New Year, Fresh Start


Dr. Tony Willis
Clinical Director for Diabetes, NWL Health and Care Partnership

It’s that time of year again.

As New Year comes around again, many people will start the year resolved to make changes to their diet, exercise habits, personal finances or general wellbeing.

On average 21% of UK residents will make a resolution for the year ahead – that’s around 14 million resolutions made.

Among people making New Year’s resolutions, the most common ones are exercising more (50%), saving money (49%), eating more healthily (43%) and losing weight (37%).

If you live in London, you’re part of a group who were most keen to make changes in 2020, with an amazing 74% making a resolution.

How to Avoid Being a Quitter’s Day Casualty

Most people who set New Year’s resolutions are very sincere about making changes. The reality is that by Quitter’s Day (17th January 2021), about 40% of people will have already given up on their New Year’s resolutions.

We don’t all keep our resolutions, do we?

I know – having set a New Year’s resolution to get more active for many years, I had many failures before I made a breakthrough.

So I’ve put together three key tips which I think should be helpful – they’ve certainly helped me. 

Set Goals Effectively

Planning is the secret to making change happen. A great plan shows where you are today, sets out where you want to be in the future and describes what you need to do to get there. 

Here’s how to get started:

  • Find a quiet spot.
  • Spend about 15 minutes imagining how you would like life to be in 3, 6 or 12 months and why.
  • Picture what that would look and feel like.
  • Try to write it down or draw it.

Goals help you understand what is important to you and why. This will keep you motivated as you start to make changes.

Not setting goals in the right way can often be the reason they don't work out.

The right way to set a goal is to:

  • Give yourself a set amount of time to reach it.
  • Make it something you can measure. This often means it has a number, for example ‘I will eat five portions of fruit and veg a day’.
  • Write down why it is important for you to reach your goal.

Download our goal setting tool to get going.

Get started

Set the Bar Low

We’ve all done it….made resolutions that are an almost impossible stretch:

“This year I’m going to lose 20kg" or “I’m going to start exercising for 30 minutes three times a week”

The reality is that it’s hard to make changes, and creating new habits takes time (about 10 weeks on average).

What will help you get going and keep going more than anything else is to make it really easy to begin with.

Before COVID lockdown, I was going to the gym on average once a week as well as one long walk of about 10 miles every couple of weeks. But for many years I’d been telling my wife that I wanted to start doing a 20-minute workout 3 or 4 times a week. For some reason it didn’t happen – other stuff got in the way and it just seemed a huge mountain to climb.

The COVID lockdown in March triggered me to start making some changes:

  • It meant that because I was working from home, I wouldn’t be getting any activity most days unless I made a conscious effort to do so. So my determination to do something increased.
  • A change in mindset. In the first week, I set myself a goal of just putting on some shorts and a T-shirt to get ready for exercise a couple of times a week. Easy! The second week, I set myself a goal of doing 5 minutes of exercise at least once a week. With behaviour changes that small, it was almost impossible to fail. My confidence grew and gradually I got into a better and better routine. I’m now at the point of doing 20-30 minutes intensive workout 3-4 times per week.
  • I linked an existing pattern (getting up) with the new activity I wanted to start.

We’ve put together a tool to help you get going with tiny habits that you can download and print off. The idea is to make it as easy as ABC to start a new habit:

A: Anchor the habit you want to start to an existing behaviour like getting up or eating or finishing work.

B: Behaviour. Start with a tiny behaviour change so small it’s almost impossible to fail.

C: Celebrate. This is really important. Celebrating success builds your confidence that you can make changes.  

Fail Forward


You've probably done it. You've made a New Year's resolution before, started on a diet, joined a gym, tried to kick a habit only to fall down. Here's an important point. It's normal to fail and take steps backwards.

You may already have taken some positive steps to take charge of your type 2 diabetes, which is brilliant. Keep going! However, there will be some steps back as well as steps forward.

Failure is an important part of growing. It's your attitude to failure which decides what happens next.

You can read more about how to learn and grow from failure, and develop a failure-proof mindset from our article on failure.

Here are 5 tips for failing forwards and to keep going with new habits even when you face setbacks:

  • Accept that failure is part of the process. Failure is normal, and if you face a setback it's not your final destination.
  • Feel your feelings. Let out your frustration. Take some time, walk it off and clear your head. The emotional rush will gradually go down. You can then focus on trying something slightly different.
  • Be honest with yourself. The most important bit is to understand what went wrong and why. Try to avoid distracting yourself by turning on the TV or pulling out the smartphone.
  • Make changes. You'll fail forward by learning from your setbacks and making the changes you need to succeed. You can’t stop barriers appearing, but you can choose how to handle them.
  • Be compassionate to yourself. Treat yourself like you'd treat your best friend.

Get inspired by Denzel Washington’s amazing video about failing forward:

Getting Going

So to summarise, if you want to be successful at making New Year’s resolutions and keeping them, here are the three steps you need to take:

  • Set goals effectively
  • Set the bar low
  • Fail forward

I hope that these tips are helpful and that you make a great Fresh Start to 2021.

Programmes to support you:

Many people find that joining a programme helps them to make changes more effectively. There’s something about knowing that other people are on the journey with you that makes a real difference.

The good news is that there is a wide range of programmes on offer if you’re living in North West London, and all of these can be done from the comfort of your own home, without having to go anywhere.

Why not check them out?

1)    REWIND

If you have type 2 diabetes, the North West London REWIND programme is one of the most effective ways you can hit any goals you set for eating more healthily and losing weight.

Anette, a patient in Brent, went on the programme and said:

I’ve been struggling with my weight for a long time and I thought the scale would never move. When I went on the scale and it shifted I was shocked. For once something was working for me and the weight loss has been amazing.

Find out more about the programme here and join hundreds of others who are already seeing a difference.

Note that we will be expanding the programme in 2021 to include more people.

2)    Fresh Start

Fresh Start is a new programme to help people with type 2 diabetes living in North West London. You’ll get a series of emails for 12 weeks to help you understand your type 2 diabetes, improve your wellbeing and make lasting changes. They’ll be packed full of tools and tips to help you get going. The programme will be starting soon.

3)    NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme

If you are at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes – we call this non-diabetic hyperglycaemia (NDH) or prediabetes – you can now self-refer into the NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. This is a year-long programme which has proved really popular in North West London. Over 34,000 people have been referred into the programme locally since is started in 2016. Learn more here

4)    Type 1 courses

Check out our collection of eLearning courses for people living with type 1 diabetes here. Whether you want to find out more about insulin pumps, growing up with type 1 or carbohydrate counting, there’s something there for you.


Dr. Tony Willis

Clinical Director for Diabetes, NWL Health and Care Partnership

Tony has been a GP in West London for 20 years and leads the North West London Diabetes Transformation Programme (NWL-DTP).

His passion is to support people make healthy choices, improve their wellbeing and reduce their risk of developing diabetes complications.