At some point everyone has probably thought, “I should try to be healthier.”
The thought usually hits after eating too much at a restaurant, waking up the morning after having a few too many glasses of wine or after stepping on the scale after the holidays. Sometimes this thought is enough to motivate change; other times it’s dismissed with “maybe someday.”
Most of us know what we should do to be healthier: move more, eat more fruits and vegetables, eat less fat, drink less alcohol, sleep more, stress less. This list describes health behaviors. For most of us, health behaviors are goals we strive to achieve. For others, these behaviors may not even be on the radar.
As it turns out, there are distinct differences between those of us who are trying to be healthier and those of us who don’t even think about change. Where we fall on this spectrum is a significant indicator of how likely we are achieve health our health goals.
There are several theories in psychology that attempt to explain and predict changes in health behavior. One of the most common theories is the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) developed at the University of Rhode Island in 1977 by a psychologist named James Prochaska and his colleagues.1,2 The model was developed by evaluating people who had quit smoking, but it has been applied to many different health behavior interventions including increasing physical activity and improving fruit and vegetable intake.3-7
The key construct of TTM is called Stages of Change. Below, we use the five key stages of change to describe how someone may think about fruit and vegetable intake:
“I’m going about my business eating the same thing each day and buying the same groceries I always have.”
In this stage, there’s no inclination to make any significant change within the next six months.
“Maybe I should eat healthier… I could get more fruits and veggies at the grocery store next time. But, they might go bad before I eat them. I could research some new recipes.”
In this stage, the thought is there but there’s no plan for action yet. People may start weighing the pros and cons of the behavior change.
“I’m collecting recipes with more fruits and veggies. I bought a blender to make smoothies and have signed up for a meal kit program.”
This stage involves planning for change within the next 30 days. By now, the pros of behavior change have outweighed the cons and people start to take small steps toward change.
“I’ve increased my fruit and veggie intake by 50% since last month! I have a smoothie with spinach in the morning, I snack on baby carrots and berries and I cook recipes with veggies for dinner during the week. But, I still have burgers and fries on the weekend.”
In this stage, change has happened within the last 6 months. People may start to feel small payoff from the behavior change, making it easier to keep up, although they may experience some setbacks.
“Eating healthy is a habit for me now. My fridge is always full of fruits and veggies.”
A habit has officially developed in this stage and has lasted for more than six months. People are often to motivated to maintain the change due to a positive impact.
Knowing where you are in the stages of change is helpful, whether you want to change a behavior or maintain healthy behaviors. This knowledge can be motivational – helping you push yourself to the next stage.
Part of your contemplation and preparation stage might include researching different dietary supplements:
The stages of change help track progress to better health habits. Progressing through the stages and becoming familiar with our movement forward and backward can help us stay accountable and understand the different challenges at each stage. Regardless of where we're at along the spectrum, dietary supplements offer benefits that help us to move through the stages and maintain our new, healthier lifestyle.
1. Prochaska, J.O., Transtheoretical model of behavior change, in Encyclopedia of behavioral medicine. 2013, Springer. p. 1997-2000.
2. Prochaska, J.O. and C.C. DiClemente, The transtheoretical approach: Crossing traditional boundaries of therapy. 1984: Dow Jones-Irwin.
3. Bridle, C., et al., Systematic review of the effectiveness of health behavior interventions based on the transtheoretical model. Psychology & Health, 2005. 20(3): p. 283-301.
4. Horwath, C.C., Applying the transtheoretical model to eating behaviour change: challenges and opportunities. Nutrition Research Reviews, 1999. 12(2): p. 281-317.
5. Johnson, S.S., et al., Transtheoretical model-based multiple behavior intervention for weight management: effectiveness on a population basis. Preventive medicine, 2008. 46(3): p. 238-246.
6. Spencer, L., et al., The transtheoretical model as applied to dietary behaviour and outcomes. Nutrition Research Reviews, 2007. 20(1): p. 46-73.
7. Prochaska, J.O., et al., Stages of change and decisional balance for 12 problem behaviors. Health psychology, 1994. 13(1): p. 39.