Sometimes the best way to analyze how the stages of change work is to look at a real life example. In this example, I will tell you a bit about my journey from using whole wheat flour several times per week to a diet that is mostly wheat and gluten-free.
Pre-contemplation is generally easy to understand. I had never considered giving up wheat or going gluten-free. Like most people I thought that using whole wheat flour was much healthier than using white flour.
Right before the Super Bowl I transitioned into the Contemplation stage as I learned more about wheat and gluten from two respected friends. Michelle had shared an article from which I learned that all wheat in the United States is genetically modified. I paid attention as Hazel ordered and asked questions of my friends about the ins and outs of a wheat-free/gluten-free diet. I slowly started making more wheat-free/gluten-free choices as I transitioned into the next stage. This could also include pinning new wheat-free/gluten-free recipes and maybe even trying a few.
I knew I had reached the Preparation stage, when I made a special trip to a new store. On my first visit, I spent a lot of time comparison shopping and reviewing suggestions from friends, but I primarily only purchased a general baking mix. As I have delved deeper into a wheat-free/gluten-free diet, I have left that store with several ingredients, some of which I had to ask for help finding. Determination is not always a separate stage from Preparation, but in this case Determination was evidenced as I slowly started telling people that I was trying not to ingest wheat products. By speaking it out loud, I was admitting my commitment to this change, as wells increasing my commitment.
As I started the Action stage, working to get my entire household on board, things went very well for a couple of weeks. One evening I accompanied my parents to a play; this specific show left us shocked, battered, and a bit angry. We had planned on eating at a new adventurous foodie restaurant, but after the show, mom felt pulled to the comfort of pasta. While not the closest, my favorite Italian restaurant in the city had no wait, so we went there. Feeling battered and angry, I “cheated” on my diet for the comfort of house-made pasta. Afterwards I felt swollen and achy, so I’m not sure it was the most comforting choice, even if my emotions pulled me that direction.
The final proof for me though was after a few months of a wheat-free/gluten-free diet. It had been a busy Saturday and it was after 8pm before I could prep for dinner. By that time, everyone wanted to eat quickly. Target was the closet store with groceries and spaghetti was the fastest meal approved by all. I made a large spinach salad, but the noodles were conventional. When I was still awake and energetic at 2am (highly unusual for me), I decided there was something to the GI information in Wheat Belly. The next day, there was just not enough coffee, and I knew I wanted to keep my wheat intake to a minimum in the future.
In my mind, wheat has nearly become contraband just like trans fats. While I don’t believe I have an allergy to gluten, I can tell a difference in how I feel and how my clothes fit. It makes it easy to ask about gluten-free options, request corn tortillas, or prepare rice rather than pasta. It is still a fairly new change, but I feel confident in talking about it and even offering limited advice when asked. I am still tempted by certain menu items though, so I would only consider this the Maintenance stage of the change. I will be here for a while, but some day it will all become an automatic habit.