1. Change the way you describe your goals.
“Call it whatever you want, but don't call what you’re doing a ‘diet,’ ” says David Grotto, RD, author of The Best Things You Can Eat.
“Diets have a beginning and an end -- and that’s the problem.” You will only succeed, Grotto says, when you make a lifelong commitment to a healthier lifestyle.
2. Make your goal meaningful.
Shift your focus from “I want to fit into those jeans” to “I want to feel good and have more energy.”
Internal goals -- like you how feel instead of how you look -- tend to have greater staying power over time. Concentrating on the feel-good benefits you're getting also helps you to stick with something.
3. Break up with things that don't work.
Consider what you’ve done in the past to try to lose weight. What you could do differently this time?
For example, if your downfalls were snacking at work and waiting until the end of the day to exercise, start packing a healthy snack to take with you each day and go for a run first thing in the morning before the day's demands get in the way of your good intentions.
4. Make it easier on yourself.
Set yourself up for success with some small tweaks, starting at home.
Do things that will help, not hinder, your weight loss. If you want to make that early-morning jog happen, lay out your running gear before going to bed. Want to get in the habit of snacking on fruit, not chips? Put a bowl of fresh apples or pears on your kitchen table or counter. If it's convenient, it's more likely to happen.
“Our environments have a major influence on our ability to change our habits,” says John C. Norcross, PhD, psychology professor and author of Changeology: 5 Steps to Realizing Your Goals and Resolutions.
5. Form a fan club.
Tell supportive friends, family members, and co-workers about the changes you’re trying to make, Norcross says.
Let them know what you need and how they can help. Be specific. Don’t leave this up to them to figure out.
For instance, maybe you don’t want them to remind you of what you are or aren’t supposed to eat, but you would like them to give you ongoing encouragement or pep talks when you need them.
6. Be flexible.
Something is bound to pop up that can throw you off track (the grocery store sells out of your favorite salad ingredients, or your favorite Zumba class moves to a new time).
Expect the unexpected. You might have to create a backup plan on a moment’s notice -- like trying a new class at the gym, or buying celery or snap peas to go with your hummus.
The key is to be ready, willing, and able to revise your routine and find ways around obstacles, Norcross says. Don’t let one surprise throw off your whole routine.
7. Be your own BFF.
“When you miss the mark, show yourself some compassion. You’ll avoid letting a slip become a fall,” Norcross says. His research on New Year’s resolutions found that most people who succeed at keeping them say their first slipup strengthened their resolve.
So give yourself a pep talk, just as you would a close friend. Then dust yourself off, learn from the lapse, and pick up where you left off.
8. Tune into your hunger.
To prevent overeating, rate your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being extremely hungry. Eat when you’re in the middle of the scale, psychologist Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD, says.
If you know you won’t be able to eat later, have a snack or small meal when your hunger is low. This helps you avoid getting overly hungry, which can set you up for overeating later on.
9. Make yourself accountable.
Keep a food and exercise diary on paper, online, or with an app on your phone.
Consistently recording your eating and exercise habits, along with weighing yourself regularly, gives you some advantages. Seeing the results you want motivates you to keep going. If the results aren't so great, you can make changes to fix that.
You can monitor your progress any way you want to. Experiment and pick the method works best for you and that you are most likely to do.
10. Know your emotional triggers.
Using food to handle boredom, frustration, stress, anger, or sadness can sabotage your efforts, Becker-Phelps says.
Feel your emotions, but don't let them get the best of you. Figure out what helps you relax and feel positive. Try listening to music, chatting with a friend, or going for a walk.
11. Make sleep a priority.
Studies show that not getting enough sleep triggers hormonal changes that can lead to feeling hungrier.
There’s no underestimating the importance of a good night’s rest. The recommended amount for adults is 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye per night.
12. Practice mindful eating.
Chew your food thoroughly, and put your fork down between bites. Eating more slowly will help you appreciate your food more and “give your stomach a chance to notify your brain that you’ve had enough,” Grotto says.
Once you get that signal, “put down your fork and ask yourself, ‘Can I stop eating now and walk away from this table satisfied?’ ” Grotto says.
If the answer is no, eat some more. If the answer is yes, push your plate aside and focus on the conversation or something other than the food.