Willpower for Weight Loss? Not the Best Strategy

willpower for weight loss does not work

If the cupcake was not in your house, it would not be an option.

Many of us think that it’s necessary to have willpower for weight loss. We think, “If only I am strong enough and determined, if only I exercise self-control with my diet and exercise, I will be able to maintain a healthier lifestyle and weight.” Such thinking can be mighty self-limiting. It converts a positive decision- to be healthy- into another reason to feel guilty if willpower isn’t enough to get the weight loss started and the goal achieved.

Think about your eating environment instead instead of willpower for weight loss

For this reason, if you are my client, I advocate a different approach. Namely, I believe that willpower is a self-defeating concept when it comes to losing weight or maintaining weight loss. Instead, I counsel my patients to control their eating environments. By sustaining a “healthy” eating environment, you can also assist in improving your own health and weight. Such an environment means limiting the high calorie and fat foods in your home, so that you are not tempted to succumb to their temptation, which in turn makes willpower at home irrelevant.

Strategies for weight loss without willpower:

Toss your leftover holiday or special occasion goodies

If you have trouble pitching them, give them to a skinny friend or bring them to your office. A moment on your lips can result in months on your hips, as the saying goes. Evaluate if it is worth the momentary gratification.

Be smart when you do your grocery shopping

Avoid putting high temptation foods in your cart in the first place. Self-control only needs to happen at the grocery store. Avoid impulse purchases with a planned grocery list that you stick to. And, as you have heard before, don’t grocery shop when you are hungry. It be a good idea to also not shop when you are pressed for time or tired.

Stock up on lots of health enhancing foods at the grocery store

These healthy foods are your “tools” for successful weight loss. If you are concerned about fresh foods perishing, remember, frozen foods are just as nutrient dense as their fresh counterparts! Here are some suggestions for keeping a healthy stocked kitchen.

Any treats in the house should be less than 150 calories

There are many desserts available that are pre-packaged and under 150 calories. These lower calorie treats can be great for curbing our sweet tooth. Here’s a list of 50 calorie treats providing protein, fiber, and help for your sweet tooth. If others in your household just have to have certain high calorie treats in the house, tell them to make them unavailable to you. In plain English, let them hide them.

Keep undesirable foods off your counter and out of your line of vision

Make these food items hard work to get to. Don’t keep the ice cream in the freezer; instead, if you want to indulge, make it so you have to go out and get your portion of ice cream. And if you do go out and indulge at the ice cream shop, think about some smart strategies ahead of time. A little mental preparation ahead of time can help you make the best choices for your health and waistline.

While there are always other eating and dining obstacles to be faced while trying to lose weight and keep ourselves healthy, take a step in the right direction by reducing your reliance on willpower and making your home a healthy eating environment!

Is There a Weight Loss Bullet?

Actually, there are three weight loss bullets-food documentation, limiting restaurant food, and regular eating.  Dietitians have been aware of this information for decades, and a new study out this month supports these tried and true tactics for successful weight loss. 

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

  • Food documentation:  Food documentation can happen on a smart phone with numerous apps, desktop computer, or iPad.  I have clients who also mix it up a bit and even revert back to an old-fashioned small notebook and pen which is easy to carry around.  It does not matter how you document, because the fact that you document your food means you are not shoving food into your mouth without paying attention. You cannot “run and hide” from your calorie consumption, and the sheer act of “facing” those calories gives you a winning edge on successful weight loss because pretending you did not eat those calories is accomplishing nothing!
  •  Limit Restaurant Food:  Chances are pretty good that the meal you ate out for lunch or dinner contained many more calories than had you eaten at home.  Making a conscious choice to dine at home rather than away from home will increase the likelihood you will succeed at weight loss. Those that think otherwise are either in denial about the calorie content of standard restaurant cuisine or uninformed.  Remember the greasy bun you did not expect to come with your overly large burger or the really large serving of fries you probably would not have eaten at home? And, the cocktail and desserts typically not available at home but that you consumed while dining out are not helping your waistline either.  Try as you may, it is an extreme challenge to constantly dine out and manage your weight.  It is the first lifestyle change I recommend with new weight loss clients!
  • Eat Regularly: Even a hungry dietitian can walk into the kitchen and want to eat everything in sight if she or he went too long without eating! Eating on a regular schedule keeps your blood sugar up and your hunger down.  Going for very long periods between meals and snacks paves the way for a binge.  Intentional stockpiling of calories to save for later in the day usually backfires as well.  You will, in all likelihood, be so ravenous your guard will be down and you will overdo those calories and do so in a hurry as soon as you can eat.

No one ever said losing weight was easy.  But facing your eating and lifestyle behavior are half the battle in this process.  Being accountable, calorie savvy, and nourishing yourself on a timely basis will help make the weight loss process happen. 

What tools do you use?

5 Tech Strategies for Successful Weight Loss

Sample view of Nutrihand, my client online food tracker

If you just ate too many jelly beans and chocolate bunnies, consider using some tech strategies to help. With some time ahead of us before the next holiday, it’s a great time to start tracking your diet and physical activity. Tracking your food intake allows you to avoid denial about your calorie consumption. And, it keeps you honest with yourself on a daily basis.

If weight loss is your goal, then the only way you will reach that goal is to somehow eat fewer calories than your body needs. Or, use more energy than you consume through food. To lose one pound of fat per week, you must go into a 3500 calorie deficit per week. By doing so either with less food, more exercise, or a combination of less food and more exercise you will see the scale change! Crossing your fingers and “hoping” the weight comes off is a rather common occurrence. But being systematic with your focus can mean the difference between hoping and happening.

Some of my favorite for weight loss tools

Use the Internet for nutrition information

If you “must” dine out often, you need to be aware of the nutrients and calories you are eating away from home. While a full service restaurant is not required by law to provide the calorie content of its meals, franchises with 20 or more locations are. This is very helpful to anyone who frequents Panera to P.F. Chang’s. Check the nutrition information prior to dining at franchises to make better choices.

Online food documentation

Nutrihand is one of the online food tracking platforms I now offer my clients. Clients log in their food intake and day-to-day, we can both see if goals are met. Goals may revolve around calories, but also other specific nutrients. Carbohydrate, fat, protein, calcium, potassium, sodium, and fiber can all be assessed. There are similar programs on the Internet to serve a similar purpose. It’s worth your while to experiment with a format that works for you.

Using smartphones for food related decisions

At this point, there are so many great smartphone apps on the market. And, more become available daily. These apps allow for tracking food and calories on the spot. Others track your physical activity like a pedometer. We can even find apps to help us make better nutritional decisions at the grocery store. With the smartphone camera, you can even take photos of foods to share with your favorite dietitian for further discussion.

A Pedometer

While basic pedometers are not exactly high-tech, they can be effective for assessing baseline physical activity. The more expensive pedometers allow for downloading of collected data (steps, aerobic steps, calories, distance) to your computer. This allows your data to be documented, graphed, and saved on your computer. Then it’s available for review or sharing with your dietitian.

BodyMedia Armband

This is the ultimate assessment tool for determining how many calories you require for weight management. Worn on the left upper arm, it measures your calorie burn in a 24-hour period. It seems very accurate and after the collected data is downloaded, you are able to look at your energy expenditure in sections of the day. This allows you to evaluate the activities and movements which are most effective at burning calories. Knowing this information will help you lose weight. Furthermore, sleep quality is assessed. Current research suggests sleep quality is correlated to weight management.

With the help of these self-monitoring tools, your behavior and diet will be consistent and effective enough to help you reach your weight goals.

Do you have any special weight loss tech tools you would care to share?