Danielle Hamo White Dress

Did you resolve to lose weight in 2016? 

With one week left of January — and 11 long months left in the year — now is an excellent time to check in and assess your progress. Some of the hardest shifts to make in our lives are ones surrounding food, especially in the winter: bad habits and crappy weather can make even the best-intentioned of us reach for those brownies when we know we should be eating exactly one square of dark chocolate to curb our cravings.

Danielle Hamo, a registered dietician and nutritionist who recently moved her practice to New York from Miami to work with F-Factor diet founder Tanya Zuckerbrot, has a really great idea for keeping yourself on track: a food contract. Do you need a notary on hand? No. But writing down your intentions, and creating quantifiable, attainable goals on a week-by-week basis is a proven method for actually sticking it out. "A contract is a great way to help you carry out your goals, and keep you accountable for them," she says. Small steps add up to big impact, and and taking things one week at a time allows you to get really specific about what you need to change and where.

Hamo's contract was inspired by Gretchen Rubin's proven method in The Happiness Project, and you can download it here.  How to start? The contract requires you to set three goals per week, which Hamo says makes success more attainable. Short-term goals, like choosing to swap an apple for a piece of cake, are easier to conquer than long-term goals, like a general "lose five pounds." Being reasonable with your goals is another suggestion she has for success — if you've never been an early riser, don't commit to 5 a.m. wake-ups. 

Identifiying barriers that might trip you up is a key part of the contract—don't leave a cookie jar on the table if those cookies are your weakness. And if you're swapping apples for said cookies? You'll need them in the house, preferably washed and in a bowl so they're ready to munch.  Another integral part of the agreement is a non-food reward, like those earrings you've been eyeing or a lip gloss that you'd like to try. Hamo points to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which showed how having an incentive (such as a reward or money) resulted in subjects losing more weight (14 pounds as opposed to 4 pounds in the non-incentive group.) Even seven months after the study concluded, the incentive group weighed less then the non-incentive group. So you get the earrings and a slimmer waistline — seems like a no-brainer. 

After you've filled the contract out, Hamo suggests leaving multiple copies around to remind yourself of your commitment: seeing one on the fridge, near your bed, in your purse and on your desk at work leaves little room for you to wiggle away from your intentions for the week. She also suggests telling your friends and family about the contract, to increase your accountability and build a support structure for yourself. Would you try this method to help keep your weight-loss plans on track? We'd love to hear your thoughts.