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How to make every contact count

1 Small steps Make change less daunting by helping your patient focus on the first small steps rather than unrealistic large ones. Actions need to be easy to do so they become routine, then habit.

2 Know your patient Focus on engagement, not information. Advice needs to be tailored to the individual, who needs to feel it is relevant to them.

3 Self-monitoring Avoid using terms like ‘willpower’ and ‘self-control’. Instead empower your patient by asking them to self-monitor. A food or activity diary gives them the chance to reflect on how they are doing.

4 ‘Go public’ Encourage your patient to ‘go public’ with their goals. This can help them stay motivated and create a support network of loved ones.

5 Not a ‘one-off’ Be positive about any relapse. Explain that behaviour change is a process. Help them to learn from each relapse to avoid future pitfalls.

Dr Ricky Shamji is a GP in Birmingham and a sports and exercise medicine doctor