Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Put Your Goal in a Bowl

By: Holly L. Goroff MS, RD, CDN

Placing POWER on the sideline, bringing WILL to the frontline. Willpower - The weapon of choice to lose a food fight.

Have you ever noticed that when dieting willpower doesn’t always work? Either it doesn’t work at all or doesn’t work for long. It may ‘help’ you make a ‘good’ choice for a moment (what to eat, if you exercise or not, etc.) but it’s exhausting to stay consistent. Yet, people constantly say ‘I need more will power…then I’d lose weight, exercise more, or achieve my goal.’

What is Willpower? 

It’s defined as control deliberately exerted to do something…to restrain one’s own impulses. (Sounds exhausting!)

Let me put you at ease. Willpower, if it’s anything to your goal, is a saboteur! Think of it this way: it is a high (emotional and psychological) energy state. It’s essentially a fight and if it’s for weight loss…it’s a food fight!

The Vicious Cycle

You want a second portion of lasagna, or a fifth cookie but you ‘shouldn’t’ because it’s ‘bad’. So you breakout your willpower and tell yourself it’s bad, you should not, you try and walk away. But it is so hard! Your friends are eating whatever and it feels good to eat it - until right after, of course, when the guilt sets in and the story repeats. You can easily break a sweat fighting against your momentary desires to try and meet your goal. This clearly applies to many areas in life that far surpass food. But let’s face it, by the time your exhausted at night, and potentially starving, your strength runs low and you’re more apt to binge or say ‘forget it, I’ll try again tomorrow’.

Don’t Follow Misguided Thoughts

So why all the quotes in the above paragraphs? To highlight misguided thoughts. Let me explain.

When I was trying to lose weight (one of the many times before I successfully kept it off) I said to myself ‘I want to be 145 pounds’. In honesty, I’m sure the number came from somewhere, but since I can’t remember, it tells me for the most part the number was arbitrary. When I was tempted to eat too much at a party, out with my friends or just bored at home, the thought ‘Hey, Holly, don’t eat that. Don’t you want to be 145 pounds?’ fell flat. A number is a general statement like ‘I want to be healthy’ and it is sterile and not motivating.

Find Your Own Goals

When I personalized my goals and thought of specifics that would change in my life as my goal was achieved that was way more motivating than ‘I want to be 145 pounds’. For example: Instead of saying, ‘don’t eat the five cookies because that’s ‘bad’ and then if I do I’ll feel failure and shame’, I’ll ask myself what do I want more? Five cookies, which might mean I won’t lose weight for that day or be one meal and step closer to feeling confident in a bathing suit, or not feeling my clothes being so tight?

When you ask yourself to choose between two things you want, there is no fight. You don’t even really need power. You just need to actually want to achieve your goal and realize you always have many choices to make. What to eat is just one of them and an example I am covering currently.

Put Your Goal in a Bowl

Here is my recommendation on how to help train yourself to choose for your goal….put your goal in a bowl!

Let’s say you’re at a party and there is pizza. You had your one slice, fine. You want the second slice because it was so good, even though you’re not hungry. Your goal is to lose weight so that you feel comfortable in a bathing suit. This is what you do…

Step 1: Desterilize your goal - Make the goal personal and relatable rather than abstract or impersonal. Example: Instead of ‘I want to be 145 pounds’ ask yourself what about that number you really want (because I didn’t actually know if that number was the number that would make me comfortable). Instead, I want to lose weight so that I am confident going to the beach in a bathing suit and my clothes are not tight.

Step 2: Imagine next to the slice of pizza you want to take there was another plate (or bowl). In that bowl imagine there are the things you want: your beach body, your jeans that fit you, photos of a more confident you, etc. Now look at the two options: Second slice of pizza because it’s good OR bowl filled with success that occurs when you choose to forego eating too much.

Step 3: Choose which one you want more!

Step 4: Be happy for yourself! Now instead of fighting you are merely making informed decisions for your life completely based on things you want! You’re acknowledging that weight loss and heath goals are intermixed with all of your other life goals. By repeating steps 1 and 3 you are making informed and balanced decisions.

Step 5: If you chose the second slice of pizza instead of your goal in the bowl…move on. Of course you’ll choose the food sometimes. Just try and outweigh the times you choose your extra food with how much you choose your goal.

One Step Closer to Your Goal

When you choose the goal in the bowl more often than the second slice of pizza, or whatever your temptation is, not only are you going to be one meal closer to your goal, but you didn’t have to use willpower or any power. It’s not an exhausting process. You simply made an informed decision using your will and your will only. I invite you to listen to a sample of Choosy Kid's song, "I'm Learning to Choose" that may help you focus on what our bodies need most. It doesn't matter that the song was created with children in mind. Rather, think of it as an honest reminder. You can also read the full lyrics by clicking on the image below.

About the Author: Holly is an experienced dietitian in both clinical and community nutrition. She is currently serving as the Clinical Nutrition Manager at now guest blogger for Choosy Kids!

She received her Master of Science degree in Nutrition and Food Studies from the Steinhardt School at New York University. She is published through her research and contributing work at Burke Rehabilitation Center investigating nutritional factors impacting neurological rehabilitation in stroke patients.

In addition to managing her staff of clinical nutritionists, she has a passion for serving at-need and underserved communities. She teaches outreach programs focused on mindful eating and strategies to make healthier lifestyle choices to at-risk community populations. She has recently been made lead in her hospital for teaching and managing the outreach classes to reduce childhood obesity.

She has expertise in: weight loss and management, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, dealing with polypharmacy and achieving nutrition goals, achieving wellness goals in a creative and resourceful manner and motivating change.


  1. Great idea with choosing between the two bowls! I'll have to give that a try!

  2. I like your process of determining a positive goal! This was a great read!

  3. This is great. I am not trying to lose weight, but I was recently diagnosed with gestational diabetes so I have to set strict goals on what I can and can't eat and how much I eat....especially with my favorite pizza. Thanks for the tips.

  4. Goals are tough when it comes to eating. I like how you break it down in this article. I have to keep a low salt diet for health reasons and I am going to "desterilize" my goal and try to manage my willpower this way.

  5. I have no willpower and it is a vicious cycle! This is great advice, Instead of dieting, I need to concentrate this on quitting smoking :/

  6. These are GREAT tips. Will-power (especially with sweets) is one of my huge issues. It's like my body doesn't recognize how many cookies or donut holes are too many!!

  7. I love the point that you make about misguided thoughts and defining your own goals. This is very helpful information.

  8. I love this. Making a choice and comparing options is such a great idea. When you really think about something and give it a little time, the decision usually becomes the right one.

  9. I really need this cos I always go halfway away from my goal plans. Thanks for sharing.


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