There's a popular saying in the weight loss world:
"You can't out-train (or out-exercise) a bad diet."
Exercise alone is ineffective for losing weight in the long-term. To be successful, you'll need to focus on your diet.
The problem is that we are always surrounded by food and social activities that work against our goal of losing fat and getting healthy.
Luckily, we have this thing called willpower.
Willpower is what allows us to delay gratification for our future selves. It's a way for us to suppress an impulsive decision in the moment for a future reward.
Willpower works like a battery - it's effective until it runs out.
Once willpower runs out, things like food cravings and social pressure become much harder to resist.
Your primary goals with willpower should be to ensure it doesn't run out. You should ALSO work to improve your willpower capacity so that running out of willpower is harder to do.
Here are 9 ways to increase and recharge your willpower, so you stay true to your weight loss regimen.
#1 - Avoid Being in a State of Willpower Depletion
We need to willpower in times of temptation.
There will be moments during your weight loss journey when you have to actively stop yourself from eating that third cupcake or opting for water when everyone else ordered a Coke.
Another way to think about willpower is to think of it as a muscle.
In order to build muscle, you need to push slightly past your comfort zone to get stronger. However, pushing too far can lead to negative side effects like overtraining.
The same can be said for willpower.
A strong willpower is built through using self-control in times of temptation, but pushing too far can quickly overdo it.
#2 - Develop Healthy Habits
More often than not, eating unhealthy is due to habit. For instance, We typically couple watching a movie with eating buttery popcorn, or going out to eat with eating an excessive amount of food.
The best way to fix this is to replace your unhealthy eating habits with healthy ones.
For example, opt for healthier options like unbuttered popcorn or carrot sticks for a snack.
You'll probably find that it wasn't the unhealthy food that you enjoyed, rather the act of eating with your activity.
Your unhealthy eating habits are less because of a craving for a particular food and more because of the habit itself. By identifying this, choosing healthier options will become easier and require less willpower.
#3 - Keep Tempting Foods Out of Reach
If you struggle with controlling yourself around Reese's Cups, then it wouldn't it be pretty silly to keep them around the house?
We all have foods we struggle with - I refer to these foods as trigger foods.
If you have a certain food that you fight to control yourself around and often leads to overeating, keep it out of sight.
By doing this, you will drastically reduce the likelihood of overeating.
Think about it - instead of just walking into the kitchen and grabbing food, you'd have to get in the car, drive to the store, drive home, etc...
Make overeating a hassle and you'll improve your ability to resist temptation.
#4 - Allow for Small & Controlled Indulgences
While avoiding certain foods can be beneficial, trying to eliminate all of the foods you enjoy can cause unnecessary stress.
Allowing for small and controlled indulgences of food cravings can allow for a willpower reset.
You see, the problem with high-calorie, sugary foods isn't eating them, it's eating them in excess.
If you control your portion size and the environment you eat them in, you can still enjoy small amounts from time to time without blowing your diet in the process.
#5 - Forgive Yourself When You Screw Up
You're human, and there will be times when you slip up on your diet or get lazy and skip your weekly workouts.
The good news is that you can recover.
One day of perfect eating won't get you to your weight loss goal just as one day of overeating won't result in reversing your progress.
It's the accumulation and consistency of overeating or following properly following a diet that will lead to weight gain or loss.
Instead of punishing yourself for messing up, forgive yourself and move on.
Forget the screw-up - losing weight is a process and that there will always be a new day.
#6 - Practice Mindfulness
Meditation and other mindfulness activities have been proven to increases your sense of well-being and happiness.
In fact, just 5 minutes of meditation a day can decrease stress and better help you live life in the present moment.
An often overlooked cause of weight gain is through mindless eating.
Mindless eating is just what the name implies - instead of focusing on the meal in front of you, your mind is elsewhere.
Try slowing down your pace of eating and engaging in breathing practices while you eat.
This will help you better decide if particular food decisions aid in your long-term weight loss or simply fill a short-term desire.
#7 - Find Accountability
Accountability partners are great for helping you achieve your fitness goals, especially in times of willpower weakness.
When willpower is running low, the support from a friend or family member can be what helps you avoid making unhealthy decisions.
Find someone that you can form a strong emotional relationship with - free of guilt and jealousy and full of honesty, authenticity, and motivation.
Someone who will tell you "you look fat in those jeans" or "Your breath smells terrible, go brush your teeth!".
What's important is that you both want to see the other succeed.
#8 - Eat Quality Calories
To physically lose weight, it always comes down to calories in vs. calories out.
Body composition is at a macro-level and is influenced by macronutrients (carbs, protein, fats)
However, the quality of your calories becomes increasingly important when we look at physiological health and psychological factors.
We often lose willpower and cheat on our diets in the face of excessive stress. While most people think of stress as coming from the outside world, they neglect the stress that happens on the inside.
Poor quality foods can cause unnecessary strain in our bodies through excessive sugar and chemicals as well as create vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Eating a diet of mostly whole foods will eliminate this bodily stress and result in better willpower.
#9 - Get Out in the Sun
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is derived mostly from sunlight. There have been studies that show getting inadequate amounts of Vitamin D can lead to depression (source)
If you often look towards food in times of sorrow, try going for a quick 20-30 minute walk outside.
There is a strong positive correlation between happiness and the amount of time spent outdoors - So Getchya some sun! (don't forget sunscreen, though...)
Willpower is a major component for losing weight, and it's important that you create an environment that both strengthens it and allows for times to "recharge."
There is an excellent book written on the topic of willpower that I often recommend to my clients and friends. It's actually one of my favorite books of all time!
It's called The Willpower Instinct and basically covers everything there is to know about willpower and how to get more of it!
Do you struggle with willpower or have other ways of improving it? Comment down below!