Some habits take more than one “try” to break. The average smoker, for example, attempts to quit seven times before stopping for good. Despite the fact that those early attempts can feel discouraging, they usually contribute more to success, in the end, than most of us give them credit for.

Change Takes Place in Stages

Change research often focuses on alcoholism, and what it takes for people to stop problem drinking for good. As a result of this research, many clinicians now think of change as happening in stages: in the first stage, a person isn’t even thinking about changing. Then that person may progress to considering change as a good option. Getting ready to actually make the change—getting information, thinking about methods, trying different ways of doing things—comes next. Finally, a person is able to break the habit or engage in the new behavior as targeted.

Setbacks Are part of the Process

Thinking of change this way suggests that our efforts, even if at first they don’t succeed, may well be helping to prepare the mind and body for doing something in a completely new and different way. So how might stages of change apply when you’re trying to eat differently?

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