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Diets Don’t Start On Mondays! How To Break The Cycle And Focus On Your Goals

By Melody Coleman

London-based personal trainer, swim coach and founder of the Body Project, Melody Coleman writes for some of the UK's leading fitness magazines and nutrition providers… 
Read more.

Whether your motivation is to get lean, build muscle or simply improve your health, it is inevitable for many of us will hit some hurdles when it comes to diets. The best laid plans can go awry - maybe as the result of a stressful day or simple temptation for "off-plan" foods. 

In these instances, a single slip-up or mistake can act as the catalyst for a chain of events - resulting in the complete abandonment of our planned eating schedules or behaviours. We tell ourselves "I've already messed up today… I'll start again on Monday."

Diets dont start on a monday

Even with the best intentions to get back on the wagon at a later date, all too often this continued lapse in dedication becomes a vicious cycle, and ultimately leads to disappointment. 

Of course it goes without saying that we need to consider why we are making changes to our eating habits in the first place…

Kettlebell Windmill

As far as I'm concerned, if your dietary changes are not part of a long-term plan for improved health, optimal body fat percentage and lean muscle mass, then they can be considered to be unsustainable and expected to either finish or fail at some point in time.

Aside from factors relating to sensible and realistic dietary planning, I believe that it is our mind-set that needs to change when it comes to procrastinating and finding excuses when we lose focus of our goals. 

In telling ourselves that we've made a mistake, and will get back to our nutrition plan at a later date, we completely go against the point of dieting.

So What Do I Do?

Imagine that each time you eat, you are presented with a red or green token, representing either the unhealthy foods you've consumed (red), or healthy, nutritious food choices (green).

Zercher Squats

Of course, this is a massive oversimplification, as each colour could represent entirely different food options dependent on our individual "rulebooks" for what works with our bodies and personal goals, and what works against them. 

Regardless, some of us reach the end of our days with a higher percentage of green tokens, and some with more red. Consider that wherever you happen to currently average along this scale, your goal is to improve your green to red token ratio in an attempt to improve your eating habits for whatever purpose.

For some of us this may mean an improvement from 20% green tokens to 30%, and for others it could be an attempt to go from 90% to 95%. This approach is relevant for any personal nutritional change you may wish to make from any start point, whether it relates to fat loss, fat gain, lean muscle gain, maintenance or better health. 

If you're making a conscious effort to improve your ratio of healthy, nutritious food to less beneficial foods, what sense does it make to continue collecting red tokens just because you've collected one or two already? In improving a percentage or ratio, every opportunity to collect green tokens should be taken where possible. 

Remain Mindful

It's also important to remain mindful of the bigger picture in this token-collecting analogy. Over the period of a week, month, year or lifetime, our tokens can be averaged and analysed to give a clear indication of our overall health and body composition.

This means that even after an unsuccessful meal, day, week, or even a period of unhealthy years, we can slowly begin to improve our overall green to red ratio by making better choices over time. 

While it's important to collect as many green tokens as we can in pursuit of dietary balance and great health, it's also important that we don't beat ourselves up for collecting red tokens, as this can feed into a cycle of poor dietary behaviours. 

When we choose to make positive food choices as part of a healthy lifestyle rather than a specific dietary event, we allow ourselves the freedom to make mistakes. We associate fixed start dates as being new beginnings, from which we will adhere strictly to our plans.

Stay Humble And Be Proud Of Your Progress

Don't try to go for a perfect

This type of self-expectation for 100% compliance is simply too tall an order for many people, and sets us up for failure. A gradual change to a healthier lifestyle is the most effective method when it comes to achieving sustainable, long-lasting results. 

Don't try to go for a perfect "streak" when it comes to eating clean - go for an overall better balance. If your aim is to eat at least 60% beneficial foods then that's just as valid a goal as someone going for 90% healthy options.

Think of any dietary change as part of a global process of improving your position on a scale of 0-100%. Keep it realistic, and maintain focus on the bigger picture. Allowing time to learn, grow and adjust is the key to success. 

Jamie Lloyd

About Melody

London-based personal trainer, swim coach and founder of the Body Project, Melody Coleman writes for some of the UK's leading fitness magazines and nutrition providers, educating and inspiring people to take control of their health and fitness.

When she's not trying out fun new fitness-related activities, Melody is helping her clients learn to move properly in order to transform their bodies, rehabilitate from injury and maximise their sporting performance.

An expert in the field of movement, Melody takes a friendly, no-bull approach encompassing all aspects of fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle to yield impressive results across a range of clientele.

Follow Melody's unrelenting mission to empower people by sharing her specialist experience on Facebook and Instagram, and check out her client testimonials and personal blog at bodyprojectpt.com.

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