Set Yourself Up for Success with the DASH Diet - dummies

Set Yourself Up for Success with the DASH Diet

By Sarah Samaan, Rosanne Rust, Cynthia Kleckner

Creating and practicing a new routine, such as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, is part of establishing a new habit. If your diet is low in fruits and vegetables and high in salt and fat right now, you can’t expect to do a complete turnaround overnight. You have to establish a few small goals at a time and work on those goals until they become new habits.

After you adopt a few new habits, you can move on to the next few goals. You can successfully follow a DASH diet plan if you

  • Make a commitment to change your habits for the long haul, not just your food and beverage intake.

  • Are open to learning more about how your body works and why diet truly has an impact on health.

  • Replace overeating behaviors with other strategies for coping with stress, boredom, and other situations where emotions rule eating.

  • Stay open-minded about trying new foods.

  • Understand that modifying your diet to include DASH diet principles isn’t a quick fix, nor are the overall lifestyle changes you’ll make.

  • Realize that you’ll have setbacks — and that you can forgive yourself and move on.

  • Seek a support system to help you meet your eating and exercise goals.

Of course, before you make any changes in your diet or lifestyle, you have to be in the “action phase” of readiness, which is the fourth stage of the classic five-stage model for successful behavioral change:

  • Precontemplation: In this stage, you’re not even thinking about changing your diet or lifestyle, and you may not even realize that you have a problem (for instance, if you’re overweight or your doctor has told you that your diet is affecting your health).

  • Contemplation: During this stage, you’re willing to consider making some changes, but you may be on the fence.

  • Determination: The fact that you’re holding this book in your hands probably means you’re at least in the determination stage. You’ve thought about it, you’re making a plan, and you’re ready to commit to some action.

  • Action: In this stage, you may also be sharing your goals with others, making you more accountable. During this stage, you continue to work on your plan by setting goals and tracking progress. Success breeds success!

    The success you have (whether it’s lower blood pressure, weight loss, lower blood cholesterol, or just feeling better) is a huge motivator to keep on track. You may be in the action stage for at least three to six months, and this leads to maintenance.

  • Maintenance: This stage is a lifelong endeavor where you address the ups and downs and get through situations that are challenging (vacations, holidays, and other special occasions).

Generally, most people go through each stage and often have setbacks along the way. Provided you recover from them, those setbacks are A-OK because the DASH diet isn’t a quick-fix fad diet; it’s a diet to adopt for a lifetime of healthy eating.

Your long-term goal is to develop a healthy eating and exercise plan that you can live with for the rest of your life. You can do this by making gradual changes, following the dietary guidelines at least 80 percent of the time, and recovering quickly when you do get off track.

Setting up an appointment with a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) can help you get started with a plan that’s just right for you. An RDN will review your personal medical history and provide a nutrition assessment and personalized plan. Give your local medical center or your primary physician a call about referral to a local RDN.