The 5 Stages of a Healthy Diet
Have you ever noticed that what works for some people when they make a change in their life may not work for you? Most people move through five stages of readiness as they change behaviors. Yes, there are actually stages of change, based on something called the "transtheoretical model." If you identify what stage of change you are in and plan appropriately based on that stage, you're more likely to maintain a healthy lifestyle overtime.
Stage #1: Pre-Contemplation
Pre-contemplation is the stage at which there is no intention to change behavior in the foreseeable future. Many individuals in this stage are unaware of their problems. You may not be ready for a change or you may have tried to change your lifestyle in the past, but have not succeeded.
If this is you, now is the time to consider the pros and cons of changing your lifestyle. Write them down and start to evaluate what is keeping you from making a change in your life. Do you see some barriers to change in your list? If you do and you want to make a change, start to think of some ways to overcome your barriers.
Stage #2: Contemplation
Contemplation is the stage in which people are aware that a problem exists and are seriously thinking about overcoming it, but have not yet made a commitment to take action. If you're in this stage, start to find the time in your schedule to plan your meals or plan your behavior change.
- Write down what you're eating in a journal to get an objective picture of what's going on.
- Start slow, get specific, and reward yourself. For example, this week you're going to drink one diet soda per day versus the three in your previous habits. Set small, attainable goals with the bigger picture of where you want to end up in the back of your mind, but not too far back.
Stage #3: Preparation
Preparation is a stage that combines intention and behavioral criteria. Individuals in this stage are intending to take action in the next month and have unsuccessfully taken action in the past year. If this is you, start to think about the following steps that will provide you with the tools you need to develop the best plan of action to achieve your goals:
- Develop Support. Let people know what you are doing and surround yourself with motivating images, people and environments.
- Find time. Take time out of your day and your week to plan your meals. Pick a day or two of the week where you grocery shop, cook, and prepare your meal plan for the week.
- Make change a priority. You're ready to stop making excuses and really start doing. Make a real effort to follow through with your commitment.
- Keep a journal. Monitor your success by writing down what you're eating a few days a week or every day of the week. Write down how you feel, how hungry you are, as well any other emotions you're feeling at your meal times.
- Remember the big picture. There'll be times when you are not completely following through with your plan of action. This is OK. Plan for it. Try to follow through with your plan 80 percent of the time and allow yourself treats or rewards 20 percent of the time. This will create a real sense of balance in your life. When you feel like you are not making progress, remember how far you have come from the moment in time when you were just beginning to think about a change. Just one step in a positive direction is one step closer to your goal.
Stage #4: Action
Action is the stage in which individuals modify their behavior, experiences, or environment in order to overcome their problems. Action involves the most overt behavioral changes and requires considerable commitment of time and energy. If this is you, you have been working on your change for a while. You have changed your environment, are planning your meals, and are a healthier version of your old self.
Make sure to support yourself through thoughts and actions by continuing to think positively about your change and continuing to maintain a healthy environment (good food at home, in the office, in the car, etc.) and behaviors (meal planning, making the healthiest choices possible, and creating a sense of balance).
Stage #5: Maintenance
In this stage, review your new long-term goals, break them down into smaller pieces, and plan for any setbacks that may come along the way. Remember, if you fall off the wagon, just hop right back on at your next meal.
- Maintenance is the stage in which people work to prevent relapse and consolidate the gains attained during action.
- Here you are. You've done it.
- Don't set yourself up for disaster by abandoning the tools you got here.
- Continue to rely on your support system.
- Identify any threats to your long-term success and strategize different ways to combat them.
- Keep your balance by allowing yourself the foods you love.
- Maintain your self-confidence when there are situations where you find it difficult to eat healthy.
- Finally, mentor others through a change. Use what you have learned to help someone else improve his or her life. Then use their success to continue to motivate you.
About The Author
Amanda Carlson-Phillips – Amanda Carlson-Phillips is the vice president of nutrition and research at EXOS. As a registered dietitian, she has provided educational seminars and individual counseling to a variety of professional and elite sports organizations.