Willpower is a limited resource, psychologist Sean Connolly of San Antonio says, but we all have it. The trick is in knowing how to use it efficiently.
"People list lack of willpower as the No. 1 reason holding them back from improving their lives in some way," says Connolly, who works regularly with bariatric patients. "Willpower is not a gene. It's a tool that we all have that we have to learn to use, develop and manage."
Like any muscle, your willpower gets tired. So you have to plan, Connolly says, and know what you will do in situations that offer a healthy choice and an unhealthy choice. You also have to be prepared for emergencies, such as at the end of a long work day, when your willpower is exhausted and the drive thru window beckons.
Willpower also needs to be replenished daily. The best way to do this? Get enough sleep.
3. Be realistic.
Let's be honest, most of us want to lose a lot of weight. And when we don't -- when we drop 5 or 10 and then hit a wall -- we get discouraged and jump back on the fried food wagon.
One of the biggest obstacles to losing weight is unrealistic expectations, says psychologist Gary Foster, director of the Center for Obesity Research and Education at Temple University.
"The less you weigh, the less you need to eat and the more you need to move (to lose weight)," Foster says. "And that's not fair."
It's nice to aim high, but successful losers drop an average of 8.4% of their body weight. If you weigh in at 200, that's about 16 pounds. And losing those 16 pounds improves your health dramatically.
In other words, hoping to weigh what you did in high school will derail your plan before it starts.
"Life changes, and that's not an apology or a cop out. It's a realistic assessment," Foster says. "What else in your life is the same at 45 as it was at 20?"
4. Find better friends.
It's known as the "socialization effect." Cigarette smokers hang out with other cigarette smokers. Drinkers hang out with other drinks. And overweight people hang out with other overweight people, says Dr. Robert Kushner of Chicago.
"What do you do if you're hanging out with a group of people who are overweight?" he asks. You pick a restaurant. You go out for burgers and a beer. "You're probably not talking about going rollerblading."
We tend to pick up the habits of those we hang out with the most. So find some friends with healthy habits, and you'll become healthier yourself.
5. Do a cart check.
You know the MyPlate diagram -- the one that shows how your plate should be split into fruits, grains, vegetables and proteins? Your cart should look the same, Blatner says. When you think you're finished shopping, do a quick eye check to make sure it's filled with about 25% protein, 25% whole grains and 50% produce.