“We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” -Dr. Henry Cloud, Christian self-help author
Why is it so challenging to change your diet? It seems simple enough. Change your food choices. Healthy diet plans are everywhere. Research laden diet plans make sense. Most of us need to make changes in our diet, so why are we so resistant to changing our food habits?
Change is more difficult than most people recognize. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) explains the stages of change as an upward spiral in which we learn from each stage as we relapse or fall back into old habits. We must identify where each person falls on the spectrum of change to really understand why someone seems unwilling to change.
- Precontemplation – a person has no intention to change
- Contemplation – a person is aware a problem exists
- Preparation – a person is intent on taking action
- Action – a person’s behavior is actively changed
- Maintenance – a person sustains change and new behavior replaces an old behavior
- Relapse – a person falls back into the old behavior
When we ask people to change their diet, we are not simply asking for them to change the way they cook or purchase groceries. We are asking people to change their lives. Food is an integral part of life. Our heritage is rooted in the foods we eat. Our lifestyles are based around the food choices we make. Whether we eat out at restaurants, prepare meals at home, stand in line at a local food pantry or soup kitchen, or miss a meal due to food insecurity, we base many of our daily decisions around food.
The typical American diet and lifestyle are toxic. We are sick from the foods we consume and the way we live our lives. Diet plans ask us to change more than our food choices, they ask us to change our fast-paced American way of life. To embrace sustainable diet change, we must embrace that what we know as healthy living is inaccurate. We must realize that we have been told lies about food and nutrition from the very experts we trusted. In other words, we cannot simply follow a new diet plan, we must learn why we need to change our diet and lifestyle.
Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross explains the feelings associated with change as a positive and negative impact cure. As we face changes in our diet, we go from being a part of the “status-quo” to feeling like our lives have been totally disrupted. Shock and denial are feelings we experience as our “healthy” diet is being questioned. If we work through denial, we prepare to take action and change our behavior (diet). These changes are met with great anger and frustration. We get mad at the world, at everyone, and at everything we were taught about food. Many of us get stuck in the negative impact of change. If we can muster our way through the emotional roller coaster of being deprived of our normal diet and lives, we will find a positive impact by exploring and rebuilding our lives through acceptance and commitment to lifelong change.
We must realize that our behaviors and emotions are impacted by outside influences – influences we may not be able to control. As we make change, we will be ridiculed by others. It is not our responsibility to change the world around us or the people in our lives. As each person goes through the stages of change and feels the impact of change in their life, we must realize that each person has the power to choose. That power allows someone to choose not to change.
So, how do we make change easier? We change by surrounding ourselves with knowledge, resources, and people willing to embrace change with us. Learn from others living the diet plan you are beginning. Read, ask questions, and continue to seek the best diet plan for your life and family. Share knowledge, develop skills, communicate with others, take time to learn, and be patient as you align with a new way of interacting with food. Allow food to be consumed for optimal health. Do not allow food to consume your life. You are worth it!