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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 19 March, 2018

Ditch the diet: 'Your plan for 2018 should be not to make grand plans'

Concentrate on making small steps and you are less likely to become overwhelmed and throw in the towel, writes nutritionist Ciara Wright.

Ciara Wright Senior nutritionist

EVERY YEAR IT’S the same. We’re not even through the silly season and we’re already planning the recovery diet for the New Year.

Grand plans are made and expensive kitchenware purchased, only to gather dust after the first few uses. The new plan for 2018 should be not to make grand plans.

Ditch the diet

Don’t think you can change the habits of a lifetime in just a couple of weeks. The greater the challenge you set for yourself, the harder it will be to achieve.

Throw in a couple of dull January weeks and you will be feeling even less motivated and more likely to chuck it all in completely.

Most New Year’s resolutions don’t make it out of January because they are simply too much to keep up.

Setting goals

That is not to say that having ideals or big picture goals is not useful – science tells that it is easier to change your habits if you have an ultimate goal in mind. It is also helpful to remind yourself of this goal constantly.

Write it out and stick it on your fridge or print a picture representing your goal and stick it to your bathroom mirror. You will need to be able to recall your goal and motivation instantly in the face of adversity, or in the face of chocolate.

However, trying to achieve that big picture goal in less than a month is unrealistic and only serves to discourage when you don’t see instant results. Setting smaller, easily achievable goals is much more important. You want to be continuously winning, not losing a big battle.

Every time you achieve a small goal, you need to reward yourself – but not with food. It might be extra time to yourself, perhaps buying something nice or just giving yourself a good ol’ pat on the back and telling yourself how awesome you are.

By all means, be arrogant about it, compare yourself to others and congratulate yourself for choosing salad when your pal chooses chips – just make sure you use your inner voice and don’t say that out loud.

One step at a time

Setting small achievable goals may be as easy as one simple change every two weeks. Swap one cappuccino per day for herbal tea – more hydration and less calories in one simple step.

Swap your sandwich for vegetable soup or salad every second day – less carbs, lots more vitamins and antioxidants, another double hitter. If sweet treats are your downfall, replace them with a piece of fruit and palmful of nuts Monday to Friday, reducing sugar, increasing healthy fats and essential minerals.

Once you have one small change in the bag, give yourself a massive high five and move on to another.

Small steps add up to big changes

It’s a cliché, but all those small steps really do add up to great change over the course of a few months. Concentrate on making small steps and you are less likely to become overwhelmed and throw in the towel.

If you fall off the wagon, some of the healthy habits already established will be still in place and you won’t be starting from scratch. So ignore the drastic diet and choose one change for the first week of January. Then write it down and do it religiously.

If you make the first one super easy, you will start the year on a high.

Ciara Wright PhD Dip NT is Director and Senior Nutritionist at Glenville Nutrition Ireland.

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Ciara Wright  / Senior nutritionist

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