Are You Ready to Lose Weight?

This may seem like a strange question but actually it is very relevant. My research has shown that in some cases men will employ a personal trainer with the main aim being to lose weight. However, when I psychometrically tested these men to assess their readiness to change, in some cases they were not ready to change.

You would think that this is counterintuitive as surely someone going to a personal trainer with this goal in mind would be ready to change. Well the assessment proved to be correct because based on the scores from the psychometric tests I was able to predict which men would be successful in their quest to lose weight.

Reasons to Hire a Personal Trainer

It would seem that the men that did not lose weight had other motives either conscious or subconscious, for going to see the personal trainer. It would be interesting to see how many people when told by their doctors that they need to lose weight are actually psychologically ready to engage in this process. My feeling is that a high proportion would not be ready.

So this brings me to my main point and that is that all personal trainers, weight loss counsellors, doctors and anyone else involved in the weight loss industry need to consider the stage of change that a client is in. The stage of change model of Prochaska et al. (1992) was designed for application to addictive behaviours but has also been widely applied to weight management.

Stages of Change Model

The stage of change model forms part of the transtheoretical model (TTM). This is a multi-stage psychological model that makes the assumption that behaviour change is a multi-stage process and the influence of behaviour change will vary according to the stage of change that an individual is currently in. The TTM encompasses a number of theoretical concepts and these include:

  • Decisional Balance
  • Processes of Change
  • Self-efficacy

There are reliable psychometric tests that can be used to measure each of these concepts. My research has used these tests and the theory has stood up well to what actually occurred with men entering a weight management programme.

Initial assessment was used to screen subjects to see if they were in the correct stage of change (preparation/action) and also that they had the correct degree of efficacy and their decisional balance was also congruent with change. Providing the subjects achieved the correct entry scores they were admitted to the program. This program achieved an 86% success rate.

The other very useful aspect of employing psychometric testing was that the subjects could be screened throughout the program. This allowed the trainers to pick up very early on if somebody was becoming demotivated and allowed early intervention. A lot of weight loss programs concentrate on nutrition and/or exercise and activity but very few consider behavioural readiness. These tests are not difficult to administer and provided that you are trained in how to score and then interpret the data they are very useful tools for a weight management program.

Are You Ready for Change?

There are a number of challenges that this does present however. First, what do you do if an individual is not ready to change? In other words how do you move someone to the correct stage of change? This requires some expert psychological input, and is not an easy skill to master. The second challenge is that for weight management to be successful you have to achieve a lifestyle change.

By inference this means you have to establish new habits, for both nutrition and activity. To be able to measure if a program is successful we need to be able to measure whether these new behaviours have become a habit. Verplanken has undertaken a lot of work in this field with some promising results.

I have now produced a one day workshop that looks at how to administer and interpret the psychometric tests as well as considers a number of psychological skills associated with behaviour change. The other aspect that is considered is what should be included in a weight management course as the peer-reviewed literature highlights some clear elements that must be included for a weight management program to be successful. You can find details of this workshop on my website at

Weight Management Programs

Anyone involved with weight management programs should be asking themselves have they assessed the client’s readiness to lose weight. If you haven’t my research would suggest that you may be doomed to fail. If the client is not ready to change psychologically then you are very likely to fail. Certainly as a personal trainer this could be disastrous, as you can guarantee this client will then tell everyone that it was your fault and that you were not that good a trainer. Remember bad news travels fast and is difficult to counter.

Weight management programs should be multi-dimensional and include nutrition education, advice on getting active and exercise and finally psychometric assessment. These three elements should each receive equal attention in order to maximise the chances of success. For more information on any of these topics please visit my website at

Gary Mendoza

My PhD researched a multi-dimensional model for the treatment of obesity. I discovered a technique for screening clients that ensure an 86% success rate. I qualified as a sports nutritionist with Sports Dietitians Australia and have worked with many elite and club level athletes. As well as working one-to-one with clients to achieve weight management I also teach an advanced nutrition and supplementation course and a behavioural change workshop. I currently lecture in nutrition for sport and exercise at Bath Spa and Cardiff Metropolitan Universities.

One thought on “Are You Ready to Lose Weight?

  • January 9, 2013 at 11:59 pm

    I like the article. But according to me personal trainer is required for them who is overweight or having excess fat. But the people who is not so overweight or doesn’t have too much of fat they can do exercise by themselves also.
    I am not saying trainer is not good in fact they are the best as they make you to follow routine. But if you are strong enough to follow the routine you can save money in not hiring trainer.


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