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The 3 Best Ways to Strengthen Dieting Willpower

//The 3 Best Ways to Strengthen Dieting Willpower

The 3 Best Ways to Strengthen Dieting Willpower

This was the second part of a talk given at Scottsdale Weight Loss Center on Oct 11th, 2018

Craig Primack MD, Scottsdale Weight Loss Center (Scottsdale, AZ)

Willpower is finite. We only have a certain amount of it, and after a while, it wears off. Most people stick with daily goals 20% of the time. What makes that less? Stress, fatigue, other things going on, franticness. It becomes less than 20%.

New Year’s resolutions, willpower, “I need to do this,” so what happens with New Year’s resolutions? Eight percent at the end of the year. Ouch. Should weight loss be a New Year’s resolution? Probably not. 25% fail in the first week. Willpower does not work. So we have other techniques that we can use that are either non-willpower or willpower strengthening.

Oh, also, studies show that people who rely on willpower the most, “I am just not going to be hungry, I’m just not going to eat,” … So remember, eating is a drive hormonally, and if you just say, “I’m not going to eat, I’m not going to eat,” we give in. And the stronger we use our willpower, when we do fall off the harder it hits us, the more discouraged we get, the more we don’t want to go on a diet anymore.

So if we use those techniques, we are setting ourselves up for failure. The all or none, I’m all the way on my plan, and then I’m all the way off. We need to find middle grounds.

Three steps: gratitude, compassion, and pride. What does that mean? Gratitude, what is gratitude? Let’s start there.

Being thankful.

Being thankful. Being thankful as a general topic makes us feel better about ourselves and our future selves. So feeling gratitude can increase your discipline when it comes to taking care of your self. It’s an interesting way to think about it.

Gratitude makes the rewards of doing the right things for yourself more appealing. We start to think, and I talked about it earlier, “What does my future self-think of what I’m doing now?”

So a gratitude journal is my first take-home recommendation. A gratitude journal, you’re going to say, “It’s silly, and I’m not going to do it.” Do it. Two things gratitude journal does. Number one, it helps this, and it helps actually happiness. It’s another topic that I have.

A gratitude journal is very simple. Something good happens to you today, write it down at the end of the night. Some people will do this every night and pick the top three things that you’re grateful for today. It can be small. “I didn’t get in another car accident today.” I actually got in a car accident yesterday. No, I’m fine, the car needs a little work, he hit me in the rear.

That’s something to be grateful for.

It’s something to be grateful for, neither of us was hurt. That would be something you’d put down in a gratitude journal. I did come in and I weighed one pound less this week. That is something to be grateful for. If you do it at least two to three times a week, it will help you over time.

Compassion is the second one.

What’s compassion?


Caring, caring for others. Being compassionate with yourself is just as important as being compassionate with others. All the time I think we beat ourselves up over things that we do, and we are not compassionate with ourselves. I always say, and I joke with a lot of you, that I am never going to yell at you in the clinic.

And why is that? Because we yell at ourselves, and you get really good, unfortunately, at yelling with ourselves. Being compassionate with ourselves will help us go through this. Compassion helped students work 30% harder when they were studying for a test, when it was studied in a psychology class, interestingly enough.

The two things that really help with compassion, number one is meditation. Has anyone meditated? More of us should be meditating. If you’ve never meditated and want to meditate, I recommend two apps. One is called Headspace, the other’s called Calm, and there’s a third, I think it’s called Insights Timer, or something like that. If you just look up on the store.

Basically, any form of meditation has to do with breathing. It is easy, you cannot not do it right, if that makes sense. It doesn’t sound simple, but it is very simple. All these three apps guide you through it exactly. Just 10 minutes to start off your day, for many people, will help you in this world. It just calms.

What was the second one? I didn’t hear-

Headspace, Calm.


Yeah, C-A-L-M. Both of those … I think they both have a free period and then there’s a pay. The one that’s called Insight Timer I think is free the entire time.

The second one, and this is interesting, is writing a letter to your future self about what’s happening. If I said, “I am not going to eat ice cream today,” and I’m proud of that, what should my future self-feel? Future self’s going to be happy with me. So think of how you would be with that. And the opposite is true. If I’m about to eat the ice cream and I shouldn’t be, because whatever, how will my future self-think about that?

The last one is pride.

There are two kinds of pride that they talk about. Hubristic is not the one I’m talking about. “I have a really nice car, that’s my pride,” that’s not the kind of pride that we want. Authentic pride is when you work hard and you achieve something. You study for a test and do well, that’s something to be proud of. You work hard at a diet and are successful, that’s the kind of pride that I’m talking about.

