It’s no secret that obesity has become a big problem in America and beyond.

Every year, governments release statistics showing us that we are getting fatter and fatter.

The nightly news alerts us to the perils of obesity.

And it may be even worse for our kids.

So, What Do We Do?

Well, that’s the million dollar question, isn’t it?

We all know what we should do.

Eat less and move more.

But knowing that and doing it are two different things.

How do we motivate people to actually do the things they need to do to lose weight, keep it off and live a healthy life?

The Current Approach

At the present time, we are still treating this problem as if there is a lack of information.

We run public service ads in an attempt to counteract ‘junk food’ brainwashing with healthy lifestyle brainwashing.

Politicians say the right words.

Governments are forcing restaurants to include calorie counts on their menus.

They have even gone a step further.

In Los Angeles, city council has banned any new fast food restaurants from opening in a low income area of the city.


But, will this work?

Maybe.

Maybe not.

Here’s Why

Prochaska and DiClemente‘s Trans-Theoretical Model of Change (TTM) explains why people succeed or fail at changing their behavior.

By identifying the five stages that people move through in their attempt to correct a variety of problem behaviors, psychologists are able to identify why some people can make successful lifestyle changes while others get stuck in self-destructive behavior patterns.

The five stages of change are:

  1. Pre-Contemplation
  2. Contemplation
  3. Preparation
  4. Action
  5. Maintenance
  • Pre-contemplation is the state of ‘no change’. You have no intention to change your behavior. In fact, at this stage, you may be completely unaware of any problem. According to Prochaska, Pre-contemplators are “often characterized as resistant or unmotivated and tend to avoid information, discussion, or thought with regard to the targeted health behavior”.
  • Contemplation is the stage in which you become aware that there is a problem, and you are seriously thinking about overcoming it, but have not yet made a commitment to take action. Contemplators are more aware of the benefits of changing, but remain keenly aware of the costs. As well, they are often seen as ambivalent to change or as procrastinators.”
  • Preparation is the stage in which you are either intending to take action in the next 30 days or resume the actions that you had already begun, but had recently abandoned. This is the most common stage of the yo-yo dieter and exerciser. Psychologists view this as a transition stage.
  • Action is the stage in which you have made changes to your behavior, experiences or environment in order to overcome their problems. The Action stage involves overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and effort. After 6 months in the Action stage, you get to graduate to the Maintenance Stage.
  • Maintenance is the stage in which you work to prevent relapse and hold on to the gains you achieved in the Action stage. This stage is indefinite, unless you fall off the wagon, and have to start over at the Preparation stage. According to Prochaska, Maintainers “report the highest levels of self-efficacy and are less frequently tempted to relapse”.

Conclusion

If we assume that most overweight people are stuck between the Contemplation and Action stages of change, what we really needs are techniques that can help people move from thinking and obsessing about their weight to actually doing something about it.

Tips that have worked for you or for someone you know.

I have my own bag of tricks that I use with my clients, but I would love to hear what has worked for you

Please leave your stories of success in the comment section below.

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