As we near January’s end, some remain strong in their new diet resolutions, feeling pretty good about that.  Some work away at that “one small change” or two.  Others have forgotten how very much they wanted to change on January 1st.  And still others suffer in frustration as they can’t seem to stick with a plan.

When diet resolutions sour this early, it usually points to a lack of preparation.  Changing habits at any time of year calls for a thorough review of where you want to go, with anticipation of setbacks.  If you always give up your diet when you get bored with your routine–or when you get too busy, or when your family wants pizza—why would this time be different?

Usually lacking, too, when efforts break down quickly, is a realistic idea of how change happens.   Major changes require a lot of repetition and practice.  They don’t  happen perfectly all at once. 

With weight loss, it’s particularly important to realistically prepare for the long run.  On-again/off-again diets can lower metabolism and build discouragement:  both of which lead to greater future weight gain.  Better to get ready, then, and make changes that can last, than to jump in and out of diets, losing quickly, maybe, and then regaining at least as quickly again.  Aiming for a total lifestyle change, rather than weight loss that won’t hold up, pays off in a body that stays lean.  People often say they know this, but then another short-sighted diet seems just the thing. 

How to make the lasting change really happen?  I repeat here the basic framework for setting on the path to sane eating (look through the blog archive and the “Resources” for more help along your way:

1. find a way of eating that you can live with forever. If you can’t live with your diet forever, it will fail you. Slashing calories drastically, overemphasizing certain foods, downing weird concoctions—any such tactic will alter your metabolism in the short run, perhaps help you lose weight. When you return to familiar habits, though, chances are you’ll regain what you’ve lost and more, and you order cialis still won’t have learned how to eat sanely.

2. get started. If you’re good at starting a plan all at once, go for it, and keep on going even after you stumble. If you’re overwhelmed, try integrating one or two changes into your diet. Introduce others as the months go by.

3. overcome obstacles. We’d all be working out joyfully, eating our daily 5-8 veggie servings, always stopping at one cookie, if it weren’t for these. Obstacles can be practical, cognitive, or emotional. Identifying and dismantling your own, whether that calls for better planning, changes in your thinking, or finding new ways to soothe yourself—these projects will help bring you to peace with eating and weight.

4. get help if you are not getting where you want to be. I like to quote Dr. Judith Beck, who says “Few people who have struggled with dieting can lose weight and sustain that weight loss without help and encouragement from another person.” For some, friends and family can provide this help; for others, therapists, personal trainers, nutritionists.

Two final ideas complete the picture: you must move if you are going to keep your weight and body healthy. For many reasons, long-term healthy weight maintenance is simply not possible without exercise.

Lastly, relaxing helps ease the obstacles, and not only for the obvious reasons (like stress management without ice cream binges). Lasting change can take time.

People often say, “Well, it’s taken me forty years to develop these habits, so…..” But when it comes to dieting, they lose that perspective and want pounds off now. Developing lifelong healthy habits must be your ongoing work-in-progress, not a goal your reach instantly without ups and downs.