Psychology of behavior change…where are you?

April 8, 2013by TonyaTittle

Here at Energy Fitness a personal training studio located downtown Memphis we trainers often have people “spill their guts to us” on how they intend to change.

Often times in social outings away from my studio I see people who know that I am a trainer and for some odd reason feel like they need to profess their intent for starting an exercise program or how they need to eat healthier.  It’s almost like they feel compelled to confess their eating sins and lack of exercise.  I must admit that this often times catches me off-guard as I am “off-duty” at a party or my kids soccer or baseball practice and not judging people as they might think.  This happened last weekend and to someone that subscribes to my newsletters..YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE 🙂

Here is what I think happens….it’s called the psychology of behavior change and when they see a trainer or nutritionist it sparks their inner self-guiding behaviors and beliefs.  WHERE ARE YOU?

1) Precontemplation – aka: DENIAL STAGE.

People in this stage don’t want to make any change to their habits and don’t recognize that they have a problem. They may be pessimistic about their ability to make change, or even deny the negative effects of their existing lifestyle habits. They selectively filter information that helps confirm their decision not to exercise, or eat better.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to reach, or help people in the precontemplation stage. It may take an emotional trigger, or event of some kind that can snap people out of their denial. It’s highly likely if you are taking the time to read this article, you are not in this stage.

2) Contemplation

During this stage, you are contemplating whether it’s something that will be worth it your investment both mentally, physically and financially. People can remain in this stage for years without preparing to take action.

I think setting very powerful, motivating goals and visualizing your results can be very helpful for someone in the contemplative stage. Will making a change benefit you?  Will the benefits outweigh the costs. We tend to seek pleasure and avoid pain, so the more pleasure you can ascribe to making a change, the more likely you will take action and succeed.  When this applies to fitness and using a personal trainer you really have to know that there will be many days and exercises that will not be fun or comfortable physically.  This is where visualizing goals such as beach body weather, pain free knees and back, better sleep, stress management are the benefits that make it worth the times that are tough.

3) Preparation

People in the preparation stage have decided to change their negative habits within one month. Congratulations if you’re in this category! You may have just set up an appointment with a personal trainer, nutritionist, or other fitness professional, purchased a fitness program, or started a gym membership.

4) Action

The action stage is the process of changing your lifestyle, whether you are exercising more consistently, or eating healthier. Individuals in this stage are at the greatest risk of relapse, so it’s key to leverage any techniques you can to stay motivated.  Write down your activity and eating habits on a calendar or log or use an app to track.

5) Maintenance

This is the stage of successful, sustained lifestyle modification. If you have been exercising for years consistently and have blended positive habits into your lifestyle, then you are in the maintenance stage.

Most people tend to bounce between the contemplation, preparation, and action stages, in other words, most people are “yoyo” dieters and exercisers. I think one way to prevent this yoyo effect from happening is to make small changes in your habits that over time create something meaningful.

In addition, yoyo dieters and exercisers should understand that maintaining physical fitness and changing fitness are two totally different paths that require different approaches. It’s not that difficult to maintain a given level of physical fitness just by remaining consistent (unless you are at a very high level). It’s very difficult, however, to prepare and take action to change your body. Our bodies are resistant to change, so trying to change them takes a MASSIVE effort that requires a substantial commitment, both mental and physical. Once you’ve changed your body, you can coast without losing that fitness level. It’s a lot better to cut back on exercise and maintain what you’ve gained then to stop completely. Stopping exercise should not be an option.

I hope these 5 stages of change are a helpful for you to reference when you are looking to make some type of change in your life.


Not a client and want a Free Fitness or Nutrition Consult (value $87) or

interested in our Personal Training Services click here or call us 901-466-6242.

Check out our customized online training ($40-$80) here:  Online Customized Training

Interested in our Massage or Body Wraps? Click here.

Energy Fitness trainers can help you get a tight and toned body with our 30 minute personal training sessions and our custom meal plans.

reference: and from my graduate studies of stress management and psychology.