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How to REALLY make a change in 2018

By Ben Coomber

Ben Coomber is a performance nutritionist (BSc, ISSN) speaker and writer. Ben run’s Body Type Nutrition, an online nutrition coaching company that also runs a multi-level 2 year Personal Trainers...

When I was asked to write this article, the suggested angle was a simple one: Give some tips, tricks and ideas which will help people to change in 2018 – but I call BS on that.

I know it’s a cliché to knock New Year’s Resolutions, or those who set them. Along the same lines it’s really common to see articles, blogs and social media posts which are all along the same lines – Start NOW, why wait? Well I’m not about to just add to that generic list.

They all make a great point, of course, and in the interests of honesty that is the way in which this article will ultimately go. You really should be starting to do now what you are planning to put off for the next few weeks, but I think it goes deeper than that.

Time for Change

If you are considering changing an aspect of your life starting January 2018, I would put it to you that you are probably going about things in the wrong way.

Before we go on – this article is aimed at those looking to make a lifestyle change. I talk about goal setting, and I’m talking about goal setting in this context. Someone who, for example, is already leading a healthy lifestyle and is currently working on hypertrophy but will switch to a fat loss phase in January is a very different animal, because you are a step ahead already.

This article is for the beginner, the person just about to start their journey towards health and fitness. If you are thinking about joining a gym for the first time and/or losing some fat in the new year as a means of ‘getting healthy’ – then you’ve come to the right place.

What is Change?

Change, in the sense we are talking about here, is an alteration of habits or behaviours which have a given result.

For example, ultimately we may wish to lose fat. We may be looking to increase our monthly income. We could look to quit smoking, or alcohol – but these aren’t things we can directly change as a single thing.

2018 Goals

No, we can’t MAKE ourselves lose fat; all we can do ischange our behaviours from those which cause fat gain and retention, to be more along the lines of habits and behaviours which promote fat loss.

Our end goal may be that we want to lose fat, but the change we must make is to start eating better (or just less). We may need to be more active, we may need to assess other areas of our life which hold us back such as poor sleep patterns or time management.

If we lose some habits and gain others, then we will have changed our behaviour – the fat loss happens all by itself as a result of these changes.

If you want to stop smoking, you need to stop buying cigarettes and you need to start finding other things to do to relax. Cutting back on alcohol? You need to change your behaviours around alcohol and start ordering soft drinks, or finding alternative settings in which to be sociable.

When it boils down to it, the final goal which we want to achieve in the future is the result of a series of actions which we can take in the present, and if you are wanting to make a large change, these are the terms you need to think in.

It’s a process, a journey, and each step is a habit which must be altered.

By focusing on habits, we also break a large goal down into a small one. “I want to get fit” is a really big undertaking, but it can be broken down into a set of habits which are not.

Drinking More Water

“I am going to drink 500ml water in the morning before leaving the house” is a pretty small thing to do but a step in the right direction which can be built upon.

These things are difficult to change, though, because our habits are our habits for a reason. For example, many people opt for ‘junk’ food because time or other factors make other options seem unreasonable.

This means you end up eating too many calories, and you gain (or at least aren’t able to lose) body fat.

In a different, yet related example, someone might believe exercise to be a painful and unpleasant thing either due to expectations they have formed on their own or because they’ve tried before and a trainer or other source of advice has made them feel that way.

This, as a side note, is a big failing in many personal trainers and classes or bootcamps. If a client comes to a coach looking to start out, and the coach pushes them WAY too hard in their first few sessions, they will probablyscare that client away from exercise.

Not only do they lose a client, they are directly responsible for making that person’s journey infinitely harder. But I’ve gone off topic a little.

Regardless of why someone has the preconception that exercise is going to be really unpleasant, they have it – and not many people want to do stuff that is really unpleasant, especially if this is combined with the idea spread in the media that changing your body is really, really hard to do.

This all jumbles together to form the idea that exercise is going to make you hurt, and it’s not going to really do anything good for you anyway – nobody is going to like that prospect.

So this person might, on some level, want to start exercising, but when they think about it they are faced with a huge number of negative thoughts and are completely demotivated.

They don’t change their behaviours and go back to the couch – and I DO NOT blame them – this is not laziness, it’s a result of a thought process which, given the same information, everyone would reach.

To keep doing what we are doing now is to fail in reaching our goal – after all, as Einstein famously said;

Albert Einstein

Insanity: Doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results

If we want to lose fat or gain muscle, get a handle on our alcohol intake or do ANYTHING which people commonly promise themselves come January 1st, we need to change the behaviours we have which are leading away from this goal – and to do that we need to find a way to make it important.

So how do we Change?

Before we can change, we must be ready – and this is why I believe (and often find) that New Year’s Resolutions fall flat. You don’t succeed because you didn’t really want to in the first place when you set the goal; you were not READY to change and therefore it’s unrealistic to expect yourself (or for others to expect you) to commit to doing so.

Goal Setting

Most goals which people set are externally motivated, meaning that it’s not really their goal in the first place.

The person who says they will give up chocolate every year because that’s what everyone else is doing; only to open their Cadbury’s selection box on New Year’s Day is a prime example of this. They never had any real intention of achieving their goal, so they had no chance.

Readiness to change depends on your environment and your mind set - both of which you can control depending on your knowledge, and your comparing of the pros and the cons.

