The Secret to This Journey Is One Step At a Time
Change is a learning process, not unlike mastering reading. You may remember developing your own reading skills, or maybe you’ve watched a child enjoy their increasing proficiency as they moved from one grade to another.
Generally, the student starts with learning the alphabet, reciting all the letters from A to Z. Then the child is taught the sound each letter makes. From there, he or she can start sounding out or recognizing simple words.
The child advances from kindergarten picture books to Shakespeare, but the process takes time, patience, and motivation. Certainly some ultra-gifted students can read difficult literature right after learning their ABC’s, but the vast majority of us can’t. We need to learn one step at a time.
Just as you became skilled at reading, you can master an eating plan that supports your health and a trim figure. Understanding and moving through five successive actions will get your food choices exactly where you want them to be.
These actions, also called stages of change, are precontemplation, contemplation, preparation/planning, action, and maintenance. Here’s an explanation of each and how to move forward through each step.
Precontemplation. At this stage, you are not even aware you have a problem. Or you simply don’t care. You scarf down fast food, processed meat, chips, white bread, soda, cheese, and other fattening health-killers while in denial of the consequences.
In order to move to the next step, you need to recognize and care that you have a problem. You can do this by educating yourself on the devastating health consequences of poor food choices and obesity. An easy, no-cost place to start is the blog collection at perfectformuladiet.com.
You can also write down the reasons you want to be healthy and slim, thinking about all the people and pets you care about and who care about you. Consider the example you are setting for any children in your life.
Contemplation. You now acknowledge and care that you have a problem, and part of you wants to fix it. You’re ambivalent though. Part of you still argues against any change. Breaking old habits may seem difficult and not worth the effort.
To move forward, you must master your own ambivalence. This is truly the most difficult stage. No one else can do this for you, although talking about your feelings with a trusted friend, counselor, or spiritual advisor may help.
Write down the reasons to change and the barriers that are holding you back. What you are likely to notice is that the pain of change is short-term while the rewards come later and last the rest of your life. Think about other challenges you have mastered and how good you felt after. Build your confidence that you can achieve healthier eating habits. Past failure was simply a chance to see what
did not work. You can find out what does.
Preparation/planning. Preparation does not have to take a long time, but it does need to be thoughtful. This stage is fun, but also hard work. So you might be tempted to skip it and jump right into action. This would be a mistake, like expecting a child to read Shakespeare right after she learned to sound out her first picture book.
One key task at this stage is to learn which eating plan best supports long-term health and weight loss. A whole foods, plant-based diet will allow you to drop pounds without arbitrary portion control, hunger, or deprivation. You can eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Since you will feel satisfied, this is the easiest diet to stick to. Again, the blogs at perfectformuladiet.com offer a wealth of information at no cost.
Dr. Neal Barnard, President of Physicians Committee on Responsible Medicine, encourages you to take a week or two to figure out what you would eat on a whole foods, plant-based diet. Consider what to substitute for animal foods and manufactured junk foods. Find new recipes in books or online. Scope out restaurants that offer healthy, plant-based choices.
Another key task at this stage of change is to write down specific goals. People who set goals are more likely to be successful in maintaining long-term change. For example, you might decide you want to lose weight at a sustainable pound or two a week. You could set a goal to eat four kinds of vegetables and three kinds of fruit every day. Another goal might be to limit junk foods to 5% of
your total calories, the indulgence level supported by The Perfect Formula Diet.
Action. This is certainly the most rewarding stage. You experience the thrill of success as you move ahead and your confidence soars. Your task is to keep on track one day at a time. If you find progress is slow and you eat foods you know are unhealthy, take this as a learning experience. Why did this happen? What can you do better next time? What strategies worked before?
Change does not happen in a straight line nor all at once. Be patient with the process. If you keep a food journal and weigh yourself once a week, you can see your progress and build your determination. You will find that your tastes change after a few weeks with no animal or junk foods. Be happy that an apple now seems as appealing as a bag of chips used to.
Maintenance. At this stage, what was once a distant goal now has become habit. You can think of this as the success phase. Yeah! Your task now is to keep from becoming complacent. Maintenance is an active process.
A good comparison is staying balanced on a surfboard or bicycle. When you keep moving forward, balance is natural. When you stop, you are going to fall. So keep moving ahead by trying new foods, finding new restaurants and recipes, reading books, educating others, making charitable donations, doing volunteer work, or other activities that keep you from falling into a rut. If you do backtrack to old eating habits, it will be easier to jump into the stages of change again and regain success. Don’t let temporary lapses interfere with your long-term success.
You can learn to enjoy a whole foods, plant-based diet, just as you learned to read and find your favorite books or magazines. The time to start the process is now.
Intrigued? Now you can use our Whole Foods Blog Finder to target informative, fun postings on plant-based nutrition. Quick information at no cost!
Blog posting by Janice Stanger, Ph.D. Janice authored The Perfect Formula Diet, the smart person’s nutrition book built on sustainable food choices. Enjoy six kinds of whole foods for permanent, hunger-free weight loss and health.