Being prepped to make a big life change — like knowing 15 ways to change eating habits in a day — can help you get started. But knowing for sure the exact day to begin may be more of a gut feeling. Often the most successful dieters start because of a wakeup call, says Amy Stephens, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in New York City.
1. Best: After your birthday
Experts dub this “the fresh start effect.” In a study from the University of Pennsylvania, researchers found that people were more likely to act on their health goals after landmark dates, including holidays and birthdays. When you’re thinking about how to start a diet, this is an ideal time. They explain that after a milestone, you’re less likely to dwell on past mistakes, making it easier to perform behaviours more in line with “the new you.” It also helps you think in big-picture ways, which can drive you toward your goals. You’ve got this!
2. Best: After a big life change
Let’s say you moved to a new home and are all settled in. Or you’re in a line of work where you have the summer off. “A new lifestyle and routine is the perfect time to start new good habits,” says Stephens. That might mean you make small tweaks to start marching toward your larger goal, like starting the day with a healthy breakfast or reducing the amount of sugar or cream you have in your coffee.
3. Best: Monday
It’s a new start to the week and you’re ready to take that “new beginnings” mindset to heart. Any Monday is a great day to begin anew. People see Monday as a “reset” button and greater motivation to tackle their goals at the start of the week. Besides, if you’ve been indulging all weekend, you’re probably ready to embrace lighter, fresher food.
4. Worst: New Years
The problem with New Years is that we pick lofty goals that are difficult to achieve—and weight loss is one you shouldn’t plan for. “You’re simply setting yourself up for more failure. If it hasn’t worked in the past, why would this New Year’s resolution be any different?” says Stephens. If you’d like to set a goal when the clock strikes midnight, plan one thing at a time, like vow to stop eating in front of the TV or eat dessert every other night instead of every night, she advises. Then, set your weight loss goal another time.
5. Best: Any day in October
The right time to go on a diet is when summers have ended and winter is approaching. Ideally, this month is October. The idea is that preventing pounds is much simpler than trying to shed them later. So, go easy on junk food in October, so you can afford more cheat days in December.
6. Worst: When you have a big project due at work
When life gets super busy and you’re preoccupied by something, it is not the day to vow to lose weight. Stressful, busy circumstances are not the time to test your resolve and there are also practical limitations, such as lack of time or sleep. For dieting to be successful, “all the stars need to be aligned,” says Stephens. Now, more than ever, good health habits are important, but tackle that weight loss goal once life calms down.