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Assess your Health and Lifestyle - Making Changes

DK PublishingDK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
Photo: Planning for change - Thinking about which behavior change—dietary or lifestyle—will best benefit your health is a vital step. Find ways to begin making that change. © Provided by DKBooks Planning for change - Thinking about which behavior change—dietary or lifestyle—will best benefit your health is a vital step. Find ways to begin making that change.

Planning for change - Thinking about which behavior change—dietary or lifestyle—will best benefit your health is a vital step. Find ways to begin making that change.

Photo: Changing habits - Even long-standing habits can be altered. If you always drink sodas, start by changing to a diet version. If you regularly eat Chinese food, choose stir-fried and not deep-fried options. © Provided by DKBooks Changing habits - Even long-standing habits can be altered. If you always drink sodas, start by changing to a diet version. If you regularly eat Chinese food, choose stir-fried and not deep-fried options.

Changing habits - Even long-standing habits can be altered. If you always drink sodas, start by changing to a diet version. If you regularly eat Chinese food, choose stir-fried and not deep-fried options.

Making Changes

Forge new habits in diet and lifestyle for optimum health.

Confidence and conviction are prime requisites for any behavior change. Confidence reflects your attitude about your ability to change: if you don’t believe you will succeed, chances are you won’t. Boost your confidence with self-talk and enlist the aid of family, friends, and health professionals if necessary. Conviction, on the other hand, reflects your determination to accomplish change. If you don’t believe a change is important, you are unlikely to make it; so be sure to select a change that you firmly believe will make a difference to your future health—and go for it.


Don’t give up

When it comes to changing your behavior, your motto should be: “If at first I don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” Studies of former smokers show that most of them tried and failed several times before finally succeeding in quitting. However, changing your dietary habits is more difficult than successfully quitting smoking. At some point after stopping smoking, you lose the desire to smoke and are then at very little risk of taking it up again. But this is not the same for your diet: you must eat and drink, day in and day out, making decisions about what to eat or drink several times a day, every day, for the rest of your life.


How to change your diet

Throughout the guide we will make suggestions for ways of improving your diet. We also include tips on how to make changes. If one way doesn’t work, try another and, if you slip up, just remember that no one needs to be perfect when it comes to how they eat—better is good enough.

If you think you might find it difficult to make a radical change in your diet or lifestyle, you can begin by selecting just one simple modification that should be easy for you to achieve, so you get off to a successful start. For example, you may choose to drink more water each day, instead of high-calorie fruit drinks or soda. Then use more of our strategies to help you move toward your goal of achieving optimum health through improved diet and nutrition.


Are you ready to change?

Your answers to the following questions will provide insights that may help you achieve your goals:

What one change would bring the most significant improvement in your health?

What other changes would you like to make?

What would help you change?

If you have tried to change your diet or exercise recently, did you encounter any problems?

Are you able to deal with the occasional failure?

Do you think you can maintain any of the changes that you have made over the past few months?


Key stages in behavior change

Therapists who specialize in helping people change their behavior recognize that most people pass through certain key stages as they proceed. Developed by two psychologists, Prochaska and DeClemente, the following six stages are often used to assess an individual’s readiness for change.


Precontemplation

This refers to the time before you are aware that you need to change. As you are reading this guide, it is likely that you have already passed this stage.


Contemplating change

Now you are thinking about making changes but haven’t done anything yet. It may be that in reading this guide you are seeking expert advice on what changes are most important.

It is important to select a specific dietary behavior to target for change. The questionnaire on How healthy is your lifestyle? should have helped you identify areas that could be improved. We suggest that you select the change you think would be easiest for you to make, and start there. Why choose an easy goal? Simply because if you try and succeed, you will feel much better than if you try and fail; and once you have achieved the first target, you are more likely to go on to set another one. Base your initial target on your current diet: for example, if you eat fruit only a few times a week, set as your goal the intention to eat at least one piece of fruit every day.


Preparing for action

This is the stage when you think about the best way of bringing about whatever changes are necessary to establish your new habit. For example, if your goal is to eat at least one piece of fruit each day, it is a good idea to decide exactly how you will achieve this goal. Try to be as specific as possible. For example, you may need to change your shopping habits—you may need to shop more often in order to have a supply of fresh fruit.

You must think about how you can have fresh or dried fruit available all the time and how to include it in your daily life, whether you eat it as a dessert, as a snack in the car when traveling, or to take with you to work.

If you do not do your homework and fail to prepare a realistic plan of action, your new habit will not stick, and you will soon revert to your old ways.


Initiating changes

Now is the time to put your plans into action. Remember that small changes are easier to make than large ones, and that you must give yourself enough time for new habits and tastes to be established before moving on to the next change. For example, make sure you always take your piece of fruit in the car to work and eat it. And if you forget to eat your fruit in the car, eat it as soon as you can.

Bear in mind, too, that eating one unhealthy meal won’t undermine an otherwise healthy diet. If you overeat at lunch, just have a salad and a serving of vegetables for dinner. And, if you are going out to dinner in the evening, be sure to exercise during the day.


Maintaining new habits

New behaviors take about six weeks to become established. Once you are confident that your first change is well established, then you can move on to the next one. This stage is about ensuring that all the effort you put into making a change doesn’t go to waste. Don’t worry about occasional lapses—you are aiming to improve your eating habits for the long-term and, so long as you keep trying, you are succeeding.


What if I relapse?

Failing is just another part of the cycle—each time you fail, you learn something that will help you the next time you try to make a change. Reviewing barriers to change, or what has impeded progress, provides useful insights. So, too, does thinking about motivations that have helped in the past and analyzing the circumstances of previous successful behavior change or relapse. Above all, do not think of one lapse as relapse—look through the reasons why you did not succeed and start again.


Tips for changing

The following key strategies will help when you try to change your lifestyle habits:

Break down each change you want to make into manageable, small stages; be sure that each stage is firmly established before moving on to the next one.

Always include your favorite foods, but look for healthier ways of preparing and cooking them. For example, brush French fries with olive oil and bake in the oven.

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