5 Science-Backed Ways to Strengthen Your Willpower to Help You Lose Weight

POPSUGAR Photography | Kathryna Hancock
POPSUGAR Photography | Kathryna Hancock

It's no surprise that a lot of dieters blame a lack of self-control for their failure to reach their feel-great weight. However, if you believe that you've inherited the low willpower gene, don't give up. Willpower can be strengthened with proper training, just like lifting weights can pump up your muscles. And knowing the right exercises for your brain is the key to replenishing this resource.

Ready for the willpower workout? Below are five research-based mental practices that will help improve decision-making, conquer cravings, and keep your diet on track.

Eat the Right Carbs

Self-control is in lock-step with your blood sugar. Research from Florida State University reported that when blood sugar levels plummet, you lose your ability to resist temptation. In order to keep blood sugars in check, eat slow-to-digest carbs such as fruit, veggies, beans, and whole grains. And keep this tip in mind the next time you decide to indulge on a piece of cake during the impromptu office party: refrain from eating sweets on an empty stomach since this will only result in a quick spike in sugar levels, followed by the dreaded sugar crash.

Out of Sight, Out of Mouth

One of the best ways to keep your willpower from turning to tin is to steer clear of your downfall foods and those universal temptations that contain the can't-resist combo of sugar, fat, and salt like french fries, chips, baked goods, ice cream, pizza, and chocolate. Even just being in the presence of these classic comfort food favorites can suck up your self-control. Yet avoiding eye contact will encourage you to stay focused.

Limit Food Media

Studies indicate that watching food advertisements can light up certain areas of our brain, which in turn heighten our cravings. Also, similar research states the same reaction takes place in our brain when we watch cooking shows (sorry, Rachael Ray!) or spend time scrolling through drool-worthy food images and recipes on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook. So in other words, stop with the #foodporn.

Plan Ahead

Here's a little food for thought: researchers at Cornell University reveal that we are faced with about 220 food-related decisions every day, so the more of those choices that are left to chance (Which cereal should I buy? Do I want a turkey sandwich or salad for lunch?), the quicker you'll deplete your daily willpower — and the more likely you are to overeat. Put an end to the on-the-spot picks and plan your meals a day (even a week!) in advance. And always shop with a grocery list; this simple strategy will help limit the number of times you need to tap into your willpower.

Get Enough Shut-Eye

Lack of sleep — whether it's due to interrupted sleep, a sleep disorder, or just being a night owl — is a willpower wrecker. Studies consistently show that slumber-deprived subjects, which generally means less than seven to eight hours a night for most adults, consume more calories, have increased cravings for junk food (like sweet, salty, or high-fat treats), and are more likely to be overweight or obese. When you disrupt your sleep, you disrupt your strength. Follow these tips for a better night's sleep.