There are 7 stages of weight control which include the unmotivated stage, the concerned but disengaged stage, the contemplation stage, as well as the novice, intermediate, mastery and expert stages.
In the unmotivated stage, the person does not recognize their weight problem, or thinks it is unimportant and not worth worrying about.
From here one may move to a stage of being concerned but disengaged, realizing there's a problem, but not ready to think about it.
As one begins to sense the importance of weight control one enters a contemplation stage, beginning to think more seriously about whether or not to attempt better weight control. During this stage, as they find more reasons to make the effort, and less reasons not to, the person gradually becomes more sure of their intention and closer and closer to implementing an action plan. As their analysis of the pros and cons shifts more to the positive and as the expectation of success increases, a decision is firmly made and the person moves from contemplation into action.
Once moving into the action stage there is a long period of "apprenticeship" in which one acquires the needed skills and knowledge. In the early "novice stage", the person benefits from a clear structure and feedback. After 3 - 6 months of consistently practicing new eating and exercise behaviour the individual should have reached the "intermediate stage", with stable habits and greater flexibility. At this stage the person is quite confident about weight control and not disturbed by situational variations in behaviour. Thus, if one eats more or less "nutritious" food on some occasion, there is still a sense of moderation and therefore no fear, frustration or guilt, but instead a feeling of satisfaction and resilient confidence.
Eventually, with enough practice and experience one may attain the "mastery stage," where the new habits are fully automatic and second-nature. From this stage there is still room for development, to the "expert stage." The expert can develop their own new ideas and can even teach others. Thus, the expert of weight control has both mastered his or her own weight, and can help others do the same. Many experts in weight control have overcome their own weight issue.
Effective treatment can benefit from a knowledge and understanding of the stages. Different treatment strategies are appropriate for different stages. If the goal is to create "weight control experts" then treatment must go far beyond diets and exercise plans; there is need for a deeper analysis of motivation, skills, strategies and attitudes.
The 7 stages of weight control provide a map of the weight control process. The higher one climbs in the stages the better the long-term prospects., but it's important to remember that one cannot become an expert without first being a novice, then intermediate and master.
Stephen Stotland, Ph.D.
This blog presents some of our ideas about the key issues involved in achieving successful long-term weight control.