What is the fresh-start effect, and how does it jump-start weight loss?

  • 3 Minutes Read
Joanna Kriehn
Joanna Kriehn, MS, RDN, CDCES - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES)

If you want to improve your chances of reaching your weight loss goals, consider employing the fresh-start effect. The principle behind the fresh-start effect is all about WHEN you start a new diet. Read on to see if this methodology might help you achieve your health goals.

Fresh-start effect

The fresh-start effect explained

Behavioral economist Katy Milkman, Ph.D., determined that timing matters when changing habits. She found that when individuals committed to lifestyle changes on specific, meaningful dates, they were more likely to achieve their goals than starting at random times.

Dr. Milkman describes the fresh-start effect as "the energy and determination we feel when we are able to wipe the slate clean." It is easier to clean the slate when we start our health journeys at certain times over others.

By starting your goals anew, you can find a bit of distance or space from your past, which ultimately provides motivation.

When is the best time to employ the fresh-start effect?

Milkman's research found that individuals were more successful in regaining focus around their goals if they embarked on a fresh-start cycle after a landmark date. Landmark dates might include:

-Federal holidays
-The start of a new season, such as spring or fall
-The first day of the week (Monday)
-Following a physical transition such as:
    -Starting a new job
    -Starting at a new school.

Don't let these dates stop you from starting anew. In reality, every day provides an opportunity for a fresh start.

When to think twice about a fresh start

Milkman's research also demonstrated that you might want to think twice about a fresh start if your past performance was successful. For example, suppose you are experiencing weight-loss success consistently by hitting the gym and logging your food. However, your friend suggests you adopt her diet plan and workout schedule. In that case, you may want to think twice about trying her fresh-start idea. Beginning a fresh-start cycle may stand in the way of future goal-directed behaviors if things are already working for you. On the other hand, if you struggle to complete your daily tracking or make it to the gym consistently, a fresh start may help get the scale moving again.

Use the "Fresh Start" feature from MyNetDiary

If you want to update your plan, such as switching from Low-Carb to Premium Calorie Counting, or setting another weight-loss rate, target date, or target weight, you don't need to start over!

To use "Fresh Start" in the app simply follow these steps.

1. Access Fresh Start from "My Weight Plan" on your dashboard.
2. Scroll down to "Planning Tools" and look for the flag icon.
3. Once there, you can quickly change your start date or clear your weight history by deleting weigh-ins.

How to stay on track once you've committed to a fresh-start cycle

Once you've decided it is the right time to tackle your health and weight-loss goals, these tips will set you up for success.

1. Manage temptations by having a cue-based plan

If your goal is weight loss, review your logs to identify times during your day when you typically go over your calories. Once you've identified a pattern, create a specific plan to tackle those temptation periods. Instead of saying, "I just need to do it; I just need to stop snacking after dinner," create a plan that includes when, where, and how you will avoid evening snacking.

When: "I will wash the dishes, clean up the kitchen, and avoid going back into the kitchen after dinner."
Where and how: "I will do something with my hands away from the kitchen, such as a hobby or craft after dinner in the living room or workshop. I may need to plan several activities if my attention span is short. These things will keep my mind and hands busy, helping distract me from snacking."
Finally, many people find reminders helpful, especially during the first few days of a new habit. Try setting a digital reminder to go off each evening after dinner to remind you to close the kitchen and unwind with a hobby.

2. Try temptation bundling

Make it easier to accomplish your goals by employing a strategy developed by Dr. Milkman in which you bundle something you enjoy with something you dread. One example is allowing yourself to watch your favorite show only when riding your stationary bike. Another is listening to your favorite podcast only while doing the dishes or taking a walk. Essentially, you provide yourself with an immediate reward for your accomplishments.

3. Enlist support

Social support is powerful; whether you feel better after venting to a friend or enjoy the accountability of having a walking buddy. Having someone to connect with by text, phone, or in-person, provides motivation and can help you stay the course when you encounter obstacles. Check out MyNetDiary's online community to team up with others working hard to lose weight and improve their health.

Additional resources

How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Katy Milkman, PhD
Falling off-track? Here are 4 tips to get you back on track with your diet and exercise routine
"Why is my weight not going down?" Avoid these common tracking pitfalls to get the scale moving
Does your home environment encourage mindless eating? Learn how to alter food cues for weight-loss success

Still new to MyNetDiary? Learn more today by downloading the app for FREE.

Weight Loss->Weight Loss Tips & Quips Tracking & MyNetDiary->Tracking Tips
Jun 20, 2022

Start Your Free
Food Diary Today

Sign up Devices