Better than Willpower

By: Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND —

I am not a fan of willpower. It isn’t because I don’t have any. It’s because willpower is unreliable. It’s there during one chocolate craving, but gone the next. Willpower might keep you from digging into the chip bag several afternoons in a row, woo you into a false sense of confidence and eventually lead you astray. Better than willpower are strategies. Willpower may fade, but strategies and skills are yours forever.

I encourage my patients and clients to arrange their environments in ways that are most likely to lead to healthy eating and living success. Here are several strategies for your home environment.

Keep it out of sight.

I am a lover of all things dark chocolate. Instead of keeping chocolate chips and chocolate candy in my pantry where I would see them multiple times a day, I store them in that hard-to-reach cabinet above my refrigerator. The chocolate is out of sight and even out of reach, unless I pull up a chair. A few other strategies:

  • Store tempting foods in opaque containers
  • Keep your trigger foods out of the home. Enjoy them when you go out
  • Delegate the frosting of cakes or the cutting of brownies, if they bring out your demons
  • Keep healthful foods, like a bowl of fresh fruit, in sight and in reach.

Be portion savvy.

Even healthful foods in portions too large can pack on the pounds and jack up blood sugar

  • Pre-portion tempting foods. When you first open a box of cookies or bag of chips or put away freshly baked desserts, pack them in single servings. Put two cookies or a dozen chips into separate baggies. Store all of the baggies in the original package or a larger storage container.
  • Be selective with your dishes. Pick out a small bowl that’s just the right size for cereal and another for ice cream and so on. If you always eat these foods from the same dishes, you will always eat the same portion. Search online for portion control dishes. There are many designs that guide you to proper portions without looking like anything more than attractive dinnerware.
  • Pull out your measuring cups and spoons. If you don’t know how large your portion is, measure first, eat second.

Use clever exercise strategies too.

For optimal health, we need both regular, planned exercise and reduced sedentary time. Even if you jog for 30 minutes everyday, be sure to keep moving throughout your day. Keep hand weights and a yoga mat in your home office or near the TV remote control. Why not do squats or walk around the house while you wait for your coffee to brew? Give some thought to a few wasted minutes here and there and brainstorm ways to fill them with movement.

Give up the notion that you need more willpower. Instead of working harder, work smarter. Use some of these strategies to make the better choice, the easier choice.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss – Week by Week and two upcoming books, The Overworked Person’s Guide to Better Nutrition and 21 Things You Need to Know about Diabetes and Your Heart. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American Association of Diabetes Educators and the American Diabetes Association. Follow Jill on Twitter @NutritionJill and find more at

Top 5 Lifestyle Changes People are Making to Achieve Weight Loss

With obesity rates on the rise, more and more Americans are making efforts to manage their weight through lifestyle changes. The Harris Poll conducted an online consumer survey in November 2016 for the Calorie Control Council of over 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older to learn what changes in lifestyle people have made to achieve their weight loss goals.  A variety of methods are being utilized by people attempting to manage their weight.

The most prevalent change that people have made is to consume more water.  Fifty-seven percent of Americans reported that they drink more water to help achieve weight management goals.  Drinking water can help manage weight for a few reasons.  Water itself can curb appetite by filling up your stomach.  Also, thirst is often mistaken for hunger, so drinking water may satiate what you perceived as hunger but was really thirst.  Lastly, when selecting what beverage to consume, water is often used to replace higher calorie drinks which will reduce overall calorie intake.

Fifty-five percent of Americans said that they exercise and are more active. To lose one pound, you need to burn 3,500 calories. Exercising in combination with calorie reduction is an extremely effective way to lose and manage your weight. When choosing what type of exercise to do, I favor combining cardio with weight-strengthening exercises to build muscle and endurance.  Building muscle can increase your metabolism, which makes it easier to lose weight and burn calories.

Forty-seven percent of Americans stated that they eat smaller portions to control their weight.  Portion size is often overestimated. A typical sized dinner plate is too large and will lead to taking portions that are too large.  To give you some examples, one serving of grains is half a cup of cooked brown rice or whole grain pasta. That is roughly the size of your clenched fist.  The typical serving size of a meat or fish is 3 ounces, which is the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.

Just over one quarter of Americans (28%) said that they use reduced-sugar or sugar free products. Substituting sugar-sweetened drinks and regular sodas for low calorie sweetened beverages can really make an impact on total daily calorie consumption. Swapping out sugar-sweetened foods or snacks like sugary, flavored yogurt for low calorie sweetened foods will help you achieve your weight management goals.

Weighing yourself more frequently is a good measure to take to keep an eye on your overall weight trends. Twenty-seven percent of Americans reported that they weigh themselves more often to help them reach their weight management goals. Keeping an eye on your weight once a week is a way to mark your progress and keep any upward rises in weight in check.

Overall, this survey demonstrates that effective methods are being utilized to lose weight.

