I’m a woman in my late 40s and for years have been trying to lose weight, but with little success. I’m unable to stick to a diet for a long period and always return to my bad habits – eating too much of the wrong kinds of food. My son is getting married next year and I don’t want to look overweight in the photographs.

I applaud you for wanting to change. As we get older, it can feel increasingly difficult to maintain a healthy weight,
but it’s something that’s so important to think about if we’re going to stay fit and well as we get older.

I think many people will identify with you too. There are countless fad diets out there that seem attractive when the new year ticks around, but it’s my belief that they promise much and often deliver little. You might lose some weight initially, but invariably you end up in such a state of denial that you find yourself rebelling against the strict diet regime, returning with a vengeance to the ‘bad habits’ you mention.

The main issue with all of these ‘fads’ is that they never address what’s going on in your mind. Our behaviour and thought processes around food often originate in our sub-conscious and, more often than not, these have been deeply ingrained for a very long time. To break those set patterns of making poor choices you must change the way you think about food. That means exploring what those patterns are, and how and why they became embedded in your psyche.
Only then can you feel liberated enough to take back control over what you choose to eat.

My advice is: prepare yourself. There is no ‘quick fix’, so prepare to commit and plan. If you want to begin in the new year, now is the perfect time to make a start.

You could begin to explore your own eating patterns by keeping a food diary for a week, noting down everything you eat and then using it to evaluate what you were feeling when you made unhealthy choices.

Eating is often emotionally driven and whether it’s sadness, stress or boredom, being aware of what you’re feeling will allow you to also become more objective and in control.

Next, think about what your goals might be. Making them very specific will help you to be more focused, and when you have created a shortlist, map in the milestones that will help you to achieve them. Ask yourself what you will need to do and what you want to achieve in the first few days, first few weeks, first few months. Plan for success and you’re more likely to have greater clarity about achieving it.

Use motivational tools to help support you too. You mention that you don’t want to look overweight in the wedding photographs, so why not take an honest photo of your current self and every time you feel your commitment fade, take a peek at it to remind you of your goals. Enlisting the support of a dieting friend is a great way to tap into that back-up and encouragement we all need when we’re facing a challenge.

Finally, I think it’s really important to focus on healthy eating and portion reduction, rather than jumping into something so restrictive that a few weeks down the line you feel so fed up you can’t sustain it.

Take this time to explore what this means, do your research and formulate a plan for what you will eat and drink and for how you will distract yourself in those first few weeks when the power of cravings is at its most potent.

Remember, it takes a good 28 days to break a habit and if yours is overeating then you will need to plan for when temptation strikes.