and set a person fitness challenges to ensure they progress their weight loss far beyond 6 months and ideally make fitness a part of their life forever.


Identifying where you are (or someone you know) can be a huge step in losing weight and to keep demonstrating the positive behaviour that keeps those pounds falling off. The real genius of this model is actually in how it can be used by friends and family (and fitness professionals) to help ‘nudge’ people in the right direction. If a person is talking about losing weight, see that as an opportunity to take help them to the next stage. Losing weight is all about doing positive weight loss behaviour week in week out. Mixing up your workouts, being with people who are ‘into’ health and fitness (stay away from negative influences) can all be subtle ways of ensuring you keep taking ‘Action’ and eventually get to ‘Maintenance’. I hope this blog post has been of help to you and maybe you can take some of it to help your family and friends. Should you need that ‘nudge’ in the right direction I can certainly help at my private studio just outside Bedford and I also offer home personal training visits. I offer a great value ‘Taster Sesssion‘ where you can experience  personal training with me and I also include a comprehensive, easy to follow nutritional plan that you can take home with you. Whether you want me to write you a program you can do on your own after the taster session or want to book regular sessions, I have the service that will help you lose weight.