Where do we start?
Changing behaviours requires motivation and readiness.
To change a dietary behaviour, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, everyone needs to be willing, able and ready.
To determine readiness to change, it’s helpful to identify the current state of motivation by using, for example, the Transtheoretical model of behavioural change below.
Steps in transtheoretical change adapted from Pro-change Behavior Change Systems.
Establishing a starting point is essential to prepare a suitable strategy to move the behaviour in the right direction.
For example, if the individual is in the precontemplation stage and isn’t ready for change, investing time and resources into devising strategies for behavioural change wouldn’t be effective and, in some instances, may hinder future attempts due to perceived barriers and discouragement. However, decreasing the health risk associated with poor behaviour and continuing to increase awareness could build motivation for future change.
Is often characterised by an active knowledge and awareness building. In this stage individuals are likely to be aware of risks and benefits (eg aware of the associations between diet quality and mental health) and are considering their capacity for change. Motivation and identification of barriers are particularly important to initiate the change.
Is a signal for action. In this stage, individuals are usually taking proactive steps in developing their plans for behavioural change or, perhaps, already engaging in some behavioural changes. Continuous support based on positive accountability is useful to build further capacity for change.
Indicates growing confidence in the ability to change. However, this stage is susceptible to relapses. Realistic and applicable strategies for pre-empting and overcoming barriers are required. Also, an understanding that relapses provide opportunities for reflection and learning is important.
Usually signifies increased confidence and self-efficacy. Relapses in behaviour are less likely than in the action stage. Applying the principle of behavioural change model to changes in diet, the maintenance stage is equivalent to life-long dietary behaviours. With this in mind, implementing a sustainable dietary change is particularly critical.
Changing behaviours takes time and effort; however, in almost all instances positive behavioural changes based on individual’s needs, abilities and resource are achievable.
Using the transtheoretical model for change, identify your own state of readiness to change and the best approach to take. Share your thoughts in the comments.
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