Build Skillpower, Not Willpower to Manage Weight

If you’re like many of my patients, you may blame yourself for being overweight and feel your lack of success is due to a lack of willpower.

But just as I tell patients, I will tell you also. Being overweight is due to multiple factors, is not your fault and cannot be wished or willed away.

As a weight management physician specialist with nearly 4 decades of experience, I help my patients learn ‘how’ to lose weight using skills and strategies, not willpower.

I’m calling this skillpower.

The following 3 steps can help you get started:

1-Target your personal challenges

The skills and strategies that will help you manage weight may be different than what may work for your friend. One size does not fit all!

Through my research, I identified the 6 factors that are major barriers to successful weight management.

These factors have to do with your health habits, daily behaviors and thinking patterns that include not just what you eat but also many other important features such as why you eat, how you may eat on the go and handle eating temptations, your emotional connection to food, how you handle stress, how active you are, how you treat yourself and how flexible you are in your goal setting.

To help people target their personal challenges, I developed a short, scientifically-validated Six Factor Quiz that you can take here and get your personalized results.

Your scores for the 6 factors, (Convenient Diner, Fast Pacer, Easily-Enticed Eater, Exercise Struggler, Self-Critic, All-or-Nothing Doer), will determine the action steps to help you lose weight, as outlined in my self-help book, Six Factors to Fit: Weight loss that Works for You!

Self-awareness is the first step to taking better control of your lifestyle.

2-Identify doable steps

Your current health habits will dictate the skills and strategies needed to best manage your weight.

For the action steps to be sustainable, they also have to be practical, realistic and fit your lifestyle.

Here are some examples:

If you have trouble dealing with food temptations (Easily-Enticed Eater factor type), then making adjustments to the types of foods brought into the home, clearing counters of tempting treats and identifying healthier substitutes so you don’t feel deprived all work to improve your eating habits.

If you’re someone who hates to exercise (Exercise Struggler factor type), you can still be creative and fit in physical activity through the course of your normal day’s routine.

You can try using an app on your smart phone as a reminder to take breaks to stand up and walk around for 3 minutes every half hour or 5-10 minutes every hour.

You can also take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car farther away, walk your dog longer or pace while talking on conference calls. More movement allows you to burn extra calories while also boosting metabolism, energy level and health.

Small changes can add up over time. As you start feeling better and more in control, you may then feel more motivated to start something new, like a brisk walking program.

3-Problem solve, get support

Know that along the way to long term weight management, there will be bumps in the road. That’s why it’s important to not go it alone.

Have a support system of people you can trust and to help solve problems.

This may be a family member, friend, health care provider, an online support group or even your walking buddy.

If your time for self-care is being crowded out by other priorities like supervising your child’s remote learning, can you problem solve with a family member or friend to find a different time of day just for you?

Stay flexible, letting progress, not perfection be your guide.

The key to lifelong weight management is being able to expand your horizons and challenge yourself in new ways, making healthy living enjoyable and something you look forward to.

Building skillpower, not willpower is the key to success.

You can do this!


Robert Kushner, MD

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