5 Ways to Boost Your Willpower

Whether you're a healthy eater who has fallen off the wagon or someone who has never dieted a day in your life, there's no reason resign yourself to extra pounds. With a mind to improve your eating habits and a few tips to boost your willpower, you can tweak your diet enough to make a significant difference. Take heed of these savvy tips from Elisa Zied, a registered dietitian, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, and author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips:

Eat preventively. If you know you'll be surrounded at tonight's shindig by goodies that are fried, sweetened, glazed, and stuffed, do yourself a favor by having something to eat before you leave the house. "Don't go anywhere hungry," Zied advises. A piece of fruit with a bit of cheese can keep you satisfied enough to resist the siren call of the snack table, or at least to stick to less fattening fare. "The hungrier you are, the more you allow these visual and olfactory enticements to get to you."

Space out your meals. Never starve yourself in hopes of making up for yesterday's diet transgressions. "That's a recipe for disaster," Zied says. Instead, eat a good breakfast and make sure you refuel your tank every three to four hours or so. This will prevent the extreme hunger and blood-sugar dips that can lead to overeating.

Allow yourself a treat. Don't think you'll never be able to partake in your favorite guilty pleasures. Just make sure you account for the calories by foregoing other calorie laden parts of your diet, like chips or soda. Also, stick to a larger portion of one treat rather than small bites of three different things. "Your brain gets lots of different signals and tastes and it takes longer for you to feel full," Zied says of the sampler platter.

Plan ahead. A great trick is to stash healthful snacks wherever you spend a lot of time. This way, you'll never be caught starving and tempted to reach for the wrong things. Nuts and raisins in your glove compartment may keep you from the drive-thru. Mini-applesauce cups on a handy shelf in the fridge could mean no rooting around in the ice-cream bin. Did someone bring leftover cheesecake to the office? No worries--you've got a low-calorie granola bar right in your desk drawer to fend off hunger pangs.

Prepare for food pushers. Your best friend will be just devastated if you don't try her white-chocolate mousse, but you know you'll regret it when you step on the scale. If someone insists that you eat or drink something, have a plan. "Take it and say, 'This looks fantastic,' and then when they turn around you put the plate down," Zied instructs. "Say you just had a breath mint or you just ate something and will try it later. Don't waste calories that are pushed on you."


Elisa Zied, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., www.elisazied.com.