Willpower is a limited resource, psychologist Sean Connolly of San Antonio says, but we all have it. The
trick is in knowing how to use it efficiently.
"People list lack of willpower as the No. 1 reason holding them back from improving their lives in some
way," says Connolly, who works regularly with bariatric patients. "Willpower is not a gene. It's a tool that
we all have that we have to learn to use, develop and manage."
Like any muscle, your willpower gets tired. So you have to plan, Connolly says, and know what you will do
in situations that offer a healthy choice and an unhealthy choice. You also have to be prepared for
emergencies, such as at the end of a long work day, when your willpower is exhausted and the drive thru
Willpower also needs to be replenished daily. The best way to do this? Get enough sleep.
3. Be realistic.
Let's be honest, most of us want to lose a lot of weight. And when we don't — when we drop 5 or 10 and
then hit a wall — we get discouraged and jump back on the fried food wagon.
One of the biggest obstacles to losing weight is unrealistic expectations, says psychologist Gary Foster,
director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University.
"The less you weigh, the less you need to eat and the more you need to move (to lose weight)," Foster
says. "And that's not fair."
It's nice to aim high, but successful losers drop an average of 8.4% of their body weight. If you weigh in at
200, that's about 16 pounds. And losing those 16 pounds improves your health dramatically.
In other words, hoping to weigh what you did in high school will derail your plan before it starts.
"Life changes, and that's not an apology or a cop out. It's a realistic assessment," Foster says. "What else
in your life is the same at 45 as it was at 20?"
4. Find better friends.
It's known as the "socialization effect." Cigarette smokers hang out with other cigarette smokers. Drinkers
hang out with other drinks. And overweight people hang out with other overweight people, says Dr. Robert
Kushner of Chicago.
"What do you do if you're hanging out with a group of people who are overweight?" he asks. You pick a
restaurant. You go out for burgers and a beer. "You're probably not talking about going rollerblading."
We tend to pick up the habits of those we hang out with the most. So find some friends with healthy
habits, and you'll become healthier yourself.
5. Do a cart check.
You know the MyPlate diagram — the one that shows how your plate should be split into fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins? Your cart should look the same, Blatner says. When you think you're finished
shopping, do a quick eye check to make sure it's filled with about 25% protein, 25% whole grains and 50%