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Two psychologists, Prochaka and DiClemente, created a psychological model to describe how we change. Their creation is known as “The Stages of Motivational Readiness for Change Model”. The fitness industry modified the original model to then describe a client’s relationship with exercise. This article will focus on an adaptation of this model that will focus on changing your diet. Before we talk about the different stages of change, let’s first define what eating healthy means.
According to the dietary guidelines for Americans we should eat 5 servings of veggies and 4 servings of fruit a day. Our diet should focus on whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products. In conjunction we should eat lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Overall we should keep our calories within our daily needs and consume low quantities of saturated, trans fats., cholesterol, sodium and sugar. Now with our definition in place, we can map out what changing your diet looks like.
In stage one, you’ve stated a belief you either can’t change or don’t want to change how you eat. Just like with exercise you must ask yourself, “why are you compliant?” Practicing introspection provides insight into how you can change your beliefs and practices. A change in belief is necessary to take action later. Looking inwards is easy to practice and can be done anywhere and anytime. You need to learn about yourself and your diet by asking questions like,
Do I eat until satisfied or until my plate is empty?
What has gotten in the way of eating healthy?
How confident am I in my cooking skills?
If you believe eating healthy requires cooking but you are not a good cook, you may believe cooking skills are preventing you from eating healthy. Perhaps you are young and believe you can eat whatever you want without it affecting you health and that’s why you don’t eat healthy. There are a multitude of reasons as to why you believe you can’t change or believe you don’t need to change. If you aren’t satisfied with the quality of life you are living, start considering a change.
Stage two comes with the realization that you need to change your eating habits and diet. Whatever it was that sparked your realization, you need to gather information and mould a plan that you can follow. HiT stage is known as the gathering stage because you are not quite ready to take action, instead you are gathering recipes, cooking utensils and methods of chopping, prepping and cooking. After you’ve gathered your supplies, you must ask yourself what need to change to enable you to eat healthy? Some things to consider in your plan to eat healthy are time and budget. You need to determine the time you will require to shop, prep and cook your meal and plan your schedule accordingly. If you prefer to skip the cook, you will need to budget the money you will spend on a meal prep service. You will also need a full understanding of how you are currently eating. Logging your meals for a week on free services like, My Fitness Pal, Calorie King or Lose It are going to provide you with objective data. Relying on your memory to recall you snacks and meals is not the most accurate way of tracking your diet. With a food log you can find out information like,
How many servings of fruits and veggies did you eat?
How much water or alcohol did you drink?
How much protein, fats and carbs did you eat and from sources of food did you get them?
And of course, how many calories per day did you eat?
Based on your data, you can write out the small changes you will need to make to reach the recommended nutritional guidelines. Once you are ready to take action, you move on to stage 3 where you will choose one goal to focus on for a few weeks at a time.
In stage 3 you have begun implementing healthier eating habits. While you are not yet reaching the recommended standard of nutrition, you have taken small steps towards it. The changes could be the addition of healthy foods, the substitution of foods, or the elimination of unhealthy foods. Change is not easy, therefore you should expect some imperfect meals and that’s okay. A few suboptimal meals will not mean you failed, nor does it mean that all progress is lost. You cannot expect to be fantastic at something you have not yet acquired the skills for. What will lead to successful change is overall consistency throughout your life. Someone who eats healthy 80% of the time for 85 years will live a higher quality of life than someone you repeats a pattern of dieting and binge eating. Some way that have helped me succeed in increasing my servings of veggies are making smoothies with the pulp included so I can get fiber, serving the side of veggies first on my plate, and eating a veggie or fruit when snacking before I grab any carbs or dessert.
With some compromise, consistency and a kitchen environment that encourages you to stay on track you will reach your goals before you know it.
Stage 4 and 5 are closely related. In stage 4 you are reaching the minimum recommendations of eating healthy for less than 6 months. While in stage 5 you are reaching the recommendations for 6 months or longer. In both stages, you should focus on developing skills to adjust your meal prep and cooking times for when your schedule changes. Secondly, you want to focus on variability in your food. Try all the colors of fruits and veggies so that you continually try new recipes.
Change is not easy, taking small steps makes lifestyle changes attainable and sustainable. The journey to health is a lifetime commitment, therefore trying to change too much in a short time will be overwhelming. Establishing a solid plan for change begins with introspection, involves gathering information, requires implementation through small progressive steps which culminates into consistent health habits. To help you along your journey, check the resource links below. Now go and manifest the life you desire!
My Fitness Pal: https://apps.apple.com/us/app/myfitnesspal/id341232718
What is a serving?: