Boost your willpower in seven simple steps

Meet our expert: Joanne Henson is a health and wellness coach, specialising in helping people with a history of diet and fitness failures to change their relationship with exercise and food for good. Find out more at

Step 1 – remove temptation

“You only need willpower during times of temptation,” says health and wellness coach Joanne Henson. “So look at ways to remove temptation.” You could ban all cakes, snacks and treats from your house or you could try a gentler approach that might be more realistic. For example if you find it hard to eat just one biscuit from a packet buy individually wrapped ones, to encourage you to eat them one at a time.”

 Step 2 – ditch the guilt

Sometimes the problem isn’t your lack of willpower but the power of the food. “Be aware that many salty and sugary foods are purposely formulated to be moreish, which makes them almost impossible to resist,” says Joanne. “Rather than feel guilty for digging in try to avoid overly sweet and salty foods in the first place. Then you don’t have to beat yourself up about not being able to eat them in moderation.” Try having some crunchy almonds or dried fruit instead.

Step 3 – balance your meals

Eating sugary, high carbohydrate foods could make your energy levels drop and turn your mind to eating yet more food. “This is a physical reaction not a lack of willpower,” says Joanne. “Avoid it by making sure your meals and snacks have a balance of protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. These will give you a more prolonged, steady supply of energy and most importantly no extreme blood sugar peaks and troughs.” Snack on a low fat natural yogurt with a few berries or an oatcake topped with peanut butter and banana. Try lentil soup with a pitta bread for lunch and grilled fish with brown rice and stir fried veg for dinner.

 Step 4 – make it fun

“You won’t stick to something you don’t enjoy, so make exercising as fun as possible,” recommends Joanne. “Invest in some well-fitting kit in appealing colours - you’ll enjoy wearing it and you’ll feel so much better about yourself when you’re exercising.” Listen to music you love and you find uplifting and choose a workout that you really enjoy. “If you don’t like aerobics classes, don’t go to an aerobics class,” says Joanne. “You won’t stick to it. Find something that gets your heart pumping and makes you happy.”

 Step 5 – make a commitment

Take the word ‘try’ out of your vocabulary. “Make a proper commitment to your plans,” says Joanne. “Instead of saying ‘I’m going to try to go to the gym three times this week’ say ‘I will go to the gym three times this week.’” Tell your friends and family what you intend to do too. It’s always easier to let yourself down than it is to let others down so it may just keep you motivated.

Step 6 – avoid toxic friends

If you have friends who always encourage you to ditch your good intentions try taking a break from them while you get your new healthy lifestyle established. “If your friends are constantly trying to tempt you to eat unhealthy food, then you’re going to struggle,” says Joanne. “Surround yourself with supportive and happy people who will encourage you to get healthy.”

Step 7 – don’t aim for perfection

“Try to remember that healthy living does not have to be 100 per cent perfect,” says Joanne. “Aim for 80-90 per cent healthy, and don’t beat yourself up for the occasional treat.” Enjoy your treat, recognise that it makes you happy and then get back onto your healthy eating plan.”