Since beginning to write this nutrition column over 1 year ago, I have received increasing acknowledgements from readers via mail, email, on the street and even in the grocery line. I never expected a small bi-weekly column to be of interest to such a diverse group of people. I’ve had support from both men and women, teens to seniors. Most recently a middle aged man stopped me at my daycare to ask if I was “That Dietitian” that writes for the paper. He stated that he enjoys my column and proudly added that he doesn’t follow any of my advice. ”Not that I don’t need it” he added.
We both had a chuckle as I told him to keep reading and I would eventually work my way into his habits. This encounter made me smile because it means I am attracting an audience that knows they should change but are not quite ready to dive in whole heartedly. If you fall into this category, I would classify you as a “contemplator”. A contemplator will often willingly absorb information and eventually develop the motivation to move to the next stages of “Preparation” and “Action”. I hope to write articles that are interesting enough to attract attention and at the same time do not pressure people into feeling they have to change. You hopefully read for pleasure and if you try something new it’s a bonus. That is the beginning of making lifestyle change.
There is a fairly predictable path that people follow (often unknowingly) before they are ready to make a change. If you are trying to help someone make a change you will be much more effective if you first evaluate what stage they are in. For example, if you have a family member that has terrible eating habits and they simply won’t listen to advice, they may be in the pre-contemplation stage. Save your breath. They are not even contemplating a change, your advice will fall on deaf ears. The best thing you can do is encourage them to get to the next stage of “contemplation”.
You might try some great tasting healthy recipes that expose them to new choices. Low pressure, interesting information about the benefits of healthy eating will encourage progress by helping them move to the next stage. I had one mother tell me she cut out my articles and would leave them out for her kids when they came home on weekends from University. Providing information is a great low pressure way to affect an adult (young or old) who is contemplating.
The “Stages of Change Model” was developed by researchers Prochaska and Diclemente more than 20 years ago. It not only applies to nutrition, it applies to any change. I’ve added links to my website if you would like to read more about change. If there are any contemplators that are still reading, here’s a recipe for you. The thought of eating a healthier diet may sound like an onerous task but what about a healthier chocolate chip cookie. Ah, now that’s a change anyone can handle.
Chocolate Chips Cookies
(from “The Ultimate Healthy Eating Guide. Liz Pearson, RD and Marilyn Smith, Whitecap Books”)
0.5 cup non-hydrogenated margarine
0.5 cup brown sugar
0.25 cup white sugar
1 omega-3 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1.5 cups whole wheat flour
0.5 tsp baking soda
0.25 cup mini chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375. Line cooking sheet with parchment paper. In medium bowl cream the margarine. Beat in the brown sugar and then the white. Beat in vanilla and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda and chocolate chips. Bake 10-12 minutes. Makes 40 cookies. Per cookie: 68 calories, 1 g protein, 3 gram fat, 9 g carbohydrate, 0.6 g fibre, 33mg sodium.
Heidi Smith is a Consulting Dietitian from the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph. Her column appears every second Tuesday. www.heidismithnutrition.com
Link: Helping People Make Changes: http://www.aafp.org/afp/20000301/1409.html