New Year’s is coming. You all know what that means, right?

Gym membership renewed, goal weight decided upon, pretty new yoga pants purchased, and the decision to, for once and for all, lose those Christmas pounds we’ve inevitably gained. Every year, I (and millions of other people) decide that it’s perfectly fine to completely overindulge during the holidays, because we’re going to make up for it come Jan. 1.

And we’re not wrong. Well, at least not all wrong.

In my opinion, it is perfectly fine to indulge during the holidays. This is a time of family and fruitcake, carols and cookies, turkey and all the trimmings. Why wouldn’t you celebrate? Why shouldn’t you eat just one (or two, or five) too many gingerbread cookies? This time of year only comes… well, once a year. Life is truly too short not to enjoy it.

Here’s the thing. It’s not what you eat in December that’s the problem. We all know this. It’s what you eat from January through November that we really need to think about. And that’s where we get to the heart of the matter.

A healthy weight doesn’t come from a quick fix or a fad diet. It comes from making tiny changes, one or two at a time, and sticking with them until they become habit. And then making some more tiny changes. And some more. You get the idea.

Making broad, all-or-nothing statements like “I’m going to go to the gym for an hour every day”, or, “I’m going to lose two pounds every week” will likely only accomplish one thing – a set up for failure. Because what happens the first day you don’t get to the gym? Or the first week you don’t lose two pounds? Both of these things will inevitably happen. And if your get-back-to-a-healthy-weight plan only revolves around those (or any other non-sustainable sweeping) changes, then you’re going to be right back where you started before you know it, plus you’ll be beating yourself up for not being able to “stick to the plan.”

So how about this year we try something different? Something a little kinder, a little gentler, and a little more do-able over the long haul? How about we try making one small change a week until we get to where we’d like to be? Here are 12 little tweaks you could make to your lifestyle. None of them involves counting calories, buying a gym membership, or even making all that big a sacrifice. But all of them add up to big potential changes in your quest to get to (or maintain) your healthy weight.

1. Keep a food diary.
2. Start wearing a pedometer to track your daily steps.
3. Try to make your serving sizes just a little bit smaller than usual.
4. Drink a little more water every day.
5. Try to choose foods based on their nutritional attributes, rather than the fact that they’re “low calorie.”
6. A few days a week, replace your work-day lunch with a nice, big, green, leafy salad.
7. Try out a new, healthy recipe every week.
8. Add five minutes to your daily exercise routine every week until you’re up to 30 minutes five or six times a week.
9. Follow the “1 Mile Rule” – if where you’re going is less than a mile away, walk instead of driving (weather permitting – we do live in Canada after all)!
10. Swap out your fancy sugar-laden coffee for a plain old cup of joe.
11. Go to bed just a little bit earlier.
12. Cut out the after-dinner snacking (eating dinner a bit later will help with this one).

Try making just one change a week for the next twelve weeks, then stick with those changes until they become a habit. I bet you half a dozen of my mom’s famous shortbread cookies that you’ll be closer to your goal by this time next year (and ready to over-indulge in the holidays all over again)!

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Pam Levy
Pam Levy is an equestrian, a fitness coach and an all-around health nut. Her day job is in business support at a leading nutritional products company, but her passion is helping others find their way to healthy weight loss through realistic advice, daily support and online accountability groups.