Steps to Behavior Change

How are you doing on your goals so far? No doubt there is a change you have been trying to make, whether that’s with your health and nutrition or not. At the beginning of the year there is huge motivation to start fresh and new and begin being a better you. Sometimes that motivation can wear off after a good few weeks and our focus can be blurred. So let’s keep it going!

Picture Cred: Stefan Cosma uploaded from Unsplash

I wanted to share with you the steps of behavior change. It’s important to know what’s normal and where you might be in the process of a change you are wanting to make.

Stages of Change
  1. Precontemplation
    • At this stage a person has no intention of changing in the next 6 months and can resist any efforts to modify the certain behavior.
    • This can be because of lack of awareness, denial, unwillingness to change, or feeling hopeless after attempting to change.
  2. Contemplation
    • Recognize the need for change but are in between, weighing the reasons to change and the reasons not to change.
    • There are “perceived” barriers. For example with a diet change: the food won’t taste good, too expensive, too much time, etc.
    • People can be stuck in this stage for years. I know I was.
  3. Preparation
    • You believe the advantages outweigh any disadvantages or the perceived disadvantages and are committed to take action in the near future (within a month).
    • Start to inquire and plan. For health reasons, they might start too look at diet plans, talk with a nutritionist, try new foods, start a walk program, etc.
  4. Action
    • This is when you have altered your behavior for 1 day – 6 months and plan to continue to work at it.
    • This is the most common time for any relapse to happen, and even more so between the 3 months – 6 months part of the action stage.
  5. Maintenance
    • You have been engaging in the new behavior for over 6 months.
    • At this stage, it might be the hardest. You think you’ve made it, but now is the time to reflect on the benefits of your behavior change, work actively to modify your choices and environment to maintain the new behavior and to prevent relapse.
Can You Be At Different Stages?

You can be at different stages with different behaviors. For example, someone could have already cut out sugar in their drinks a long time ago. They would be in the maintenance stage for that behavior. Eating a nutrient dense diet might be something they have been doing for a few months, so they are in the action stage for that. However, exercising is not part of their lifestyle and they might know the benefits, but have no motivation to change because of the “perceived” barrier of it being too much time. For that behavior of having exercise as part of their routine, they would be at the contemplation stage.

Photo by Christian Chen on Unsplash
What About Relapses and Going Back A Stage or Two?

Although the stages are in a list, it doesn’t mean that it’s not common to go backward. It’s normal for people to go back one or a few stages, or even relapsing and starting the process over again. You have to have a realistic approach when it comes to your goals. No one is perfect and each person has their own triggers, barriers, and complications when it comes to change. Just because you might have started a healthy diet at the beginning of the year, but now have become less focused on it, doesn’t mean you can’t pick it back up. Or just because you had a good exercise routine, but then got sick and since then haven’t gotten back to it, doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Plan for lapses and relapses. It’s how we learn and how we can better define our goals.

What The Difference Between A Lapse and A Relapse?
  1. Lapse: | Something that happens momentarily or for a day. For instance, if you were trying to change the behavior of not drinking soda during the week and you found yourself stressed at work and tired. You reached for the soda and now feel like you’ve completely undid everything you’ve been trying to do, so why keep trying?
    • This is a lapse. A one-day, one-moment situation that you might not have been perfect or reached the goal you had for that DAY. You did not fail. You can recover easily from a lapse, and more importantly, take time to see why you lapsed. Was it because it was there? Was it because of the people you were around? Were you stressed? After seeing the reasons why you might have lapsed, you can plan for the situation the next time around.
  2. Relapse | A relapse is when you have completely abandoned the new behavior and went back to stage one, precontemplation. Say you didn’t pick yourself back up from your lapse and felt why continue on your behavior change and started having sodas everyday again. That would be a complete relapse. Going back to the beginning.
    • This can and does happen with a lot of things. But again, just like a lapse, it’s something to learn from. You learn more about yourself and how to be more realistic with your goals and knowing you might need something extra, like support from others, the next time around.

Either one, a lapse or a relapse, does not mean you’ve failed. It does not mean you will never be able to reach your goal. It’s part of the behavior change process and it’s something to learn from.

Photo Cred: S O C I A L . C U T uploaded from Unsplash
Where Are You?

Where are you in your goals for this year? I’d love to hear from you! If there is something you are struggling with, a stage you can’t get past, or needing encouragement to keep going, please email me at or go to my Contact Page.


Author: Amanda Arroyo

My name is Amanda Arroyo. I am a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, certified by AFPA. I am here for you to be your support, accountability and guide to help you find your own personal healthy, or how I like to say you own "Different Beet".

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