So now you are at the action stage where you are eating for health. You are at the stage that you have put all your systems together and are going full steam ahead. You have decided on the different health care professionals you are going to continue to work with, you have set up and implemented your new diet and exercise regime, you are taking your supplements and medications that your doctor may have prescribed you. Now it is all systems go!  

Many people think that your optimal health means your regular follow-up with your doctors, or that your regular acupuncture appointments are the key to your successful recovery and regaining your health. The truth is that if there is anything you absolutely cannot slack on, is eating for health. Though you can have an idea of what the best foods are for your body, the truth of the matter is, no one knows or understands the food makeup like that of a dietitian. A Registered Dietician will work with you throughout your treatment of your illness to make sure that the right foods you are putting into your body and providing you the nutritional balance your body needs at the stage of your illness that it is needed. 

For instance, say at the beginning of your illness, through an in-depth and thorough investigation, into your illness, test results, and possibly even a conversation with your doctor, your dietitian will come up with a menu plan that is individualized to you. That meal plan is not just meant to sustain you but to restore your vitality because now you are eating for health. Nutrition support will speed up the healing process by supporting the work of your biological systems within your body. The food that you are putting in your body is going to work for you to make sure that all systems in your body are working efficiently. The nervous system, endocrine system, digestive system, urinary system, reproductive system, muscular system, cardiovascular system, integumentary system, lymphatic, urinary, and skeletal system all need to work together in order for you to have optimal health. Sounds like a lot doesn’t it? It is, and too much for someone to understand on our own. That’s a dietitian’s job, which is to understand the role nutrition plays to support your biological systems and how to eat for health including balanced nutrition for you, based on your illness, and what your diet is lacking. Though nutrition on its own may not completely heal your body without proper medical treatment, it is an important part of your healing, and why without it, healing can be delayed, or incomplete. Optimal health, long-term requires a sustainable lifestyle change including the food we put into our body on a daily basis. Eating for health supports that all our biological systems will continuously work together to help each other. 

What if I have to give up all the foods I love? So many people are worried about hiring a dietitian for the reason that they will never be able to eat the foods the love again, or will be forced to give up things that have become things that provide them comfort. There is no doubt that the transition that will move you through the pre-contemplation to the action stage may be a tough one, but once you actually are in the groove with your new way of living, eating for health becomes natural, you will never want to look back. Many times what foods people think they will have to give up, many times are not the case at all. That is why it is important that you have clear communication with your dietitian so that you two together can design the perfect menu and meal plan for you that you will truly enjoy. 

In the action stage, you should now be eating foods that are providing you the right amount of nutritional value, you are thinking clearer, you have more energy, you are able to make decisions that you feel good about, and you are finding that whatever the results are from your doctor, as you move along the process, your dietician is working with you to ensure that you keep getting healthier and stronger with each passing day. This will give you the confidence to continue to move through to the maintenance phase to support full and complete recovery of your illness, which will get much easier after you have been in the action phase for 6 months or longer. 

The wonderful part of what a dietitian does, especially in the maintenance stage, is to ensure that we are staying on track, and if not why? Regular communication is key when it comes to working with our health care professionals. Having conversations with our dietitians so we stay on track is so important, and truly without it is one of the reasons people lose their momentum in either the action or maintenance stages. Lack of communication results in negative feelings toward their diet or meal plan that otherwise could have been avoided with a conversation. Sometimes it could be a sudden weight gain for no reason, weight loss, or maybe something that was part of our meal plan is not sitting well with us. Whatever it is, having an eating journal is important. That way when it comes to our next appointment with our dietitian we can go through any problem areas, so they can assist us in finding solutions. Having an eating journal we share with our dietitian can keep us on track in our action phase and ensure that we stay on the road to recovery and beyond. If you need an eating journal that is shared with your dietitian, sign up for this food journaling app.

The Takeaway

The maintenance stage is a process that is still prone to relapse, even if the illness itself is cured, being properly managed, or in remission. Once you have been diagnosed with an illness, and are in the action stage, for you to keep your health intact, going back to the way you were eating and living before you were diagnosed is not a viable option. Keeping health a priority in your life, and eating for your health is key to optimal health and wellness of your body both in the short and long term. 

Live life your way free of nutrition confusion. Take a step back from the nutrition confusion and get a clear plan of what’s the right way to eat for your needs.  Till next week, eat wisely and take that first step to the rest of your life.

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Additional Information

The Transtheoretical Model (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1983; Prochaska, DiClemente, & Norcross, 1992) is an integrative, biopsychosocial model to conceptualize the process of intentional behavior change. Whereas other models of behavior change focus exclusively on certain dimensions of change (e.g. theories focusing mainly on social or biological influences), the TTM seeks to include and integrate key constructs from other theories into a comprehensive theory of change that can be applied to a variety of behaviors, populations, and settings—hence, the name Transtheoretical… Traditionally, behavior change was often construed as an event, such as quitting smoking, drinking, or overeating. TTM recognizes change as a process that unfolds over time, involving progress through a series of stages. While progression through the Stages of Change can occur in a linear fashion, a nonlinear progression is common. Often, individuals recycle through the stages or regress to earlier stages from later ones.