There are always going to be some things in your environment which you cannot change (those kids aren’t going to disappear, hopefully) but you CAN alter a lot of factors around you if you weigh up the pros and cons and find that it is worth your while.  

In order for you to become ready to change, the pain which you feel as a result of NOT reaching your goal must exceed the pain which you think you are going to feel in the process.  

If you feel no pain without achieving your goal, you’re not going to be willing to experience any to reach it. So we need to find out – what is causing you pain?

Think now, about a goal you are considering for 2018. Really think about it.

When we want something, what we are really hoping for is an alternative to what we have now.

Those who want riches want an alternative to the amount of money they have now, because they are dissatisfied with their current income (or at least perceive that an increased income could enrich their lives – that’s a topic for another article some time).

Pain Chart

Those looking to gain muscle want more muscle because the amount which they have now is unsatisfactory for whatever reason they identify with.

Those looking to lose fat are unhappy with the way they look or feel or both.

This is what we need to focus on.  Not the thing you *hope* will happen in 2018 if you do something, because this is an abstract thought in the future which ‘would be nice to have’ and for most people this is nowhere near enough to be motivating.

If you don’t succeed then you haven’t lost anything – so if the process isn’t really easy you’re experiencing more pain by making the effort than you would by giving up.

We need to focus on the thing which you want rid of RIGHT NOW. The thing which causes you some degree of pain, and must therefore be changed in order for you to be happier.

Ultimately, you may be worried that changing may potentially be difficult or painful, but if you are unhappy NOW, that will not change unless you do something about it.

Change could be painful, not changing WILL be painful – once you are in this mind set, changing your habits is the logical thing to do. You are experiencing a small amount of discomfort to remove a large amount – it’s like pulling out a splinter.

This is of course not to say that those looking to change are unhappy by default. Far from it. I, personally, am looking to grow some muscle over the next year, but I am far from unhappy with the amount I have now. I just know that in achieving that goal I will be proud of my accomplishments, which will make me happier than I am at present. 

Food on the mind

But back to what I was saying earlier. We have identified the thing you really want to change – your pain point.

Once you have found this pain point, use it. You may need to start to be more active, which means sacrificing free time, relaxation and perhaps money. Though this may cause you pain, it pales into insignificance in comparison to the pain that you know you are feeling now and will therefore continue to feel if you continue with your current actions.

Though it may be a bit of an adjustment to make to ACTUALLY MEAN IT when you tell people that you are just going to have one drink, this is nothing compared to the pain you are currently feeling, knowing that you are damaging your health with your current behaviours around alcohol.

Sure, reducing your chocolate intake to a small amount once or twice per week may cause you cravings in the short term, but it’s only through dealing with THIS pain, that you can avoid the pain that results from a habit which you currently accept as part of your life.

Once you identify with the reason, the core belief which has led you to decide you need to change an aspect of your life, you don’t need motivation, because you actually want to do what you set out to.

Why you need to start NOW

Setting your goals

The point of this article is this: your pain point is causing you pain NOW. If something is your goal, it is your goal because on some level the alternative is causing you to be unhappy – or at least holding you back from being happier.

Though it may take many forms, the reason that most people do most things is because they believe it will result, in the end, in improved levels of happiness.

And let’s face it, if you offered someone the ticket to more happiness they wouldn’t want to wait until a random date before taking it.

To make a change in 2018, start to alter your habits now.

You don’t have to make the full change all in one stride because these things take time, and as much as we can pretend that it doesn’t, the fact that it’s coming closer to Christmas DOES have an impact on the amount of control you have over the finer aspects of your life.

Money is spent, alcohol is consumed, food is in abundance and sleep is occasionally cast to the wayside. The festive season WILL make it harder, but there is some progress which can still be made:

  • Could you drink more water every day, in spite of the festivities leading up to 2018?
  • Could you maybe try to eat an extra serving of vegetables every day?
  • Could you go to bed 30 minutes earlier on days where you aren’t kept away from home due to social occasions?
Fat Loss, Muscle Build, Improved Health

These may seem like small steps, but they ARE steps, and it is the combination of a multitude of little habits like these which will take you closer to your ultimate goal.

If you really do have a goal, if you really want to achieve something, then waiting to start achieving it makes no logical sense. If something is causing you pain on any level, then it doesn’t make any sense to wait before making it stop.

And if you are reading this thinking that your goal doesn’t mean that much to you, or that the alternative doesn’t cause you any degree of unhappiness, then it probably wasn’t your goal to begin with.

2018 could be an awesome year; it WILL be an awesome year. Hell, it could even be YOUR year – but it’s only got that potential if you start to take the steps to make it so.

2018 isn’t special, it’s not unique, it’s just a period of time like any other.

Making it incredible comes down to you. Start now.




About Ben

Ben Coomber is a performance nutritionist (BSc, ISSN) speaker and writer. Ben run’s Body Type Nutrition, an online nutrition coaching company that also runs a multi-level 2 year Personal Trainers nutrition development program, the BTN Academy.

Ben has the UK’s #1 rated health and fitness podcast on iTunes ‘Ben Coomber Radio’ with regular Q&A’s and expert interviews.

Connect with Ben over on FacebookTwitter, YouTube, or Instagram.

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