As another new year rolls around, I take a look at why we love fresh beginnings and why the popular choice for a new year’s resolution, weight loss, so often fails…

Goodbye 2023, hello 2024!

There’s something about a fresh start that appeals to human nature, whether it’s the start of the week or the month or a brand new year.  It’s why diets and mini-challenges tend to begin on a Monday, and why so many people love to make new year’s resolutions.  Starting afresh in this way also enables us to mentally compartmentalise – we find it easier to close off the past and put any mistakes or failures behind us when we can segment it into a neatly labelled block of time.  We’re effectively wiping the slate clean.

There’s also a psychological implication at play.  Rather than seeing our life as a whole, we break it up into “chapters” like a book, with significant events marking the start of a new chapter – going to university, beginning a new job, getting married, and so on.  Each division in time is a break that represents an opportunity to start anew.  Mondays and firsts of January also give that sense of freshness and renewal.

If this works for you, great, go for it!  Habit changes can be less than easy so it makes sense to ride any waves of motivation that come your way.   However, if you’re one of the 80% of people who fail to make their new year resolutions stick, you may want to read my January 2023 blog for an alternative approach.

Don’t try to lose weight

Weight loss in the new year, particular after several tins of Celebrations and boxes of Lindor (no? just me then…), is a very attractive proposition and one I often promise myself I’ll do and this time, I’ll make it work.  As a former body confidence coach, I’ve learnt to be quite comfortable in who I am, but I do worry about the health implications attached to the stored fat that is stubbornly refusing to shift from around my middle.

Whether or not you feel you need to lose weight should really be about your physical health and wellbeing rather than how you look.  I’m not a fan of BMI charts and ideal weights, although they can provide a rough guide, but maintaining a waistline measurement that is less than half your height is a pretty good rule of thumb.  Generally, eating disorders aside, I think most people tend to know if they’re at a comfortable weight for their build.

So back to my statement.  It’s not the sentiment that’s the problem, it’s the words that we use when we talk about this subject.  Our brains are wired to avoid “loss” – we simply don’t like to lose things, whether that’s games, competitions, possessions, freedom, loved ones and so on.  The concept of loss is something our brains will drive us to avoid at all costs.  So if we’re thinking we need to lose weight, there will be a powerful part of our brain working against us.

Another quirk in our brain is the fact that it struggles to process negation.  In fact, it’s practically impossible to not think of something, because you have to think of it first in order to know what it is you’re not going to think about.  And then, having thought about it, it’s very difficult to remove it from your mind without diverting your attention to something completely different.  So when we decide we want to lose weight or drop a few pounds or reduce our waistline, our brain ignores the negative works of “lose”, “drop” or “reduce” and we’re left with the words “weight”, “pounds” or “waistline”.  “Ah, you want weight…I can do that!” is effectively how your brain will respond.

And whilst we’re on the subject of how we interpret certain words, “try” is one to avoid!  Whilst you might think you’re hedging your bets and keeping your options open, it really weakens your meaning.  As soon as your brain hears “try”, it lets itself off the hook and any attempt at commitment is gone.

What do you want instead?

In coaching, when a client talks about what they don’t want, I work with them to find out what they do want instead.  And we phrase that in the positive so that clear instructions can be given to the unconscious mind.  Similarly, when it comes to weight loss, it makes sense to turn it into “become fitter and healthier”, “be able to fit comfortably into my clothes”, “have more energy” and so on.  It’s about finding out what the weight loss will give you and then focusing on that as your goal.

Of course, if your reason for weight loss is all about self-acceptance or feeling that others will respond more positively to you if you were slimmer then, as a coach, I would want to do a bit of mindset work with you first because there’s likely to be something deeper in there that losing weight won’t fix in the longer term.


As a Personal Excellence Coach, I believe everyone has the power to achieve greatness, and every business has the right to employ great people!

Every day is a chance to grow, to learn and to be better than yesterday.