Diets don't work: How to keep your New Year’s resolution

Our Diets don't work blog is by Ascot-based personal trainer Adam Atkinson. He offers health and fitness advice on our websites each month.

Diets don't work: Weekend warrior as good as daily gym bunny

Adam Atkinson

Now that the New Year has ushered in, you may well have made some resolutions to get fit, eat better and lose some weight. However statistics show that within just weeks many of us will have given up on those resolutions. A US university study in 2013 found that just 8 per cent of us reach our goals. A recent article in the Guardian newspaper claims similar success rates with only 10 per cent of people managing to keep their resolution for the whole year.  However, the tips below, formulated over 14 years of personal training, will help you to succeed both short and long term with your New Year’s Resolution.

1 – Be specific. Vague resolutions like 'I’m going to get fit' or 'I’m going to lose weight' lack the specifics needed to be an easily targeted goal.  It’s also difficult to measure success and easier to feel that progress is slow and so give up.  So replace 'I’m going to lose weight' with 'I’m going to lose 6lbs'. Change 'I’m going to get fit' to 'I’m going to be able to jog 5k non stop'.

2 – Put a timeframe on it. This adds another layer of specifity to your resolution. It also gives you a fixed target to shoot at and a shorter more finite time frame to work with. So say 'I’m going to be able to run 5k non-stop in six weeks' or 'I’m going to hit X target by the 12th of February'.  This way you can just concentrate on a short, manageable period of time. You know it might be hard work, but it’s not for long! Putting a time limit or a deadline on your resolution also helps greatly with the following step - coming up with a strategy or plan.

3 – Make a plan and have a strategy in place. Now that you have done steps one and two, you have both a specific goal and a timeframe in which you would like to achieve it. These two points now allow you to come up with a plan or strategy to achieve your resolution. If you’re looking to do a 5k run, you can now decide how many training sessions a week you will need to do (and how those sessions will look) to succeed. If your resolution is weight based, you can now break your short or medium term weight loss goal into weekly bite size targets and plan accordingly. So if you aim to lose 7lbs in six weeks (a good achievable target) you now know you’ll need to average just over a pound a week of weight loss. This information in turn allows you to put a targeted strategy in place to lose this pound. It could be calorie counting, increasing activity, joining a weight loss club, using smaller plates, doing the 5:2 or eating more protein. Or all of the above! The point is you now have a specific target and a plan to follow.

4 – Use technology. We live in an age where there are a plethora of high tech gadgets, apps and tools that we can use to help us achieve our resolutions. Calorie counting apps are easy to use and can provide certainty with hitting daily calorie targets while also teaching us that if you are careful and clever most of the time you can have occasional morale boosting treats. Trackers can help you move more and see if you are doing the correct amount of exercise and progressing. Smart watches can increase activity levels and even help you to sleep better (an important part of the health and weight loss equation).

5 – Find a friend or resolution buddy. Going it alone makes success much harder and can be a lonely road. Find a friend, training partner, neighbour or partner that can join you in your quest. It will provide encouragement, motivation, competition and sympathy along the way.

6 – Be accountable. Going public with a resolution will really increase chances of success. Tell colleagues, go public on social media, let your family know (they may laugh, but you will be laughing later); best of all tag a fundraising effort onto your resolution. Get sponsorship for weight loss or an event for the ultimate motivation and accountability.

7 – Be realistic. Perhaps the most important point of all – know where you are starting from, be aware of what time you can realistically give the resolution each week and make sure that your goal is challenging but realistic and achievable.

8 – Get professional help. Most people wouldn’t try to change a fuel injector on their car themselves. Yet most believe that an equally challenging and complex task – getting fit and losing weight – can be achieved on their own. A personal trainer will help with every single point on this list, from keeping it realistic, coming up with clever strategies to hit targets, planning, accountability and encouragement to motivation guidance and support.

Adam Atkinson

07830 148300/0800 0407526