How to lose weight without willpower

Struggling to maximize your willpower? Or maybe your progress is stagnant?  I’ve got a new program launching in the coming weeks that focusing on short, intense workouts, with the goal of fat loss. If you’re looking for some help maximizing that willpower to get some serious results, I would LOVE to work with you.

It’s so exciting to talk about the most recent fad crash diet, juice cleanses, or Whole30 experiment. These things are intriguing, promising quick results with some intense work. You may feel like this is something you can get behind. A few tough weeks to the body you’ve always wanted? You feel like you’ve got the willpower and mental strength to succeed in this challenging endeavor. You’ve got this. Sign me up.

You’re going strong, kicking ass, and getting it done. Then, somehow, two weeks later, you look down at your table strewn with fast food wrappers, a half empty bottle of wine, and possibly some cookies, wondering WTF just happened. You can’t understand how you’ve failed again when “everyone” on social media professes success. Why? Why did you “fail?”

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It’s a simple answer.

Willpower is a finite resource.

When you enter the next exciting diet or cleanse, you can take on ANYTHING. You’re high on the possibility of getting your results, once and for all. With that excitement comes the drive required to follow someone else’s meal plan, and eat chicken breast and broccoli for three days straight. Things are all well and good as you ride the wave of determination, white knuckling your way through what you’re “supposed” to do.

Now what happens when you hit week 2? It becomes much harder to stick to “plan.” You feel your determination wavering. Suddenly it’s like you’ve blacked out and awoken to all the foods you’ve missed for the last week, either on the table or in your belly. YIKES.

Diet 1, Willpower 0.

If this sounds familiar to you, realize you’re not alone. We’ve all been there. I remember being in high school on various “diets,” but keeping a spoon in my bedside drawer so I could sneak ice cream and eat it in my room. Sitting on my fluffy carpet, back leaned up against my bed, I savored every bite of Hagen Daz vanilla ice cream. When I was done, I remember tiptoeing down the hallway, which ALWAYS creaked in the same spot, to return the carton to the freezer. If the spoon and bowl weren’t in the dishwasher, there was no evidence of my willpower failing.

Unfortunately again, Diet 1, Willpower 0.

These diets are inherently going to fail, because you can’t rely on willpower alone to bring you success. As mentioned above, willpower will fail you. I think about it like patience. Even if you are the most patient person in the world (hello mom), eventually your patience is going to fail.

So how can we apply that to fat loss and physique change? Simple.

Use smart habits to maximize your willpower.

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If we take time to build habits that support our goals, after a few weeks, these healthy behaviors become automated and stop requiring willpower to do them. A couple examples for physique change goals:

  • Eliminating snacking, eating only 3-4 BIG meals a day.
  • Waiting 30 minutes after feeling hunger to dive into your next meal
  • Fill half your plate with veggies

The list goes on!

Once you’ve automated one behavior that’s in line with your goals, move on to the next one. This allows you to continue your automated behavior without any willpower and concentrate it on one change at a time. Remember that the optimal amount of time to create a habit is around two weeks. So don’t get overzealous; focus on one habit for 14 whole days before moving on to the next one. This will ensure that the behavior truly is automated.

Recently, my big habit has been shifting away from snacking, instead eating four large meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and nighttime meal. It was a struggle at first. I craved a mid-morning snack or a glass of wine before dinner. However, I looked at my situation and made slight adjustments to make meal timing easier. I buffed up my breakfast, adding some extra protein and fat, which made it easier to last until lunchtime. If I wanted some wine in the evening, I paired it with my dinner. Now, I don’t even think about it, and I eat four meals a day, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. This habit will serve me in the long term.

I know sustainable fat loss and physique change is not as sexy as that next fad diet, but it IS the way to receive results that last. Even when you stop actively trying to manipulate your body composition, the habits remain. These are what will keep you lean for life.

What is one habit you are trying to cultivate?

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