• Weight Loss: Why Willpower is NOT the Answer

    Thursday, July 11th, 2024

    by Judy Weitzman, Diet Coach

    Are you counting calories or carbs? Do you sign up for weight loss programs to help you shed some pounds? Or do you try to exercise the pounds away?

    There are a gazillion ways to lose weight and any program will work if you follow it. Counting calories is the efficient way to lose weight.

    Most programs are actually based on calories. Unfortunately, no matter what method you chose to lose weight, life gets in the way and temptations are everywhere.

    got-willpowerSome folks appeal to their willpower.

    However, when there is a warm breadbasket sitting in front of you at the restaurant, screaming your name, willpower doesn’t always cut it.

    Challenges like this are tough to conquer.

    The best way around them is to have great strategies and tricks to help you achieve your goals.

    Here are a several ways to stay on track without depending on willpower to achieve your goals:

    Exercise in the Morning

    Work out first thing in the morning because after putting forth all that effort to start your day, you less likely to make poor food choices later. Bonus benefit for women: You only have to do your hair once that day.

    Visualize Your Weight Loss

    Visualize: keep a clear image in your head of how you want to look at your ideal weight. Take the time to create a clear picture in your mind.

    Alternatively, create a picture board with pictures of all the activities you can do at your ideal weight, clothes you want to buy and if you have photos of yourself when you were at your ideal weight, add those to the picture board.

    Visualizing can be a very powerful tool in attaining your goals.

    Practice Portion Control

    platesDishes: Smaller plates – this is a tried-and-true method for eating less.

    Small portions on a larger plate get lost and seem smaller than they are. You may still feel hungry as a result.

    Using a small plate, the same amount of food gives you the illusion of a full plate and your brain registers that you will have enough to eat.

    Goal Setting: Focus on the Small and Attainable

    Set smaller attainable goals to get instant gratification – goals don’t have to be just about pounds lost. You can set goals for how much water you drink, taking your exercise to a new level, eating more vegetables and getting more sleep … the list goes on and on.

    Create House Rules Instead of Relying on Willpower

    House rules – this is another way to avoid depending on “willpower” which can wane when there are cookies calling your name: Create house rules in lieu of using “willpower” which can fail you when the temptations are just too much.

    • Don’t eat in front of TV – always eat at a table with utensils.
    • Determine what snacks you can have in the evening (when most people get into trouble). It is so easy to justify those 100-calorie treats. A good house rule would be to have only one or two per evening depending on your calories for the day. Or pre-planning what you will have so there is no question about what you will eat.
    • No drive-by eating: this means you cannot use your finger and thumb to pick up a chip or a cookie or anything like that; if you want a healthy low calorie snack, try snacking on little tomatoes which have very few calories and lots of flavor.
    • If you opt for a protein bar as a snack, only eat half and put the other half away for later. Eat it slowly with a glass of water and you may not even need the other half. If you are still hungry fifteen minutes later, have the other half.
    • Create a water drinking behavior in front of the TV – the behaviors we have in place now are developed over time. Our job during weight loss is to change those behaviors. Keep a big glass of water or tea by your side when you are watching TV and fill up on that instead of junk food. Train your brain so you do not to eat in front of the tube.
    • Have fruit instead of cookies or other treats to satisfy your sweet tooth. Oranges are so sweet that they can satisfy your sweet tooth instead of diving into the candy drawer for some sweet satisfaction. Other fruits are also sweet (when they are in season) and a great alternative. Having your fruit prepped and ready to eat makes it easier to grab. For example, if your are eating the little oranges also known as Clementines or Cuties, have them pre-peeled and ready to eat in a container in your fridge. This way you can grab one as easily as you would grab a cookie.
    • Brush your teeth after eating – having that fresh feeling in your mouth can help you avoid eating mindlessly and your dentist will love that you are brushing your teeth more often!!
    • Hide food – this might sound silly but out of sight is out of mind. It is so easy to forget about a bag of cookies or some other treat if you store it in a cabinet that you rarely use. The same goes with putting things in opaque containers. Open bowls and clear glass containers are invitations to indulge.
    • Wear tight clothing around the house – in lieu of pajamas or yoga clothes that easily expand, it is best to wear tight jeans around the house. Granted they are not the most comfortable but the binding feeling across your tummy will be a strong reminder to skip the extra treats while you are watching TV or relaxing with your family.
    • Distractions – set a timer – most cravings will pass after 10-15 minutes, so set a timer and get busy doing something to take your mind off of food. It works most of the time. If you are still craving something after 15 minutes, then have a small portion so you don’t feel deprived.
    • Keep busy with a “to-do list” – create a list of projects that will keep your mind off of food and your hands busy. For example, cleaning out drawers, knitting or any kind of needle work, putting photos into albums; organizing your files, changing your nail color, read a book or magazine, do crossword puzzles, the list is endless. But by having a “to-do” list you will create a win-win situation. You can feel good about crossing something off your list and you will have avoided mindless eating!

    Create a Positive Feedback Loop

    Self-talk – this is an area where the goal is to use positive language about your weight loss journey and give yourself positive reinforcement along the way. Too many people tend to beat themselves up. Make it a mission to be kind to yourself.

    Celebrate little victories – like taking the stairs in lieu of the elevator, parking in the furthest spot in the parking lot so you can log more steps, only having one or two bites of dessert instead of the whole thing, sending back the fries that they accidentally served you when you asked for veggies.


    Give yourself a big hug when the behaviors you change have a long term affect on your overall health.

    As you can see, rules are so much easier to adhere to and playing little mind games makes all the difference in helping you achieve your weight loss goals.

    (published April 9, 2015)

    diet-coach-judyJudy Weitzman, known as “Diet Coach Judy,” has experience in the weight loss industry that spans more than 30 years. She is the author of How to Eat When Life Gets in the Way. Besides her professional experience, she lost 50 pounds nearly 30 years ago and has maintained her lower weight. Judy has successfully helped her clients lose weight and keep it off by helping them change their behaviors. Each program is individualized and the daily support she offers helps ensure her clients’ success. To learn more about Judy, visit her website at www.dietcoachjudy.com.