There are many reasons you might want to make changes to your diet. You might want to overcome a health problem, improve body composition or just increase the amount of nutrients you're eating each day. Figuring out where to start can often be a stumbling block. Should you do a complete kitchen overhaul and wipeout the pantry? Should you swear off fast food and cook every meal?
Before overwhelming yourself with too many questions, you first need to determine where you are in order to know what you need to do next. Determining your readiness for change can help you determine your path.
I like what I eat. I don't want to change.
Sometimes we know that making changes to our diet, like eating sufficient fiber everyday, might be something that's good for us. You might want to lose weight or change your physique in some other way, but you don't really want to make the changes to your diet that will help you to reach your goal. If this sounds like you, you’re in the “pre-contemplation” stage, which just means that you’re not yet ready to make changes in your eating.
What you should do Jumping into changes right now is probably not the best idea. Rather, focus on getting your mind used to the idea of making a change first. Likewise, to get better prepared, consider educating yourself about food, the role nutrients play in your body or what changes might help get you closer to your goal.
If you find yourself giving some serious thought to making diet changes, but you haven’t pulled the trigger, you’re in the “contemplation” stage. In this stage you see the value in the change, but you may not know how to go about implementing it.
What you should do Start by identifying anything that might be standing in the way of you implementing diet changes. Write down these limiting factors and, for each obstacle, list a solution. Set a goal for yourself on how you will overcome each item listed. Perhaps you want to include protein smoothies, but don't own a blender or you want to eat more homemade meals, but don't think you have the time. A solution might be to cook and freeze meals or set your slow cooker before work. Remember to be specific with your solutions.
I'm ready for diet change. Let's do this!
Finding solutions to your limiting factors is a good sign that you are ready to move forward with your diet changes. In the “preparation” stage, you know what you need to do to make changes and you're ready to put a plan in place to make it happen!
What you should do Having a detailed plan will help you stay focused when you’re preparing for diet changes. Start by identifying the dietary habits that you want to adopt. For each habit decide if it is realistic or if it needs to be broken down into a smaller habit. Remember, doing a diet overhaul is not a good place to start. Instead, focus on just one or two small, but powerful habits to implement at a time.
Write down your plan, noting what action you will take each day. If you want to increase the protein in your diet, you might start by identifying a protein to include each day at breakfast. Perhaps you'll eat yogurt, eggs, cheese or a protein shake? Remember to be specific!
Making changes to your diet can be challenging, but it is most certainly doable. Give yourself time to adopt each new habit and always congratulate yourself for any improvement you make, no matter how small. Regardless of which stage you are starting at, there's always a way to take it to the next level.
Rather than rushing into something that will overwhelm you, figure out where you are right now and put yourself on a path to success, moving through each phase as you're ready. By allowing yourself the time and patience that big changes need, you'll be healthier, more fit and ultimately with changes that last.