As a health and fitness writer, I hear from plenty of well-intentioned readers who wish they could find that magic button labeled “YOUR WILL POWER”. Something that would break them out of the vicious and repetitive cycle of setting goals, making mistakes, and then reaching for the nearest carb while having a pity-party in their fat pants.
Finding Your Will Power
When people find out that I’ve lost over 60 pounds (and that I wasn’t a size 2 my whole life…so no, you can’t hate me), they inevitably ask me how I did it. They want to know how I found that inner will power to make it happen.
But here’s the big secret…
Will power is over-rated.
I’ve been called “uber-fit”, “fitness freak”, “nutrition nazi”, and a host of other…um…compliments (?) but I’m telling you right now, if you put a box of Krispy Kreme donuts in my house, chances are high that I will eat them.
Because will power, “the trait of resolutely controlling your own behavior”, is a big, fat, lie. Although I admit that the fitter you get the easier it will be to say no to junk food, I still struggle with having will power in certain situations. Contrary to popular belief, I am not some super-human who managed to tap into a supernatural pool of iron-clad will power. While in the throws of struggling to lose weight, I simply learned to make smarter decisions that would set me up for success. And I continue to do this as I maintain my current weight. In other words, I dummy-proofed my innate lack of will power with a series of preemptive strikes. And anyone can do this!
Five Dummy-Proof Steps that Will Help You Lose Weight
1. Start with a good old-fashioned purge.
Empty your home of every fattening and calorie-laden junk food. If it’s in your house, you will eventually eat it! Don’t worry about wasting your money by throwing it away — you wasted your money the moment you bought the junk. The damage has been done so take a stand and don’t let it do any more! As you throw it all away, let the reality sink in of how much money you wasted buying it all so that next time you feel tempted to buy it, you’ll remember how much it sucked seeing it all in the trash.
2. Nail down that daily habit that is sabotaging your goals and find a replacement.
Chances are, your daily habits are set and you know exactly which one you need to curb. If you often indulge in a cheap commercial chocolate bar, buy a mini bar of high-quality dark chocolate instead. If the vending machine gets you during that afternoon energy slump, have a bowl of fruit salad ready as an afternoon snack. Don’t think too highly of yourself and try to cut it cold-turkey — find a healthier alternative and ease yourself out of the bad habit!
3. Stop drinking your calories.
Grande Vanilla Latte sound familiar? Well, a daily dose of 400+ calories is not exactly doing you any favors. Switch to regular coffee or at the very least, start reducing the amount of sugar and syrup you’re using. Even cutting one pump of syrup is enough to start reconditioning your taste buds. Then, when that starts to taste “normal”, try cutting another pump…and so on. Juice, vitamin water (don’t even get me started on vitamin water!), soda, milk, sports drinks…these are all unnecessary for a healthy diet. Yes, I said milk.
4. Learn how to read ingredients labels and stop relying on health claims printed on your food packaging.
Google the ingredients you don’t recognize or understand. That alone should scare you into not eating most the junk you’ve been eating. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is what helps fortify your will to change. Yes, ignorance may be bliss but that bliss also leaves you cursing the scale.
I avoid foods that list sugar (in all its names and forms) as one of the first three ingredients. That right there cuts out most junk food and saves me the hassle of dissecting the rest of the nutritional label. As for the health claims, every manufacturer loves to put bold claims all over their packaging. Low cholesterol, sugar-free, fat free, heart-healthy…whatever will convince you to put their product in your cart. These claims are often stretched out versions of truth (or not truth at all) and based on pseudo-science paid for by the manufacturer who is trying to sell you a product.
For example, a bag of candy can tote itself as “FAT FREE!” because it technically doesn’t include any fats. They are taking advantage of nutritionally confused consumers and sending a message of “these can’t make you fat”. But on the contrary! Excess calories are how we get fat! They feed our fat cells and leave us anything but fat-free! So do yourself a favor and master reading the only packaging labels that count — the ingredients and the nutritional info.
5. Count calories.
One way to help you understand nutritional labels is to log your food in an online food journal and start watching the macro and micronutrient breakdowns. Not only will this help you better understand the nutritional labels on food packaging, you will learn more about what’s really in the food you’re eating. Doing this can be a reality-check smack in the face and that’s exactly what you need if you want to see lasting change this year. Using a free app like MyFitnessPal on your smartphone leaves no room for excuses and allows you to track your food, water, and specific macronutrient breakdown (protein, carbs, fats) from day to day. A food journal app can also help you choose healthier options when eating out if you search the database before you order. I’ve changed my mind on what to pick from a menu on more than one occasion after pre-logging the meal into my personal MyFitnessPal food diary and being shocked at the calories.
Victory in 2013
Victory over the scale is not won in the gym nor is it claimed at the dinner table. Those areas are important in their own ways but the true weight loss battle is right there in your shopping cart. And it’s hanging off your every word while you order in a restaurant. It’s handed to you by the bartender or the barista. Before food even comes close to your lips, the victory has been won or lost.
Understand this! No one’s victory happens once they’re home and they put away all the junk food, promising themselves that this time they won’t partake in their husband’s snacking habits. And no one’s victory happens when their super-sized plate of food arrives at the restaurant table and they tell themselves to only eat half. No — the victory needed to happen when they sat down with their husband and had a serious talk about not bringing junk food into the house. Or when they ordered their meal and asked the server to only bring half to the table and the other half in a doggy bag (or better yet, they just ordered an appetizer!).
With every decision you make, you increase your chances of losing weight or you sabotage your good intentions. The decision is up to you!