I’m a 19-year-old girl who has started to adopt a healthier lifestyle by exercising and eating healthily. The latter is difficult, though, since I live in a family of five, all of who continue to eat unhealthily in spite of my repeated urges to eat healthy food. It is difficult to overcome a craving for some junk food when there’s so much of it at home. Please help.

First, let me say good for you. The fact that you are thinking responsibly about your health is fantastic and something that your family should be supporting, rather than trying to undermine. And I totally empathise – if you come from a family where food is at the centre of everything, it can be hard to overcome those long ingrained urges that drive you to the fridge or the snack cupboard even when you’re not actually hungry. But it can be done. Not through total denial though – that only leads to worse cravings. The only way to make lasting change, regardless of what’s going on around you, is by re-educating your mind about the way you think about food (and perhaps also educating other people too!).

The thing about achieving a healthy life balance is that it isn’t something that happens over night. Putting on weight happens over a period of time, so it makes sense to think of the reverse in the same way. People want to see big results and fast. So they deny themselves everything, they lose some weight, but then feel overwhelmed by temptation, fall spectacularly off the wagon and then end up putting on even more weight as a result.

So, when that chocolate cake is calling you from the fridge, perhaps the most sensible thing to do is first ask yourself do you really want it. Take yourself out of the situation for a while. Go for a stroll or occupy your mind in some way that’s distracting. If you still find that you want the cake, have a piece, but don’t go overboard. Have a small piece and savour it.

One of the most crucial things that anyone who wants to achieve a healthy weight can do is to fully appraise their portion sizes. First world diets have spiralled out of control when it comes to portion size. Nowadays, everything is supersized and we’ve got out of touch with what is sufficient. A degree of retraining helps. Smaller plate and glass sizes and even smaller cutlery sizes are a good investment. Listening to your body is important too. I teach my weight focused clients how to use my hunger compass, which helps them to tune into their body’s signals to know when they are truly hungry and when they are satisfied. It’s amazing what a difference this makes. They begin to eat more naturally in sync with their body’s needs rather than what their emotions tell them they want.

Finally, I think it’s important to sit down with your family and tell them just how important this is to you. Explain that in these formative stages of adopting a new life style it can be easy to become derailed and that you need them to support you with your brave choices. I’m so impressed that you’ve taken up exercise as well as a new healthy eating regime and I think if you stick with it you are going reap the rewards. The deposits you make now into your ‘health account’ will pay dividends in your middle years and beyond.

Stick with it, but see it as a long-term lifestyle change rather than a quick fix and I believe you will be glad you forged your own path and you didn’t let your family divert you from what you really want.

Russell Hemmings is a life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on 055 286 7275 or russellhemmings.co.uk