MCGC Nutrition

Nutrition for a Lifetime:
5 Stages of Change Model
for Healthy Living

Marie-Claire Gahel-Calouche

If you’re thinking about making a change to your diet, know that you are not alone.  

According to a survey by the ASPQ (Association pour la santé publique du Québec), in 2021, slightly over half of the Quebec population (52%) responded that they are dissatisfied with their weight and 60% of adults polled stated they have tried to lose or maintain their weight. Furthermore, 44% of Canadians over 20 years of age live with chronic diseases which include, but are not limited to, cancer (8%), diabetes (11%), heart disease (8%), and high blood pressure (25%), and for whom dietary interventions have the potential of aiding. Lifestyle interventions, including changes to diet and exercise, have the potential to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 70% in at-risk adults, improve blood pressure and cholesterol, aid with weight loss, have the potential to be preventative of chronic illness, and encourage long-term health benefits.  


Data shows that improving lifestyle habits such as physical activity and healthy eating are important: so why is the process of change sometimes avoided?  

Statistics are clear, health behavior change with improvements in nutrition habits can make a significant difference in health promotion and improvement. So why do so many struggles… Simply put, changing how you eat is a lifestyle change. As much as the data may be convincing, information on the benefits of dietary change is not enough to actively encourage its implementation.  

For each of us, change can mean quite different things and for some of us, change can be quite scary. So, how can one decide that dietary change is worthwhile and what makes the difference between someone thinking about it versus someone ready for it? 

This can be summarized in a process called the Transtheoretical Model, otherwise known as the “stages of change” and was first developed by researchers (Prochaska and DiClemente) in the 1970s. The stages of the change model have since been used to help people make all kinds of changes in their lives, including successful changes in health behavior, from quitting smoking to encouraging more physical activity and it can be used to help you change your diet.  


The five stages of change model (transtheoretical model) and the process of behavior change  

The five stages of change model are one of the most popular ways to think about behavior change. The model suggests that people move through five different stages when they are in the process of a change of behavior: precontemplation stage, contemplation stage, preparation stage, action stage, and maintenance stage. This model can be useful for understanding your own dietary change behavior journey, or for helping someone else who is trying to make a change.  

Step 1 :

Precontemplation is the stage in which an individual is not yet aware that he has a problem with his nutrition. For example, someone who is pre-contemptuous about their nutrition may not realize that they are eating too many processed foods, which can harm their health.

Step 2 :

Contemplation is a stage in which individuals are aware of the negative consequences of their suboptimal eating habits, but do not see the need to make a change. For example, someone considering improving their nutrition may be researching the different types of diets out there and weighing the potential benefits or may not know how to start changing their eating habits. This stage is the perfect time to develop a plan for change.

Step 3:

Preparation is the stage where you have decided to change your lifestyle habits and you begin to take concrete steps to improve your nutrition. This might involve stocking your kitchen with healthy foods, getting advice from a medical professional, joining a gym, or finding a great dietitian who can help you on your journey ;)

Step 4:

Action is the phase signal when a person is ready to act. This means making changes to your diet and lifestyle to improve your health. It can be difficult to make these changes, but it’s important to remember that small steps can lead to big results.

Step 5:

Maintenance is the phase where a person has successfully made the necessary changes to improve their eating habits and maintained those changes over time. This may involve staying mindful of your eating habits and planning ahead so you always have healthy options available.

By understanding the stages of change, individuals can be better prepared for setbacks and more likely to succeed in making long-term change. It’s important to be patient and gentle with yourself, because making lasting changes takes time.


A small note with regard to relapse  

When it comes to trying to make healthier choices, many of us have experienced what’s known as a “relapse.” This is defined as falling back into old habits. This is a normal part of the stages and signals many things such as you were perhaps not ready to make the change in the first place, or that you need to take a different approach. Know that this is a learning moment and all is not lost. In these times, don’t be afraid to ask for help from someone you trust. If you are followed by a registered dietitian, this is a great time to discuss your issues and gain feedback on positive steps you can take to move forward.  


People change when they are willing to change their behavior  

In conclusion, changing your dietary habits (or any lifestyle habit) can be a real challenge but it doesn’t have to be daunting if you take it one step at a time. Note that relapse is a common part of the process, but it does not mean that progress has not been made. On the contrary, it is a normal part of the process and should be expected. Remember, improving your nutrition for health is a lifelong journey, and there’s no shame in taking a few steps back along the way. Make small, gradual changes, and give yourself time to adjust.

*The information provided this website ( is for general informational purposes only and does not substitute advice from your personal health professionals. The articles are only the sole opinion of the author and do not represent the company and do not replace medical advice from your own medical professional. Before taking any action, we encourage consultation with your doctor or your healthcare professionals. The use of any information on this site is solely at your own risk. 


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