Survey Method
This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Calorie Control Council from November 16-18, 2016 among 2,074 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. For complete survey methodology, including weighting variables, please contact Stan Samples at the Calorie Control Council,

Keri Peterson, MD is a medical contributor and columnist for Women’s Health and a frequent guest on NBC’s Today, ABC’s Good Morning America, Fox News and CNN. Based in New York City, Dr. Peterson has been in private practice since 1999 and holds appointments at Lenox Hill Hospital and Mount Sinai Medical Center. With a BA from Cornell University and a Medical Degree from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, she completed post-graduate training in Internal Medicine at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center and is board certified in Internal Medicine. Dr. Peterson is a member of the American College of Physicians and the American Medical Association, and serves as a medical advisor for the Calorie Control Council.

5 Ways To Stay Hydrated All Year Long

Hydration is something we think about often during the hot summer months when we’re noticeably thirsty and sweaty, but as the temperature starts to drop from fall into winter, we’re less likely to hydrate as much as we should.  Dehydration, which can lead to constipation, kidney stones, and mood changes, is a concern all year long but may be less on our minds during the cooler months.

The Institute of Medicine recommendation for daily total water intake, which includes beverages and food, is 2.7 liters (91 ounces) for women and 3.7 liters (125 ounces) for men.1 According to a 2013 study, U.S. adults drank an average of 39 ounces of water daily – 60 to 70 percent less than what is recommended.2

Clearly, we need to be doing a better job at hydrating ourselves, no matter what the season. Here are five ways to stay hydrated all year long.

Keep It Front And Center.

Whether you carry around a reusable water bottle or you keep your favorite cup on your desk, make sure it’s constantly filled and easy to drink from. Some people find they drink more from a straw than an open top or a sport cap bottle – find what works for you and stick with it.

All Beverages Count And So Does Food.

Many people think only plain water counts toward daily water intake, but that’s not the case. Juice, coffee or tea, beer or wine, or a diet soda all increase your water intake. Based on the current evidence, caffeinated and alcoholic beverage consumption contribute to fluid intake and do not increase appreciable fluid loss.

However, it’s important to consider the calories that beverages contribute to your dietary intake. Fluid intake can contribute a wide range of calories to your intake. For example, plain or carbonated water contribute zero calories while an 8 oz serving of a full calorie beverage can exceed 100 calories.

Food also adds to daily water intake, with water-rich fruits and vegetables contributing the most. Tomatoes, watermelon, cucumbers, strawberries, and broccoli are all at least 90 percent water by weight. Sounds like the makings of a hydrating salad! Soup is also a great way to boost your fluid intake and stay warm during colder months.

Make It Taste Good.

Plain water is the purest, most natural form of hydration, but it’s not so easy to drink nearly 100 ounces – about 12 cups – of water every single day. Luckily there are many delicious ways to boost the flavor of our drinks without adding calories and sugar. Try adding sliced cucumbers, limes, or the tops of strawberries to your glass of water. You can even get a water bottle with an infuser to take your “spa water” (as I like to call it) on the go. Or add a drop or two of a liquid water enhancer for a flavor boost. Look for ones made with low- and no-calorie sweeteners like stevia.

Keep It Room Temperature.

One of the reasons so many people reduce their water intake in the fall and winter is the cold temperatures. You’re not looking to quench your thirst as much when it’s snowing out and an ice cold drink is the last thing you want when you need to warm up. To help with this problem, keep your water bottle at room temperature and rely on warm beverages like coffee and tea to increase your fluid intake and stay warm. Just be mindful what you add to those hot beverages and stick with low-fat dairy and low- or no-calorie sweeteners to keep calories and added sugar in check.

Enjoy Your Favorite Beverages.

No matter what season it is, there’s no reason not to drink what you love. Even higher calorie beverages can be part of a healthy, balanced, and well-hydrated diet, as long as you take some measures to make them healthier. For example, start your morning with a protein-rich drink like this Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie and this winter warm up with a cup of Cinnamon Hot Chocolate made with low-fat milk, unsweetened cocoa, and a stevia sweetener.


  1. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Institute of Medicine Panel on Dietary Reference Intakes for Electrolytes and Water, Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes Washington, D.C. National Academies Press 2005.
  2. Drewnowski A, Rehm CD, Constant F. Water and beverage consumption among adults in the United States: cross-sectional study using data from NHANES 2005–2010. BMC Public Health. 2013;13(1):1068.

Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered dietitian nutritionist and culinary nutrition expert. She has extensive experience as a recipe developer, writer, editor, and speaker. She is the co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Barron’s, 2011), past columnist for the Culinary Corner column in Today’s Dietitian Magazine, and maintains a popular blog at Jessica is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and various Dietetic Practice Groups of the AND, including Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Food and Culinary Professionals, and Dietitians in Business and Communications. Follow her out on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Pinterest.