This cycle explains how behaviour change works to spark you into eating healthier
Healthy eating can be easy to achieve short-term, but making changes last long-term can be a tricky part of the process. With the failures of restrictive fad diets being well known, evidently, the smart way to changing your eating is by taking a more gradual approach. The science behind such long-term behaviour changes has been well studied and being aware of the behaviour change process might just help you become unstuck. taking you to the next stage of change is critical in moving through the cycle. We have written this article to help you understand what you need to do to find the spark to get started on healthy eating and where to look for the right support to see those changes last, long-term.
Making a decision to change your eating habits can be challenging, but it is important to recognise that all people who do this go through a cycle of action and inaction when it comes to behaviour change. It can be helpful to refer to the 'Cycle of Change', a model of behaviour change first devised by Prochaska and DiClemente in 1984. Knowing where you currently sit in the cycle is important to managing your chronic disease in a positive way. Leading you to lasting change is the only long-term way to move your health forward.
In their model, they describe that we start off not thinking about any change at all ('Pre Contemplation'), but then at some point in our lives, our health circumstances may change. This may create a need to change our lifestyle behaviours of concern. At this point in the cycle, we may still be undecided about actually changing the behaviours of concern ('Contemplation'). It is helpful to talk about the pros and cons of changing in the context of our health versus our entire life circumstances. Doing this may get you closer to agreeing that there may be a need for change. Your GP, practice nurse, or any allied health professional will have the skills to get you to this part of the cycle of change. When this occurs, you will advance to the stage in the cycle called 'Preparation'
'Preparation' is the part of the cycle when lifestyle changes that are required can be learned, considered, negotiated and planned for. When we arrive at this stage of change, we can start to plan, set goals and strategise your dietary choices. This means getting educated on nutrition, improving our cooking skills and changing unfavourable habits and behaviours that are upsetting your health. This is where we come in with most value. Together we can partner up to be dietary change makers in the Preparation, Action and Maintenance stages of your health. We use our dietetic skills to assess your usual eating, pick out the areas of need for improvement, negotiate changes and provide ~3 key strategies for you to focus on. Your job is to prepare your life for those changes and put them into action. The strategies we set will be negotiated to be life-long. If you don't believe you can maintain a new dietary behaviour for 3 years, then we won't recommend the strategy at all. It's a two-way conversation so that when we decide on dietary changes together, you are happy to commit to them long-term. The end result will be sustainable, life-long, healthy eating skills that suit your home life, your social life, your taste buds and your health.
Maintaining the initial change to your diet is critical. We offer follow-up consultations to keep you moving forward into the 'maintenance' stage of the cycle. With good support, you will be moving towards 'lasting change' within 1-2 years.
Behaviours of concern can be set-up over many years of habit and can be stubborn to change. Relapses do occur, and understanding these are a normal part of the behaviour-change cycle is important. When relapses occur, this is when our health can go off track from our goals. It is critical that you have a plan to monitor your health measures with your GP and their practice nurse. This will mean you are engaged with your chronic disease management plan and this allows you to re-engage with the reasons you started making lifestyle changes in the first place. You are then able to prepare for another shot at putting your knowledge into action to change those behaviours of concern and aim for lasting change this time around.