At this time each year many people decide they want to change their lives. For some it's to lose weight, for others it's to give up smoking, quit a substance they feel addicted to, get fit, become more social, find a partner or do something new. And what better time than the new year, when society says we need to make changes and adopt new rules? Alas, for most this is short lived and for some it never gets past the thinking stage.

So what goes wrong? People want to change but to do this they need to look at their lives in depth and understand the changes that need to be made and the patterns which they have in place. For some people these patterns have been in place most of their lives and at some point may have kept them safe.

Counselling is a great tool for helping clients to understand their thought patterns and with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy(CBT) in particular we can help clients to set realistic goals and develop strategies to overcome these negative thought patterns.

For clients who wish to lose weight, their initial thought is to join a gym, which of course is beneficial, but if they have an unhealthy relationship with food this will need to be explored and patterns changed if the client is to sustain a weight loss programme and begin to appreciate who they are internally and how they look externally. Focusing on one and not the other tends to lead to falling back into old habits and eventually giving up completely, thus completing the cycle.

In my own practice I like to start by taking the client back through their life and discover when their relationship with food and their body became toxic. I then look at their self-esteem and begin to strengthen it by recognising the negative thoughts and distortions. I support the client through this difficult period by giving them a space to talk about their fears. I then start to change the negative patterns and develop a new more positive set of rules which are both realistic and adaptable and which gives the client a sense of ownership over what they chose to do, how they eat and how they feel about what they eat and ultimately achieving a more balanced perspective on who they are.

A key component to doing this is building self-esteem which may also include looking at body image, reviewing a client’s food diaries on a weekly basis and helping them understand the emotions which triggered them to eat in a certain way and how to go about changing this. If you don't recognise a negative eating pattern you will feel there is nothing to change, which can become frustrating and a negative motivator which then makes you feel useless and continues the negative cycle.

By giving yourself the space and time to explore your thoughts within an environment which is non-judgemental and safe at the beginning of a change, gives you the best chance of achieving it.