THE BLOG
11/13/2014 09:05 pm ET Updated Jan 13, 2015

Why You Need to Ditch Willpower as a Weight Loss Technique

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Let's be honest about trying to lose weight when you are busy. Making a plan for what you're going to eat from now on only goes so far. In fact, sometimes it won't even get you past the plate of cookies someone left in the conference room. Saying no to food is not always simple -- especially when you are a busy woman, juggling multiple responsibilities.

Relying on willpower complicates things, adds more stress, and doesn't address the real issues.

For most smart, busy women, overeating includes a fair amount of emotional eating. You might eat to cope with stress or frustration or exhaustion. Food might be a reward and overeating may happen on autopilot. Focusing on food alone won't fix the problem because this ignores what's motivating you to overeat. Telling yourself you just need to be stronger and conjure up more willpower isn't a viable solution, either.

Women are busier, more stressed, and more overwhelmed than ever, and we're heavily influenced to use food for a multitude of reasons that have nothing to do with fuel.

Stress eating, comfort eating, eating because you are running on fumes or have feelings you don't know how to cope with, limited time and energy, and overwhelm all fuel the overeating fire. No food plan in the world addresses these triggers to overeat and no amount of willpower will fix these underlying issues.

Your belief that you need more willpower is only creating more stress.

Stop feeling guilty for not being stronger. Your frustration with yourself is probably only slowing you down. A lack of willpower is not the issue here. Let's be real about all the discipline you show in the rest of your life -- the things you do that you don't really want to, the challenges you take on, the hard stuff that you make happen.

You don't need more mental toughness. You need an approach that will work. You need an approach that respects the reasons that you overeat. Here's the recipe for weight loss success that will actually take you where you want to go.

7 Steps to End Overeating -- Without Relying on Willpower or Going Hungry

1. Stop blaming yourself for past failures with weight loss. Instead of being angry with yourself, focus on generating curiosity about what's going on.

2. Pay attention to why and when you overeat. There's always a reason and it's not because you are weak or lazy.

3. Ask yourself what you are really hungry for. What are you craving that isn't fuel for your body? We often eat for stress relief, a reward, a way to go numb or avoid something, anxiety, or even boredom.

4. Examine the reasons that your past attempts have failed. What did you need (support, accountability, more motivation, more strategies and tools) that the plan didn't provide?

5. Create new ways to feed yourself that don't involve eating. Pay attention to what triggers you to reach for the bag of chips and address stress, boredom, or your need for a treat in ways that aren't food (and that ultimately work better).

6. Start focusing on where you want to go and stop beating yourself up for where you are. Design rewards for milestones achieved and create goals that put a smile on your face. Consider why you want to lose weight, lower your cholesterol, or be healthier. What amazing fun things do you want to do?

7. Tweak and adjust. You won't get it perfect and that's to be expected. Learn from what works and what doesn't and keep moving forward. Pay attention to the places you feel stuck. If you don't know how to manage stress (for instance), focusing on finding the perfect food plan won't fix your overeating problem.

If you've been less than successful with overeating lately, what's been getting in the way of your good intentions? What's your biggest challenge when it comes to eating the way you've set out to eat? Most importantly, what's the next, best step that you can take?

For more guidance, take the Hidden Hungers Quiz -- it's a free resource that will point you toward the reasons your past attempts may have failed and specific (and do-able) action steps.