This is Better Than Willpower for Sticking to Your Diet

Imagine walking by a warm plate of ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies. You can nearly sense the buttery feeling on your fingertips and the melting of the chocolate in your mouth as the fragrance of freshly-baked sugar, flour and chocolate dances by. But you smile and easily say no “thank you” because you have willpower.


stack of gooey chocolate chip cookies

© Can Stock Photo / kellyvandellen

Maybe at first. But what if there are 3 kinds of warm, gooey cookies? What happens after you’ve walked by those cookies a half dozen times? Eventually, it seems like they’re taunting you, right? That’s normal. Our willpower muscles get tired. Or what happens when you’re distracted by a headache and feeling cranky because you sat in traffic on your drive home? Willpower isn’t flexing its strong muscles right then either. That’s normal too.

Here’s why I’m no fan of willpower

It isn’t because I don’t have any. It’s because willpower is unreliable.

One minute it’s there. Then blammo, it’s gone. Maybe it gets you through a chocolate craving several nights in a row. But then what happens? If you’re like many, you’ve been wooed you into a false sense of confidence. You let your guard down and before you know it, you’ve eaten a couple handfuls of cookies or half a bag of chips.

Willpower fades – especially when you’re in a hurry, feel tired or have a million other things on your mind.

What’s better than willpower for sticking to your healthy eating goals?

While willpower is a flakey friend, strategies and skills are yours forever. Long-term success comes from skillpower, not willpower.

Whatever your goals – eat less sweets (mine), manage your cholesterol or blood sugar levels, cut back on sodium – you need skills.

Just like you cannot will yourself into being a calculus whiz, an expert driver or a rodeo star, you cannot will yourself into being healthy or into making healthy choices. Instead you need skills and strategies for the kitchen, the supermarket, parties and more.

Set yourself up for success

Plan ahead and rely on smart strategies. By the way, planning ahead is a skill. To help you with that, sign up to receive the Super Simple Strategy to Keep You From Falling Off the Healthy Eating Wagon. Just enter your email address in the box directly below this post.

Never say, “I’m going to do this because I set my mind to it.” Here are several strategies for your home.

Keep it out of sight. I love all things dark chocolate. Instead of keeping chocolate chips and chocolate candy in my pantry where I would see them multiple times a day, I store them in that hard-to-reach cabinet above my refrigerator. The chocolate is out of sight and even out of reach. (At not even 5′ 2″, I need a chair for my chocolate cabinet).

I also plan to eat chocolate every night. This is truly one of my favorite strategies, and it helps me eat well all day. I look forward to my chocolate, so I pass on other treats. Then I savor the heck out of it. After my small treat, I brush my teeth (another strategy), and I’m done eating for the night.

healthy bliss balls with chocolate chips

Say YES to a couple chocolate walnut balls!

A few other strategies:

  • Store tempting foods in opaque containers.
  • Keep your trigger foods out of the home. Enjoy them when you go out.
  • Delegate the frosting of cakes or the cutting of brownies, if they bring out your demons. And for me, they do. Fortunately, others in my family happily take on these tasks.
  • Keep healthy foods, like a bowl of fresh fruit, in sight and in reach.

Be portion savvy. Even healthful foods in portions too large can pack on the pounds and jack up blood sugar.

  • Pre-portion tempting foods. When you first open a box of crackers or bag of chips or put away freshly baked ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookies, pack them in single servings. Put two cookies or a dozen chips into separate baggies. Store all of the baggies in the original package or a larger storage container.
  • Be selective with your dishes. Pick out a small bowl that’s just the right size for cereal and another for ice cream and so on.

Give up the notion that you need to increase your willpower. Instead of working harder, work smarter. Don’t forget to sign up below for the Super Simple Strategy to Keep You From Falling Off the Healthy Eating Wagon.

Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

Leave a Reply

Leave a Comment

Welcome to my Blog

Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.

Jill's Books

Connect With Jill

Dietspotlight Top Pro 2017-18