Weight loss starts with self-control. Isn’t that the hardest part, though. We want to eat what we want when we want it. We also want to like the number on the scale, the way our clothes fit, and the energy we gain by losing weight.

You can gain self-control and the weight loss that produces through 5 simple steps.

5 Steps to Self-Control for Weight Loss

Step 1: Define Self-Control the Right Way

I know what you are thinking: self-control = control of myself. And that pertains to donuts, cookies, and ice cream. But that’s not actually the definition of self-control. Self-control is defined by Merriam-Webster as

“control over your feelings or actions”

Let’s take a look at that further. It doesn’t say the ability to smack your own hand when you grab for a donut. It doesn’t say the ability to stand and debate with yourself long enough for that tempting food to be eaten by your 5-year-old child instead. And that’s what most of us would use to define self-control around food. The problem is we miss the first part of the definition.

Self-control starts with controlling your feelings about food. And for most of us, that means the way we use food to control our feelings. When we recognize that food does not fix feelings, self-control around it becomes much easier.

Step 2: Set Up a Self-Control Plan for Weight Loss

The reason most of us struggle with self-control comes from the way we feel about food. We want what we want when we want it. But we don’t want the consequences overeating creates. That overdesire for food comes from our lower brain – the toddler part of our brain that is similar to that of animals. And that part of our brain makes decisions in the moment that minimize self-control. How do we avoid those decisions?

We do so by planning in advance. Planning is a higher brain activity and uses the prefrontal cortex part of the brain. By creating a plan for your eating that day, your need for self-control in the moment decreases. For more, check out my post on?Why You Really Can’t Stick to Your Diet

Step 3: Tell Yourself that All Other Cravings Are Emotional

Setting your plan for the day will create weight loss and improve self-control. It does not mean that those tempting foods or desire for food will go away, though. In order gain “control over your feelings or actions” in those moments and around those foods, start by recognizing the true problem.

The problem is the emotion in the moment. And that emotion is overdesire. You want what you want when you want it. That desire is simply an emotion – and that emotion will not be solved by food. There’s another option to solve the desire.

Step 4: Ask Yourself One Key Question

In those moments, asking yourself the right questions will get you back on track. Here’s a few of my favorites:

These simple questions refocus your brain into what you are gaining from weight loss, not what you are losing. The thoughts of what we can’t have bring on deprivation and tend to make us want the food more. When we focus on the bigger goal in those moments, we create a decreased desire for those foods that seem to be a quick fix. And that leads to weight loss.

Step 5: Recognize that Slip-Ups are Not Failures Unless You Quit

Even with the best plans, perfection is unlikely. The good news is you do not need perfection to lose weight. You just have to keep improving. Failure happens when you quit. Everything else is just growth on the journey. You will end up at that goal weight as long as you keep going.


Dr. Emily VinZant is a board certified Family Physician, diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine, The Life Coach School certified Life and Weight Loss Coach, and busy mom/step-mom to 5. She coaches Mom to weight loss through her online weight loss program, Weight Loss for Modern American Moms.

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