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.
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
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.