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Getting ready to make lifestyle changes


You need to be motivated to make lifestyle changes. It's a key part of being ready to make changes. You may be getting ready to:

  • Set goals for a healthier lifestyle
  • Start a supervised weight-loss program
  • Have weight-loss surgery

For most people, a change in behavior occurs over time. There are 5 stages of change:

Stage of Change

What You May Think, Do, or Feel


(before you are thinking about making a change)

  • May not even be thinking about making a change
  • May feel resigned to your situation
  • May feel like you have no control over it
  • May have tried so many times to make a change that you have given up


(thinking about making a change)

  • Not sure about making a change
  • Thinking about the pros and cons of making a change
  • May feel a sense of loss even if you know you are making a change that would be good for you
  • May be searching for reasons for making a change


(getting ready to change)

  • May experiment with small changes
  • May try different plans until you find one that works
  • May question whether plans are realistic
  • May involve others to provide support


(making the change)

  • May feel eager to reach this stage
  • Doing what it takes to make a change
  • May not be able to sustain change, especially if prior steps have been glossed over

Maintenance and Relapse

(sustaining the change and possibly reverting back to old behaviors)

  • Maintain a new behavior over time
  • May slip up and feel like you have failed, or want to give up
  • May have to go back to an earlier stage

Tips for behavior change

All the stages of change are important. You can learn from each stage. You can go from "not thinking about it" to "thinking about the pros and cons". Then you go to "making small changes and figuring out how to deal with the hard parts" to "doing it" to "making it part of your life." Many people get off track and go through the stages of change several times before change really lasts.

Make the behavior change a part of your life for the long haul. Think about what you will do if you slip up. Know that it takes time to make and maintain a change in your lifestyle.

Try these tips:

Getting started

  • Focus on making one change at a time.
  • Pick a behavior you are strongly motivated to change.

Setting goals

  • Set a specific, realistic goal.
  • Set a goal that you can start on now.
  • You are likely to have more success if you can measure your goal and record your progress toward it (like drinking less soda, losing weight, or getting more sleep).

Staying motivated

  • Write and sign a contract for behavior change.
  • Make a list of your reasons for making a change and post it where you'll see it often.
  • Add new cues to your environment to trigger your new behavior. For example, prepare healthy snacks ahead of time.
  • Break your behavior chains. Make a change! Start by breaking one behavior that interferes with your goal. For example, if you always eat in front of the TV, eat only in your kitchen.
  • Talk to yourself in a positive manner. Tell yourself you can make the change.
  • Reward yourself for your successes.


  • Build up a network of people who will support you.
  • Avoid people and situations that do not support your new behavior. They can get you off track and sabotage your good intentions.
  • Try new activities rather than indulge bad habits with people who may not be able to help you change your behavior.

Prepare for relapse. If you can maintain a change for at least 6 months, your chances for lifetime success are greatly increased. Relapse is common -- the best thing you can do is renew your commitment to change and stay motivated.

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Review Date: 1/30/2018

Reviewed By: John E. Meilahn, MD, Bariatric Surgery, Chestnut Hill Surgical Associates, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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