So, January is here and, for many of us, that means starting fresh and accomplishing goals. Among some of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to lose fat. People begin swearing that they’ll never eat another piece of cake again, that they’re going to eat clean for the rest of their lives, hit the gym 4 times a week, take up meditation as well as give up all of their old destructive habits along the way. Unfortunately, this doesn’t last very long, does it? Most people wind up back in the same patterns of living they were in before they started. So much for using January’s fresh beginning as an excuse to go Christmas Crazy!

So, what gives? Why do people fail? Is it because they’ve got crappy will power, they just can’t help themselves and so are doomed to fail? Well, they might think that. But that’s not the case. Unfortunately, like any other mental faculty, will power is finite and so cannot be employed day in day out. You simply can’t WILL yourself to change all aspects of your lifestyle at once. Why? Well, your lifestyle or, more accurately, your behavioural choices are made up of habits. Things you do automatically, without a lot of thought. And changing habits is a hard task. But, with the right approach, it can be done.

So, what’s the best way to change your diet? Well, begin by asking yourself what a healthy person’s diet looks like. What sorts of foods would their meals consist of? How much planning would go into allocating time to buy and prepare the food? How much junk food do they eat? Once you’ve gotten an idea of what this looks like, proceed to do the following:

Pick ONE aspect of this “ideal diet”. For example, you may have said that such a diet would involve a healthy serving of vegetables with each meal. And, you’d be right. But hold on!! Don’t go planning to incorporate this in its entirety just yet. Remember, that would be too much change! Instead, make a list of all the vegetables you’d be WILLING to eat and choose simply 1 or 2 to incorporate into your diet. Then, commit to eating ONE serving of these vegetables with DINNER just THREE times a week. That’s right. Not 3 servings with both lunch and dinner every day of the week. Sound easy? Good. That’s the idea. If it’s not easy, it’s not sustainable. Once you’ve managed to do this for two weeks (by which time it will start to become a habit!) then look to add a SMALL degree of complexity. SMALL! For example, add another serving of vegetables to your three evening meals. Or, add ONE serving of vegetables to 3 lunches in the week. Once you’ve decided what to add then commit to doing this for another two weeks in ADDITION to having your evening servings of vegetables. Continue building in this manner, consistently, and you’ll be rocking a completely new diet in a year’s time. In fact, it won’t really be a diet. It will just be the way you eat. Sweet.

“But Will, I’ve got 2 stone I want to lose! It’ll simply take too long doing it this way!” I hear ya. But try to think of it this way. How long have you had the excess weight? Probably a lot longer than 12 weeks. Heck, you may have been carrying it around for the last ten years. What’s one year in the grand scheme of things? 12 week transformations don’t work because 12 weeks simply isn’t enough time for changes to take place in the brain. Period. Hence why most people pile back on the weight after a 12 week “transformation”. There’s nothing ‘transformative’ about that.

Try to think of it this way. You’re not trying to simply reduce the amount of food you put in your mouth, or the type of food that you choose to eat. What you should be trying to do is change the thought patterns and BEHAVIOURS that lead to those choices i.e. your habits! Again, these changes take time. But if you can have patience in your approach, make slightly better choices consistently and in a way that doesn’t leave you feeling shitty or over-whelmed, you’ll be a damn sight closer to feeling good in your own skin than if you continue to follow diets that require an immediate and complete overhaul!

In summary, the focus when losing weight shouldn’t be solely on counting calories, adhering to strict rules and eating significantly less. Instead, it should be on identifying the behaviours that will lead to weight loss and the gradual, mindful and compassionate adoption of those behaviours into your daily life.