07/12/2015 10:51 GMT | Updated 04/12/2016 05:12 GMT

Cut the New Year Diet Crap - You Know It'll Never Last

With just a few weeks until Christmas, it's safe to assume you're already throwing caution to the wind where healthy eating is concerned. And when that nagging "I really shouldn't be having this fifth glass of wine or eating mince pies for breakfast" voice chips in, you quickly brush it aside because you know the diet that will cure a lifetime of poor eating starts on 1st January.

No excuses.

Stop for a minute and cast your mind back to last year.

Chances are that's exactly what you said. Yet here you are 12 months later, in exactly the same position.

Still feel like carrying on with the charade?

If there's one thing any behavioural expert will tell you, it's this: it's much easier to stick to just one change in the long term. Twenty four changes? Not so much. And that's why all diets fail. Dieting involves making dozens of changes in one go and that's too much for anyone to voluntarily stick to in the long term.

You probably never realised just how many changes you make when you go on a diet - it's a lot. You have to remember the foods you're banned from eating, the foods to replace them with, how to prepare them, when to eat them and when not to eat them. Then there's all the water you need to drink, the five portions of fruit and veg you must eat before sunset and the calories you should be counting. And if that isn't enough, you need to do all that while fielding snide remarks from friends, family and work colleagues who seem hell bent on seeing you fail.

With that in mind, why not do things differently in 2016? Turn your focus to just one - yes just one - unhealthy thing you do and ditch that habit.

Pick one artery-clogging, waist-expanding or skin-ageing thing you eat, drink or do and stop eating, drinking or doing it.


You've probably seen and dismissed the classic 'if you do nothing other than ditching your daily Starbucks for the next 6 months you can lose up to 15 pounds in a year' claims with derision, but have you ever committed to this 'make one change' rule and not seen results?

Thought not.

It's infinitely easier to lose one unhealthy habit than to maintain a full-on diet. You'll stick to the former much longer because it's less overwhelming, and you'll look and feel a lot better for doing so by this time next year.

The trick to success is to not replace your chosen health destroying practice with another one - and that's much harder than it sounds. Because unless you make a conscious effort to completely steer clear of that crutch, you'll accidentally replace it with something equally as unhealthy, but convince yourself that it's not and then wonder why you've seen no changes six months from now.

So say you vow to stop having sugar in your tea, don't replace sugar with sweeteners because. Yes they're lower in calories, but they trigger sugar cravings (which could spark a sugary snack frenzy that you never used to have after every cup of tea) and are completely devoid of any nutritional benefit. And similarly, if you want to stop chomping your way through three bags of crisps every time you sit down to watch TV in the evenings, don't just switch your regular crisps to a slimmers' version - they're just as bad and won't help you break your junk food habit.

The best part of tackling just one unhealthy habit is that if you put in the effort for three weeks that habit you thought you could never kick will fade from memory.

Any other tips for success you ask?

Just one: don't wait until January to get started.

The original article appeared here on - the online magazine that separates health facts from fads.