Many of Diet Blog's readers - myself included - will have made various resolutions on January 1st. From past experience, I'm sure most of us know that those great intentions don't always last very long.
Resolving to exercise more, lose weight, eat healthily and so on can lead to a constant uphill battle. If your lifestyle is naturally sedentary and your eating patterns have been constant for years, the "new you" will struggle to constantly find motivation to do things differently - old habits are hard to change.
Instead of trying to make resolutions, then, focus on making good habits - and breaking bad ones. Here's how:
Breaking Bad Habits
1. Look for "the moment it all goes wrong"
With many bad habits, there's a specific point where your good intentions become derailed by events. Sometimes, you need to work back from this point to figure out where it went wrong - because this is what you need to tackle first.
You know you should have breakfast every morning, but you're always racing out of the door late. "The moment it all goes wrong" is when you switch your alarm clock to "snooze" for the fifth time, finally rolling out of bed at the last possible minute.
2. Focus on what you'll gain, not what you'll lose
If you're contemplating giving up cigarettes, limiting alcohol to weekends only, becoming vegetarian, cutting out junk food ... don't think about what you'll be missing. Instead, focus on the health gains or increased energy that you'll enjoy.
If you're becoming vegetarian, don't think of all the foods you can't have, and lament over the loss of bacon sandwiches. Buy a good vegetarian recipe book and try out lots of new meals using ingredients you've not cooked with before.
3. Replace the bad habit with a good one
Getting rid of bad habits often involves cutting something out of your life - maybe an unhealthy snack, hours of TV-watching, or cigarettes or alcohol. To stay strong and keep the bad habit from creeping back, you need to plug the gap with something else.
You always want something sweet after lunch - and invariably succumb to a candy bar from the vending machine. Instead of cutting out the sweet treat completely, replace it with a piece of fruit.
Creating Good Habits
1. Make it part of your routine
The best trick when building up a good habit is to make it easier to stick to the habit than to avoid it. This means working your new habit into your daily life, so that it becomes as much a part of your routine as brushing your teeth or having a shower.
If you're trying to build up a habit of daily exercise, cycle or walk to work - or get into the routine of going out for a walk in your lunch hour. If you exercise at the same time each day, you'll find yourself geared up for it without any conscious effort.
2. Set a time limit
If sticking to your new good habit for the whole of 2009 seems daunting or impossible, set a time limit. This could be anything from a few days to a few months. The crucial thing is that once you've picked the time period, you need to stick to your habit throughout.
If you're cutting out junk food, try being disciplined for just two weeks. After that time, you can choose whether or not the health gains you've made are enough to encourage you to continue.
3. The chain method
When you're trying to establish a daily habit, try marking off each day you achieve it on a calendar. The idea is to build up an unbroken "chain" of successful days. The longer the chain gets, the more will-power you'll have to maintain your good habit.
If you're determined to meet your five-a-day target every day, put a tick on the calendar each day you succeed - and watch the success chain grow!
Have you successfully broken a bad habit, or established a good one? What tips do you have for us?