Great! It’s the start of the New Year and you’ve put losing that festive padding at the top of your priority list. By this stage, you’ve probably done a thorough audit of the refrigerator and pantry – throwing away the chocolate bars, biscuits and soft drinks. The chiller section of the fridge is loaded with organic kale, 100 new female fitspos are being followed on Instagram and you may have even had a chance to go grab some new workout swag to ensure that you’ve “accessorised your exercise…”. By all metrics, you’re on your path to a leaner, healthier, more balanced you. Well done you! Go forth and conquer.

Hold on, back it up a second. Anyone experiencing deja vu? Didn’t this happen at the beginning of 2014? 2013? 2012… 1997?

Now I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. But let’s look at this objectively. Every fitness business on the face of the planet is right now throwing confetti in the air – it’s “the New Year’s Resolution crowd” and there are only a few short weeks to catch people when they are excited and sign them up for a 12 month membership.

Well the intention of this article is to avoid that as much as possible and arm you with some tips to make sure you can maintain this beyond Chinese New Year booze parties, and the chocolate tsunami coming at Easter… Let’s drop the “six minute abs” crap and put the focus very clearly on permanent lifestyle change.

Write an ode to your past failures
That’s right, this is the time to cut through your own BS and be as honest with yourself as you can. The drunk grandma kind of honesty… brutal. Write it down on paper and vocalise it. Pretending everything was outside of your control before hasn’t been totally helpful so far, so this exercise can’t hurt.

Without acknowledging and accepting patterns of behaviour, which have been counterproductive in the past, how can we expect to not fall back into the same traps again? By holding ourselves accountable we accept that we alone are responsible for our inability to affect real and permanent change in the past. A bitter pill to swallow, I know. But the magic here is that we also empower ourselves with the belief that we can invert this accountability to the positive – and ensure that nobody or nothing will hold us back from moving forwards from this point.

Once you’ve written this down and acknowledged the shortcomings, you can have a sacrificial destruction of that paper. I suggest walking around with burning sage and chanting at the same time for effect. Shamanic makeup optional. Clean the slate and start afresh.

Pace yourself turbo
Going full-throttle on your fitness kick from a standing start is a normal tendency. We are inspired about the potential and take action accordingly. But to play devils’s advocate, is this behaviour in stark contrast to the way you usually roll? How confident are you that you can keep that pace up?

Achieving optimal health and fitness is an ultra marathon. Now imagine watching a 10km children’s cross country race and seeing some poor chubby kid sprinting as hard as possible as soon as the starter’s gun sounds off. Of course you can appreciate the intention, but you remain pretty confident that said chubster will soon collapse in a heap within a few hundred metres, with nothing but shattered dreams and bewilderment to keep them company… See where this is going? Don’t be that kid. Slow and steady will always trump an overnight revolution.

Focus on better than”, not perfection.
Now if you’re reading my articles you are obviously a highly intelligent, spiritually-evolved, perfectly grounded, hilarious and humble individual. I understand that your genius borders insanity, and that your food diary probably resembles a scene from “A Beautiful Mind” or “Goodwill Hunting”… A blackboard with erratic scribbling and you shifting between hysterical laughter and tears of confusion. Let’s remind ourselves that despite our self-appraisals we are not Steven Hawking pondering “The Theory of Everything”. Making realistic and obvious positive choices isn’t that difficult.

Debating the benefits of eating organic wild quinoa, as opposed to brown rice, as opposed to sweet potato is of course beneficial if you are competing in Miss Universe contest next weekend. Are you? Were you eating fettucine carbonara with a bottle of wine and cleaning-out half a French patisserie for dinner on a regular basis before your resolution? Take the obvious “better than” options. You have the rest of your life to fine tune the details. Is it a better choice than before? Great! Keep moving forward.

Consistent not constant.
The biggest trap all too many of us fall into it is to “fall off the wagon”. Which happens. But unfortunately some of us fall off the wagon, hesitating and staying there for a second, before looking at that wagon and thinking the wagon was overrated anyway. May as well get comfortable now because the wagon has gone and who knows when the next one will roll past. This is where one weekend of bad food and drink turns into three years of strategic sabotage. Remember – a body at rest tends to stay at rest.

Now if you’re falling off the wagon every Wednesday, most Thursday nights, and pretty much forget the wagon ever existed between Friday and Monday morning, then perhaps we need to go back a few steps and focus on those goals again. But remind yourself that you are human, and part of being human is being fallible. If cheesecake miraculously materialises and somehow through a fluke of physics enters your mouth, make sure that you get over it ASAP and get back in sync with what you’ve committed to and why you want to achieve it. Feeling guilty and disenchanted wont fix anything. Use those calories and do some burpees!  Success is not linear, focus on spending more time improving than stagnation and you’re on the right track.

CHEAT SHEET: CHANGES YOU CAN START MAKING TODAY!

EXERCISE:
Commit to something that holds you accountable
. Either find a workout buddy who threatens physical harm should you get flaky, buy a pack of PT sessions, or commit to doing some kind of physical event which requires you to get serious, today.

Take the express train outside of your comfort zone. This will be daunting at first but your body will respond, and that change will fuel your fire for the longer term.

NUTRITION:
Use this rule to setup a framework of how to eat. “Can you kill it, pick it off a tree or pull it out of the ground?” Great! It’s good to go. If you’ve read every nutrition book ever written and you’re confused, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

The science changes, improves, is refined or looked at in a different context and thus what is “perfect” is an enigma. However, I have yet to  read any peer-reviewed studies which suggest a pepperoni pizza is an astute choice in macronutrients.

Get a good broad spectrum of proteins, unrefined carbohydrates and natural sources of fat. Eliminate everything else.

LIFESTYLE:
Sleep! There is plenty of time to look at optimal water quality, exposure to toxins, mitigating your exposure to various kinds of stress and reducing inflammation, and these are all very important. However, there is one thing to prioritise initially: it is to get better quality sleep. It is vital to maintaining health across every metabolic and hormonal process.

Second, focus on gut health. Get busy googling how to heal your gut, as with compromised gut health pretty much every other effort to improve health and fitness will be in vain.