Whether you just want to get rid of some extra holiday weight after several weeks of excess or you want to give your life a complete makeover, New Year’s Day is the traditional starting point for many people’s attempts to better themselves.

The problem, however, is that what often begins as an ambitious resolution can fizzle out all too quickly within a few weeks as sometimes a goal can be difficult to achieve, leaving the resolver without the resolve to keep it up.

But there is a way around this, especially if your goal is to be lighter, leaner and healthier, according to Lemon Cree founder and personal trainer/fitness instructor Theresa Ducharme.

Having worked in the fitness industry since 2006, Ducharme says that January and February are peak times for personal trainers and fitness instructors as everyone is trying to lose the weight they put on over the holidays and earlier. Having been through this peak season several times over, she has seen first hand what can work when it comes to changing your personal habits and what doesn’t.

If you are looking to make some positive changes for the New Year, Ducharme first recommends looking at what doesn’t work.

“Let’s say that people on average gain about 10 pounds throughout the holidays and then they want to lose that 10 pounds within two weeks which is just not realistic. So, don’t set up unrealistic goals because you are just going to disappoint yourself,” said Duchamp.

When it comes to weight loss, her first recommendation is to be accountable for everything you eat by writing it down in a food journal because, she said, a food journal won’t lie.

She went on to explain that food journals can really help because if you don’t start writing down what you are eating then it is like walking in the dark because we just don’t know what we are doing.

“If I gain 10 pounds over the holidays, realistically for me I can lose it but this is because I know how to do it as fitness specialist. The average person does not however know how to do it,” she said.

“The average person will set up these goals, completely fail and then feel really depressed and eat more and this is what we want to avoid. So, it is going to take a little work in the sense of you know, you took the time to eat more and so now take the extra time to write it down what you are putting in your mouth. It is just a little bit of homework.”

The next step in battle to lose the holiday bulge is getting mobile, as nothing can help a body feel good like a little bit of exercise.

After weeks of Christmas specials and cookies coupled with comfy couch time, Ducharme recommends getting active in any capacity, even if it is just minimal to start out with.

“Even if you feel extremely lazy and you’ve got that extra tire going around the waist, you need to get up, get outside and go to the gym or for a walk. Or, you can stand up if you are at home and start dancing, just so long as you are moving,” she insisted.

And, when it comes to activity, picking something you enjoy is as essential as picking the right company for your journey to a healthier you. Ducharme’s attitude is that your physical activity shouldn’t be something that you despise.

So, if you like don’t like the gym, by that rationale, don’t shell out the membership fees as there are several other ways to get physical in this day and age. Whether it is walking around the community, dancing to your favourite tunes or challenging your kids to a fit game on the video game system, there are limitless possibilities.

Having a buddy can also really help the process along.

“It is really necessary is to get support. Get together with a friend to go for walks and keep each other accountable. Don’t do it alone. If you can exercise with your husband or wife or someone else who really wants to lose that weight then you both can be buddy partners to do this,” said Ducharme.

How you look at your goal for the New Year, whether it is losing weight, getting into shape or even giving up a bad habit has a great deal to do with just how successful you will be.

The first step in this mind-over-matter process, according to Ducharme, is to abandon the whole “resolution” idea because it may just be biting off a little too much to chew and sometimes it may just be setting yourself up for failure. A better perspective is to look at what you are trying to do as making some positive lifestyle changes.

“I know it is the same thing as resolutions but a resolution kind of just sounds too final, whereas if I just say that I am going to do something that is really positive and that these are the steps that I am going to take just works out better,” said Ducharme.

“This is all part of setting realistic goals. You can’t just set yourself up for something that is so far out there that it is just not going to happen because it won’t happen. Looking at it as a positive lifestyle change is more realistic and acknowledging that it won’t take two weeks of keeping to it is part of it.”

For example, trying to lose two pounds per week is a realistic goal as opposed to trying to lose five pounds in a week; which for most people would be too extreme.

As she explained, going at weight loss by starving yourself, going on an extreme diet or engaging in extreme amounts of exercise and other processes that are not sustainable will result in a weight loss but not weight loss that is sustainable. While you might lose weight in the short term it is only in the short term and that weight will yo-yo back, often with a few extra pounds.

In other words, there is no quick fix and no magic to it, to lose weight it is necessary to eat less and move more.

When it comes to getting the right outlook, Ducharme said that one needs to understand that the goal is to change a bad behaviour into a good behaviour, a process that does not happen overnight.

“I love looking at it as getting healthier because that is a lot more realistic,” she observed. “The weight loss will come when you make healthier choices for yourself and then the weight will drop and so let’s call it something else.

“Making healthier choices in my life just sounds better whether they are physically, mentally or emotionally. Then you need to look at what the steps are and be very specific about that to see how you are going to reach those goals.”

And no matter what the positive life change you are looking to achieve is, breaking it down into daily goals that are easy to achieve instead of looking at it as one giant hill to climb.

For this, Ducharme recommends making a plan, such as scheduling time to exercise each day or writing down what you consume in a food journal. Even though it may just be taking baby steps, you will still be further ahead than where you were the day before.

“So take it slow, be realistic and don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t exercise or eat right that day. That way it is not a ticket to quit,” said Ducharme.

Lastly, and Ducharme stressed this is essential to making a life change – forgiveness is a must! Change can be a very difficult thing and so it is essential to be able to forgive yourself when you backslide.

The way she put it was to imagine your friend or loved one making the same mistake; would you not be inclined to forgive them? And so you should forgive yourself for momentarily failing to reach your goal.

“The best thing to do is, without feeling any guilt because it is such a useless emotion, just start each day as a brand new day,” said Ducharme. “Don’t look back but instead just stay present and be in the moment and go forward. You can’t change the past or what you did the day before but you do have control over the moment and so you have to seize that moment and start from there.”