What is recovery?

Stages of Change

When we decide to change something in our lives, the change doesn’t usually happen right away. Most people go through a few different stages as they get more and more ready to make that change and stick to it.

It is the same when a person decides to do something about an eating disorder. Some people who are struggling with their eating are more ready to make changes than others are. If you know something about the different stages of change, it will help you understand why some people with eating disorders find it hard to seek help. But, even if someone is not ready to make changes, they may still need to be in treatment (especially if there are severe medical complications or safety concerns). A mental health professional considers many factors when assessing someone for eating disorders and recommending treatment. One of those factors may be the person’s stage of change.

“This path is a journey, a progression, and like climbing to any peak and back down the other side, there are ups and downs. A peak may be high, or a valley low, however the path always moves forward.” ~Melanie

There are 5 main stages that you usually go through when you change something in your life.

Pre-Contemplation In this stage you:

  • are not ready to change because you don’t yet see any reason to
  • are not interested in hearing about treatment or getting help
  • do not realize you have a problem, or you are not willing to admit it
  • deny there is anything wrong even when your family, friends and care providers say they are concerned

Contemplation In this stage, you:

  • realize something is wrong or you are ready to admit it
  • start thinking about making a change, but you are not yet ready to take action
  • may start to learn about different treatments, but you are not yet ready to get help

Preparation In this stage, you:

  • decide that you are going to make a change
  • take small steps to prepare for that change
  • may look for support from your friends or family members
  • might talk to a professional about going into therapy or entering a treatment program
  • may change your environment or the people you interact with if it will increase your chances of succeeding

Action In this stage, you:

  • are ready to make the changes needed to get better
  • get treatment for your eating disorder
  • work to get rid of harmful thoughts or behaviours
  • learn ways and strategies to help you cope
  • make progress towards a healthier and happier lifestyle

These changes can be hard to make, and even harder to stick with. It is normal for slips and relapses to happen. Action is only the beginning of the change process.

Maintenance In this stage, you:

  • make sure your progress continues, and that the changes are part of your day-to-day life
  • stick to your treatment
  • avoid situations which might cause you to slip
  • make a plan for coping when you are tempted to go back to old eating disorder behaviours
  • reward yourself for your hard work, and celebrate your success!

Resource List

  • Understanding Stages of Change in the Recovery Process ( English )
Finding Help: Where can I find help? Get Involved: How do I help others?

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