The Cycle of Change – no, sadly, it’s nothing to do with getting a new bike!
The Cycle of Change model shows the various psychological stages that are involved with making a change in our lives. The model is often used within social care services, and commonly referred to in drug and alcohol services, because it helps workers to be more effective as they will have a greater understanding of where their clients are in the cycle.
Let’s look at the stages:
In Pre-Contemplation, we’re not even thinking about the need to change. We don’t even see that there’s a problem. We haven’t heard any logical reasoning that makes us think about the possibility of change.
In Contemplation, we know there is an issue, but we’re in two minds about what to do about it. Sometimes we think about what we might like to do about it.
In Action, we are actually planning for change. When we make the decision to do it, we feel very positive and excited about our commitment.
In Maintenance, we have made some lifestyle changes that support the change we want to achieve, but may still need some support. In the Maintenance stage, we gradually learn how to create a Lasting Change. When we fully achieve maintenance, we break free of the cycle completely.
Lapse is when we briefly slip into old, unhelpful ways of thinking, feeling or behaving.
Relapse is when it all seems to fall apart and all the bad habits return. It feels like going back to square one.
A few key things to point out.
In terms of how we can apply this to our weight loss efforts, it’s valuable for a number of reasons.
- This is a cycle, so people who lapse, and even relapse, can and will return to the Contemplation stage.
- It can help us to avoid catastrophic thinking if we do have a little slip and binge out on something we might later regret. The worst reaction is to think you’ve “blown it”, and use that as an excuse to continue over eating. We must take the long view and see little blips as just that, little blips along the way.
- It’s important to realise that the more times we go around this cycle, the greater our chances of successfully exiting into long term maintenance. So even if you do fall off the wagon completely, you’re more likely to succeed next time as a result.
- If you’re trying to convince someone you know to join you, consider where they are on the cycle, and adapt your approach.
- You’ve just signed up to this course – which stage of the Cycle of Change do you think you are in?
- Nobody knows you better than you know yourself, and we all have weaknesses (mine is chocolate).
What do you think you need to do, to minimise your chances of a lapse?
(We’ll cover some practical tips for dealing with this later in the course.)