No Willpower? 10 Tips for Getting Your Diet Under Control

Two monkeys chug soda, showing a real lack of willpower and a poor diet

Two monkeys chug soda, which shows a real lack of willpower and a poor diet. | Pornchai Kittiwongsakul/AFP/Getty Images

Fixing your diet isn’t fun. It’s often uncomfortable. And if you lack willpower, it’s often a serious test of your patience. Even the smallest tweak to your usual eating habits can throw you into a tailspin. If you’re used to having a coffee loaded with cream and sugar first thing in the morning, for example, skipping it can cause some serious crankiness.

For many, changing eating habits is simply too much. They’ll start a diet, maybe see a little bit of progress, and then revert back to what they know and love. Eating healthy, after all, is difficult for many reasons. It’s typically more expensive, time-consuming, and requires you to think about what you’re eating rather than just opting for 7-Eleven taquitos.

In other words, it takes some effort. But if you’re serious about getting your diet in order, there are a number of things you can do to help yourself. Contrary to popular belief, changing your lifestyle doesn’t have to happen with the snap of your fingers. Over time, small changes can add up. You don’t need to give up all of your favorite foods and start subsisting on tofu and quinoa. If you do try that method, odds are you’ll be right back where you started within a short period of time. So, you’ll need to use some tips and tricks to increase your odds of success.

Here are 10 diet tips that can help, especially if you lack willpower.

1. Take small steps

Man going for a late-night snack

Take baby steps toward eating healthier. |

Ironically, you can start off your diet by biting off more than you can chew — in a metaphorical sense, anyway. You don’t need to completely change everything about your eating habits overnight, as that’s almost always a surefire way to fail. Instead, take baby steps. Start by cutting soda completely out of your diet, or alcohol. From there, make sure you’re eating fruits and vegetables with every meal, or something similar. The point is to break your overarching goal into attainable steps.

2. Learn to cook

bunch of knives with a cutting board

Learn to cook to make your meals healthier. |

If you want to cut back on eating fast food, calorie-heavy takeout, or the junk food at your local convenience store, start sharpening your cooking skills. Teach yourself to make your favorite foods and expand your skills from there. You’ll end up saving money, learning something new, and perhaps even cultivating a new hobby. You’ll also have a better idea of what you’re eating, making calories and macros easier to track.

3. Identify and use appetite suppressants

man drinking coffee

Coffee can help curb your appetite. |

You don’t need to starve yourself when changing up your diet. But sometimes, you’ll get hungry. You’ll be faced with a choice: Grab a bag of Doritos from the vending machine, or starve. Do yourself a favor and use a natural appetite suppressant to get you to the next meal. There are tons of them — coffee, apples, and even a glass of water can help stave off hunger until it’s time to eat again.

4. Indulge (a bit)

Sodas in a fridge

Don’t deprive yourself too much. |

A lot of people have trouble letting go of sugar. WebMD reminds us it’s addictive, and if you go a day or two without it, you’re more than likely going to experience some intense sugar cravings. You don’t have to go cold turkey; instead, indulge yourself just a little bit. One way to do so is to drink half of a can of diet soda or a lightly-sweetened iced tea. The sweetener should help alleviate some of the ravenous cravings you’re having without going overboard.

5. Learn to grocery shop

A woman buying produce

Learn to shop the right way in the grocery store. | Thinkstock

If you’re going to learn how to cook, you need to learn how to shop. There’s more to it than just knocking the items off of your list, too.

First and foremost, don’t go shopping when you’re hungry. You’ll end up acting on those feelings and buying things you didn’t intend to. Have a snack or meal before hitting the store. One more piece of advice? Stay out of the aisles. National Geographic explains grocery stores are laid out in a very specific manner, and most of the foods you should be avoiding are located in the aisles. Stick to the store’s perimeter for the best options.

6. Learn to portion

A portion of salmon

A portion of salmon isn’t as much as you think. |

Learning to shop and cook is one thing — it gives you a sense of control over what and when you’re eating, which is great. But you’ll run up against one more obstacle: How much you’re eating. Start measuring and portioning out your meals. This essentially amounts to calorie counting, which a lot of people despise. However, it does work. Start by getting a food scale, some Ziploc bags, and some containers to sort and portion your meals.

7. Plan and remove decision-making

A man cooking a meal

Plan your meals ahead of time. |

One trick you can add to your arsenal is to¬†plan out all of your meals well in advance — alternatively, you can eat the same thing every day if you’re not one for variety, too. This way, you’re not left scouring the pantry or fridge looking for something to eat. You know, and have known for days, exactly what you’re going to have for dinner or for a snack. And because you planned it (or simply like eating the same things), you already have what you need.

8. Use technology to your advantage

A man uses a fitness tracker

Fitness trackers can help. |

It’s 2017 and the future is now. We highly encourage you to use the tools available. That may include using fitness trackers, like the one seen above. Or, it can mean using food trackers, like MyFitnessPal. This allows you to track your diet and see exactly how many calories you’re consuming. You can also go old-school and use a piece of paper and a pen to make your own fitness journal, no fancy accessories required.

9. Reframe how you think about food

Food and calories

Think of food differently. |

In order to truly change your relationship with food, you need to reframe how you think about it. Eating, from a purely biological standpoint, is the act of simply refueling your body. You need resources, and food and drink deliver them in the form of vitamins, minerals, fats, and calories. Most of us don’t think of eating in this way, however. It’s a social event and something we look forward to.

But if you can think of eating as fueling your body rather than comforting yourself, and thus make different choices¬†regarding the types of foods you’re consuming, you can make better decisions.

10. Keep your goals in mind

Fitness and weight loss concept

Remember your goals. |

Finally, try to keep your long-term goals in mind when making decisions regarding your diet. Yes, you’re going to want to eat an entire Funfetti cake or Little Caesar’s pizza from time to time. But it’s not going to serve you in the long run, and for that reason, you should opt for more sensible options. Think about your goals before every meal. Indulge sometimes, but for the most part, try to keep the long game in mind.