It’s how you feel when you do something you have to work for or earn, not to just come super easy to you, for other reasons. It boosts your self-control. So then which is better? Pride from pushing things away or the shame of eating it later? Well, it’s easy, the shame is … Beating ourselves up is never the right way to do it.

So, gratitude, the feeling that energizes us to do good for others. Compassion, the emotion that drives us to help others and benefits our future self. We do something good for someone, it helps us tomorrow, and it helps us the next day. Appreciation … it doesn’t say it there, it’s the third one which is pride, appreciation for the hard work and support that goes into any achievement. And with a dose of humility. You’re doing it because you had to work for it, and you’re not doing it to show off, you’re doing it to help other people. That’s the kind of pride I’m talking about.

So, a gratitude journal, which is the last piece, or the second square on there. This is the summary that I have for you to take home. How do I do this? Note the times that you achieve something impressive in order to boost your pride. Impressive is something you’re working for that you do achieve.

If you screw up, which, we all screw up, write about self-compassion. “Yes, it happened. Next time I’m going to do better.” That kind of stuff. This is a dialogue to yourself, it’s not to give to anybody else, it’s a notebook … So that no one can say I don’t have a notebook when I ask about it next week, I have notebooks.

Note your gratitude nightly, or two to three times a week. Day after day after day, page after page after page. When you do things that you’re grateful for, the good things rise to the top, and the bad things … And we all have bad things … We don’t dwell on them anymore, they kinda fall down, and we just keep thinking about the good ones. Anticipate future pride for the goals you have set. “When I get there, how will I feel?” That’s a story you talk to yourself in your journal about.

Wednesday November 24th at 6:30 …

November 7th.

Sorry, November 7th. I don’t know what I said.

You said 24th.

I don’t know. [crosstalk 00:09:16]. I am thinking about turkey. 6:30, not 5:30. At that time I’m going to spend the whole time, mostly, talking about the drugs in much more depth. I gave a talk-


6:30. I gave a talk, which really led to me today doing this, is I gave a talk in town at [inaudible 00:09:34] In a month ago on drug therapy for 1,000 primary care people and such. I’m like … Again, I’ve told many of you guys that, “Why am I not doing that here?” So that led to tonight.

Comments and suggestions. If you have anything at all, let me know. In the future, things you want to hear about, I’m happy to talk about anything in the world of weight loss and the future. If you guys are interested in hearing it, I’d love to talk about it.

Do you think they can customize diet plans to your own [crosstalk 00:10:06].

Oh, I thought you were just repeating what it said up there.

Can they make diets customized to your genetics? That’s a great question. Where we are with technology today, if you talk about the 23andMe people, you do a little genetic testing, they have all these things, there is a whole series that come out of the … It’s a plate they use … They have over 1,000 tests off the same thing, and if you do 23andMe they give you your ancestry-type stuff.

The same company has data on your weight type things and other things. Today, the data is not there to take that genetic information and diets and exercise and put them together. At the conference last week they had a whole talk about precision medicine. This woman did the swabs and got the data, and it said you’re better off [crosstalk 00:10:52] if you didn’t eat or if you ate less fast food. Well, yeah. The other one had to do, I think, if you did more cardiovascular exercise.

So all the recommendations that I have seen are very generic, and they’re good for everybody. So right now, the data’s not there. I do think the next generation, 10 years from now roughly, we will have very good genetics and data, and it’ll say, “This is your genetics, you need to eat this many carbs and this medicine and this regimen, and then it works for you.” We’re not anywhere near that now.

[inaudible 00:11:27] blood type?

Blood type’s a great one. I gave a talk on blood type diets about three years ago, it was a whole series of fad diets, I was talking about the Dr.  mostly, of all the things he did. Blood type diets, they’re much like the genetic diets. If you read through all of them, three out of four of the blood type actual diets are just really good diets.

There was one they actually studied, there was one that was a little less. So it didn’t matter which blood type you were. If you happened to fall into one of the three, you lost a little more weight. If you happened to fall in the other one, you didn’t. And they cross-matched people and such and really they were all basically decent diets. There is no science yet behind that.

Do you think … You mentioned 23andMe. That would give you information on those kinds of-

It gives you information, but I don’t think it’s worth doing. I don’t think the information can be used today for weight loss.


There’s a lot of fascinating information.

Yes, there’s a lot of fascinating information, it is not good for weight loss. It’ll tell you certain things. Practically, you already know those things. Sleep, diet, exercise. And it’s going to just tell you some version of that.

So, with that, I just number one want to thank you all for being here. I have one favor to ask. If you have friends, if you have family, someone who would benefit from weight loss, please refer them to me. If, and it has to be if, it’s the right time at the right place to mention it.


By | 2018-12-11T15:10:54+00:00 December 7th, 2018|