Recently, with my role as bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding looming, I went on a crash diet and lost about 10kg in a little over six weeks. After the wedding though, I let things slide and now have put back on more than I lost. How do I keep the weight off?

I’ve heard so many similar stories to yours that I’ve lost count. I feel like shouting “Fad diets don’t work” from the rooftops!

Weight gain happens over time. Patterns of overeating and eating unhealthy food often begin in childhood and are deep-rooted in the sub-conscious mind. The emotional associations we make with food can be complex. Losing excess weight is a good thing, but it’s how you lose that weight that is important. By doing it quickly, you haven’t tackled the deep seated emotional response which caused you to overindulge in the first place. Whether you overeat for pleasure, comfort or because you make connections to feelings of love or self-loathing, one thing is certain – you can’t undo those mind chains without first dealing with the underlying triggers.

There are two watchwords that you should focus on initially if you want to make lasting changes. The first is acceptance. You need to come to terms with and accept that overeating will cause you to gain weight. It’s a simple fact. If you eat more calories than you burn, then that’s what will happen. Then there’s acceptance on another level. That’s acceptance of yourself, who you are, what motivates you and what creates barriers for you. This is perhaps the most important part of the process of change. It’s only when we achieve a level of self-knowledge that we truly attain the power to transform the way we react to certain situations. Seeing a professional to help you with this aspect would most help.

The second is moderation. ‘Everything in moderation’ is a thumb rule to follow. We live in a society where we can have whatever we want whenever we want it and the idea of eating until we feel satisfied and wanting no more can take some getting used to. That’s why the more ‘extreme’ the diet you go on, the more likely you are to get fed up and give up. It’s much better to think in terms of making small changes over a longer period of time. This way new habits form and become normal. Downsizing your crockery and cutlery can make a big difference.

I applaud the fact that you had a goal in mind first time around. But think six months as opposed to six weeks and your mind will absorb the changes to create a new normal. You’ve already demonstrated to yourself it is possible to make change, but the trick to sustaining it requires a less dramatic solution. Eat less, eat good nutritious food that is not laden with saturated fat, fit it some exercise and give yourself a reward once in a while. You’ll find that your body appreciates the new level of care you are giving it and you will feel healthier and happier because you look great and feel even better!

Russell Hemmings is a Life Coach and Cognitive Behavioural Hypnotherapist, author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on +971 55286 7275 or www.russellhemmings.co.uk.