The Process of Changing to a Wheat-Free Diet

Changing to a wheat-free diet requires mental and behavioral preparations. One decision can change your life forever. Hopefully, the health consequences of a wheat-filled diet have piqued your interest in a lifestyle change.

The motivation to change is a simple process with a challenging plan of action that differs from person to person. Your beliefs, attitudes, and values play a huge part in the types of behaviors you engage in. They all contribute to what matters most to you in any given area of your life, especially your diet.

Working your way from willpower to discipline

A lot of times, people claim they don’t have the willpower to take on a drastic change like going wheat- or grain-free, but the truth is that no one makes such a shift on willpower alone.

Willpower is doing what you think you should do. Research shows that willpower is like a gas tank; as you exert willpower throughout the day, your tank gets lower and lower until you run out of fuel and can’t resist going back to your old ways. But as you strengthen your willpower over time, you begin to gain self-control.

You’re able to do what you know is the right thing to do even when you feel a small degree of resistance. Eventually, you become disciplined.

Both willpower and self-control generate a have-to or should-do mentality, where you have little actual desire to perform the new behavior. Discipline involves very little thought; you simply do what needs to be done without having to psych yourself up to make that choice.

Identify where you are in the change process

The Stages of Change Model by Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente provides insight into the inner workings of the change process. The following list outlines the stages of change and gives you some specific tools you can use to help you move to the next level.

  • Precontemplation: This stage is characterized by two different groups:

    • The “I can't change” phase, where people have tried unsuccessfully in the past to change a behavior and don't believe they're capable of successfully changing now

    • The “I won't change” phase, where people don't believe that their current behavior is harmful

    In both cases, the cons outweigh the pros to the point of inaction. Setting small and easily obtainable goals that boost your confidence level and gathering information about the benefits of cutting wheat out of your diet can help push you into the next stage.

  • Contemplation: This stage is highlighted by the people in the “I might change” phase. They're ambivalent about the modifications that they're considering making and the benefits of establishing new, healthier dietary choices. Some people can stay in this stage for months or even years.

  • Preparation: This stage belongs to people in the “I will change” phase. Typically, they're planning to execute a change within the next six months. They often make small, subtle changes as a way to test the waters and build confidence before a larger, more desirable change takes place.

  • Action: This stage is the “I am” phase. It's defined by the first six months of change to the new, wheat-free diet. During this stage, people are developing new habits and creating routines. This stage comes with a high risk of lapse and relapse, so having a plan of action for the obstacles that you'll encounter is critical.

    Making a deeper commitment to yourself by telling others of your change, having an accountability buddy to report to, and planning how to handle future obstacles are effective ways to keep the ball rolling and your motivation high.

  • Maintenance: Congratulations! You've made it to the top of the mountain in the quest for eliminating wheat from your diet (give yourself a pat on the back). This stage is marked by being wheat-free for more than six months and is also known as the “I am still” phase.

    The key at this point is to stay here. You can accomplish this task by becoming a role model for others and creating an environment around them that is conducive for success, such as a wheat-free kitchen.

    Don't get complacent after you reach the maintenance stage; it's still a time to be very careful of relapse.

You constantly move in and out of the various stages of the process depending on your current circumstances. For example, maybe you're in the maintenance stage with your wheat-free diet when along comes a two-week vacation that totally disrupts your eating pattern. You may then need to back up a few steps to the preparation or contemplation stage to get things back on track.

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