How can I lose my Christmas weight – and keep it off?

Your question

As usual, I’m starting the New Year heavier than I’d like. The Christmas selection packs and client lunches have taken their toll on my weight, and I’m already eyeing up the half price diet books and making my annual resolution to join a gym. Surely there must be a way to learn to resist the temptations of festive food, and keep to a healthy weight all year round?

Our answer

I’ve lost count of the number of women (and men) that come to me with a similar dilemma. All too often we get into a habit of over indulging during the festive season, then dieting and exercising to try and lose the weight we’ve gained.

However, research shows that this kind of seasonal yo-yo dieting doesn’t work:

  • Most women who go on a diet give up after five weeks and two days.
  • Over half a million people who join a gym in January stop going within months.

So why do we do it? Because it’s become a habit – we think dieting or going to the gym will solve the problem of a bulging waistline, so every year we fall into the trap.

However, if we thought about it logically – as you’re doing now – we’d realise that relying on dieting later isn’t the ideal answer. If dieting really was a magic cure, we’d only have to do it once, not repeat it time and again.

So what is the answer? Experts now widely recognise that behavioural change, not the latest fad diet, is the real key to maintaining a healthy weight. In short, losing weight is about mindset.

To start changing your over-indulging habits, it’s important to consider why you’re eating. For example, are you eating for emotional reasons – because you’re bored, sad, lonely or angry? And how does eating make you feel? Does it make you feel good? Is food a reward?

Or do you simply eat biscuits or cakes because it’s become a habit? You’ve just got accustomed to enjoying biscuits with morning coffee, and cream cakes with afternoon tea (or sharing chocolates with your colleagues at Christmas, and ordering dessert with a client festive lunch), and eat them simply because you’ve always done it?

Whatever the reasons behind your eating habits, the good news is that it’s easier than you may think to break habits and create new, healthier ones. If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the questions above, then you’ve already taken the first step towards a healthier, new eating habit because you’ve recognised that so much of what you do from day to day is governed by your mind.

And the mind that has helped you to put on weight, is the same mind that can help you lose it – forever.

We’ve all seen how sports stars use the power of the mind to achieve success – Jonny Wilkinson, Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray, Tiger Woods and Serena Williams all channel their minds to do what it takes to win.

And just as they train their minds to help them achieve sporting success, you can train your mind to automatically choose to eat less, feel full quicker and be more active. Lasting behavioural change is controlled by your unconscious, so wouldn’t it be great if we could just let that part of our mind take over and be responsible for doing this for us?

If you do want to learn how to retrain your mind, you can simply consciously make yourself say no when the tin of Quality Street pass your way or you’re offered a second helping of Christmas pudding, and allow your brain slowly to learn to re-adapt to your new eating habits. Or you can book an appointment with a good hypnotherapist, who can help your unconscious to make the change more quickly and painlessly.

On my own website, we’ve also created the Slimpod – a 10-minute voice recording that you listen to every day. Designed to help you make permanent changes to your lifestyle (rather than yo-yo between diets and over-indulgence), the Slimpod, in the words of one client, reaches into your mind and ‘turns down the volume’ on your appetite.

Answered by Sandra Roycroft-Davis, founder of Thinking Slimmer and a trained cognitive hypnotherapist. Sandra is a behavioural change specialist and practises in Harley Street.