01/07/2013 11:35 am ET Updated Mar 09, 2013

Resolve to Start Small

It's New Year's again, and for those of us in the weight loss business, it's high season. Every magazine has weight loss articles and interviews with experts. TV shows flood us with good intentions, and blogs abound with healthy living advice and good cheer. As a result, my voicemail is always full with new client inquiries the first couple of days in January.

Of course, it's with good reason -- people are interested in making this year better than the last by following through on their goals. And if you live in the U.S., there is a very good chance one of those goals is to lose a few extra pounds.

So what is going to make this year's resolutions any different than last year's, or those of the year before? As someone who helps people work through their food and body issues, this is always the question: What can we do differently this time? Most people think that they just didn't try hard enough last time they intended to lose weight, and that this time they will "stick to it," and things will be different. This is the lie that we all tell ourselves: If I'm a better person and don't quit this time, I will succeed. I just need to dig deeper and stop being so lazy. If I focus on eating less, everything will work out.

But willpower is limited. We all know this! If it were unlimited, we'd all be perfect and happy, with chiseled bodies and sharp minds eating gourmet, healthy, well-balanced meals made from local food with no packaging three times daily. But the reality is, we're not.

So what we need to ask ourselves is something totally different: What is the one thing I can do today that will leave me feeling less stressed? Because when we really think about your struggles with food, are you more driven to overeat after an excruciating day at work or when you just rolled off the massage table after a day at the beach? Or, if you were given the opportunity to exchange eating cookies for the end of all your family drama, would you take it? Of course you would. Could you maintain it? Of course you could.

The point here is to start your year off by putting in place small changes that will leave you feeling less stressed and therefore happier. Take a walk after work. Learn to meditate. Do some yoga. Play with your child. Do anything that's enjoyable. If you want my advice, make this year's resolution to improve the quality of your life, starting with one little thing. Then add another. And another. There's always more to say about weight loss, so even if you're skeptical about the idea that stress reduction is your first step in taking off those extra pounds, you'll have less to worry about when you try, making your life a little bit better, which, after all, is the true goal.

For more by Brandt Passalacqua, click here.

For more on stress, click here.