Prochaska & DiClemente’s (1983) Transtheoretical Model of Change proposes a theoretically rich sequence of stages involved in the process of behavioral change. In laymen’s terms, it’s a model that helps us understand how people make changes in their lives. The model predicts that there are five stages that people typically pass through:
1) Pre-contemplation: You have no intention of making a change, at least in the next six months or so.
2) Contemplation: You’re planning on making a change, sometime within the next six months. (Ready!)
3) Preparation: You’re going to make the change soon, sometime within in the next month. (Set!)
4) Action: You make the change. (Go!)
5) Maintenance: You continue to work on new behaviors and try to guard against relapse.
It’s a model that’s usually used when discussing health behaviors—getting rid of negative behaviors (cigarette smoking, alcohol/drug use) and integrating positive ones (exercising, using sunscreen). I think that we can easily apply this to our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors related to food and our bodies.
-Thinking about addressing your food restriction/obsession/compulsion?
-Willing to love yourself with 10, 20, etc. extra pounds?
-Do you want to give up the idea of dieting?
-Would you like to return food to its natural role (as sustenance) and remove its powers to alternately calm you down and stir up anxiety?
-Are you ready to accept your body the way it is right now?
Where are you?
And, what allows you to prepare for action? In my experience, it’s being fed up (no pun intended) with the alternative—thinking about food/what you’ll eat/your weight uncontrollably, compulsively eating/exercising/weighing yourself, and generally despising your body and yourself.
In a body image workshop I led a couple of years ago, one participant spoke about her self-hatred as a painful, but necessary process. She alluded to the fact that if she were to stop hating herself, she’d let herself go and, consequently, gain weight. The potential illogic of her argument aside, it was clear that in her case, her self-hatred was not as painful as the possibility of gaining some weight. When it does become painful, when it becomes absolutely unbearable, and when you realize that there’s so much more to you than what you eat and what you weigh, you might be ready to move.