“Every New Year I start a new diet. What suggestions do you have for helping me stick to the diet this year?” Despite our best intentions, many of us never make it past January with our declarations. Here’s the pattern: initial excitement, great expectations, and grandiose promises to get in shape, followed by procrastination, guilt, and disappointment. If you are one of the people who set the same goal every year, this time it is your turn to succeed! Follow these tips to help you set yourself up for positive outcomes and make your weight loss dreams a reality.

1. Change is a Process

True change is never effortless! There is no secret formula, and no instant weight-dissolving pill. There may be people out there who promise these things but I have yet to see one that lasts for the long-term. Of course, there is liposuction and various gastric surgery processes, but even then you still have to adjust your lifestyle to maintain your results. Weight loss is a process that you learn. You make mistakes and you learn from those mistakes. In the process, you learn to believe in yourself, you gain confidence, and you decide to give yourself success. The key is this – the process you go through is even more important then the end goal itself. Because who you become in the process is your most important reward.

2. Know What You are Moving Toward

Many weight loss declarations are made out of frustration and in response to a negative pattern or habit that you want to change or end. Examples include, “I don’t want to be fat” or “I don’t want to be thinking about food all the time.” However, it is difficult to develop momentum from a negative desire. Successful goals need drive and passion! Define what you want in positive terms and allow yourself a positive attitude to keep your motivation powerful for the long haul.

3. Develop a Relationship with Food

The return to healthy, peaceful, and successful eating starts by replacing the strict rules of dieting with the goal of developing an intimate relationship with food. A good relationship with food involves choosing foods that make you feel more alive and vibrant. This means selecting foods that increase your levels of energy, health, pleasure, and motivation. This is not about being “good” or eating “the right” foods, but about eating foods that make you feel satisfied on both the physical and the joy levels. Your goal is to feel fulfilled and content after eating in a holistic mind, body, and spirit manner, not sick, uncomfortable, deprived, or guilt ridden.

4. Food Is an Extension of Self-Love

Eating in relationship to hunger, fullness, satisfaction, and joy is about beginning to know your self on an intimate level. It is about feeling entitled to take care of your physical body and your emotional well-being. Notice how you feel and before eating ask yourself, “Is this really what I want?” Then decide. By treating your mind, body, and spirit with respect, you eat less not because of rigid rules, but because you have made a decision that it is important to feel good. Connect with your body and eat foods that satisfy on many levels, including health, energy, taste, and contentment. Eat in a manner that allows a sense of feeling good, both now and later.

5. Give up Guilt

Believing that you have “cheated” on your diet and then telling yourself that you have ruined any chance of success produces guilt and feelings of failure. If you overeat, acknowledge your behaviors with truth and compassion. Become curious about why you do what you do, and leave your criticism and judgment behind. Accept the choice that you made, learn from your experience, and then tell yourself you are capable of making news choices. Refocus on your goal immediately, and don’t wait until Monday or next week to take action.

6. Think “Management” Instead Of “Control”

Control implies an adversarial relationship with food. Control tends to mean that you are in a constant battle to have power over weight, eating, or your body. Instead of using force to have power over something, consider using a more loving style of management. When you manage something, you work with it to achieve your desired results. You unite with your desire or goal. Rather than forbidding yourself to eat certain foods, manage the situation. If what you love happens to be cake or cheeseburgers, then consider creative ways to eat what you want.

7. Avoid Getting Too Hungry

Skipping meals and snacks is a set up to binge or overeat. When most people get too hungry, all intentions of moderate, conscious eating fly out the window. The problem with ignoring feelings of hunger is that you also start ignoring feelings of fullness. Soon your body isn’t in charge of eating – your diet plan is. Try to tune into hunger and eat shortly after noticing hunger. Provide all of the foods the body craves for health and pleasure.

8. Put Your Mind In Touch With Your Body

Regular physical movement – whether gardening, walking, lifting weights, or practicing playing ball – helps you connect with your body. Physical movement provides a sense of well-being, confidence, and body awareness. Include regular movement in a way that feels positive. Healthy, beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

9. Make Your Food Taste Good

If you need to add a little sugar, fat, salt, herbs, or seasonings to make your foods taste better, then do it. Also, be sure to keep an abundance of good food around and plenty of variety. Reward yourself with nutritious food choices which leave you feeling energized and alive. Fill your house with all sorts of enjoyable fresh foods – fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, lean meats, poultry, fish and dairy products. Being able to choose the foods you want to eat is the beginning of a new, healthy relationship with food.

If you have set weight loss as your goal once again, congratulate yourself for holding tight to your dream! Start fresh, focus on the positive aspects of your courage, and give yourself credit for your determination. In your journey of successful weight loss, consider utilizing the tips above to build enthusiasm, confidence, and steady momentum. Never give up on your dream!