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Stress, lack of willpower bust the best intentions

When it comes to trying to make our lifestyles more healthful, most of us mean well. But sometimes life just gets in the way.

A poll of more than 2,000 American adults conducted by the American Psychological Association in March found that just over half had resolved at New Year's to make a health-related change, from losing weight, exercising more or eating more healthfully to cutting back on booze, quitting smoking or getting more sleep.

But while about 90 percent of those who made such resolutions reported some progress toward their goals, 78 percent said their progress had been limited by obstacles such as lack of willpower (which 33 percent said was holding them back), trying to make changes alone (24 percent) and experiencing excess stress (20 percent).

Sad as they are, those numbers sound low to me. Seems everyone I know is stressed out these days, myself included. In fact, as I attempt my own little Me Minus 10 weight-loss campaign, I'm acutely aware of the role stress plays in messing up my best-laid plans. My willpower is just fine -- until stress rears its head and reminds me there's a nice tub of ice cream in the freezer. (It's for my kids. Really.)

The APA recommends talking over your goals with friends, family members or "a professional, such as a psychologist, who can help navigate feelings and gain skills to successfully change behavior." The organization also offers help on its Web site, Twitter and blog.

How big a role do stress, lack of willpower and a feeling that you're going it alone play in your efforts to live healthfully (or, in particular to lose weight and keep it off)? Talk to me here in the comments section, and tweet with me here.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  March 30, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Me Minus 10 , Nutrition and Fitness , Obesity , Psychology  
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My "other" is time. I love taking the time to cook, eat well, exercise, rest, meditate, etc. If I had a 36 hour day, I'd be able to do all of that, and be better for it.

Posted by: vtavgjoe | March 30, 2010 9:37 AM | Report abuse

I hear you with the Ice Cream - but I actually find it to be a help rather than a hindrance. If I walk to the freezer with a spoon, get out one scoop and eat it then and there, then it gives me my sweet fix without doing too much damage on the calorie front (and it has calcium, protein, etc, so it's not the worst snack in the world...)

Posted by: ShawnDC | March 30, 2010 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I second the comment from vtavgjoe. Especially, after seeing a recent post in this blog that said that women need to be active for at least 60 min everyday. Even if it doesn't need to be a continuous hour each day, it makes finding enough time an extra source of stress.

Posted by: eahd | March 30, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Sabotage. My significant other keeps bringing very unhealthy (but delicious)food into the house. When he goes away on business trips, he always brings back nice gifts for our family and some kind of food for me. Instead of trying to motivate me, he tells me to, "not worry about" the extra weight. He could stand to lose several pounds, but insists that he wants to weigh even more. It doesn't matter how many times I explain how important this is to me, he just keeps finding obstacles to put in my way.

Posted by: cookie714 | March 30, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

My biggest obstacle is money. I can exercise as much as I want, and I do, but trying to eat healthier with limited money is not easy. Why does the produce always have to be so much more expensive than the processed boxed and canned food? I wish I had access to more sunlight so that I could make a go at container gardening. What good is growing basil if I can't grow the tomatoes to go with it?

Posted by: fantasyjoker | March 30, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

As a single mom who's working full-time, stress is an inherent part of my life. Stress has caused me to develop horrible eating habits (eating late at night in front of the tv) that caused my weight to balloon completely out of control. I finally resolved to do something about it this year so I started Nutrisystem. Having the food delivered to me leaves me no excuse to not lose weight (and I have) but honestly, it's difficult on the weekends when I want to cut loose and eat whatever my son is eating. Willpower is hard to come by on those days. Ugh.....

Posted by: daphy9551 | March 30, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

My "other" reason is time. I'd love to have the time to exercise (in daylight, please!) for 30-60 minutes every day, to shop for fresh produce several times a week the way the Europeans do, to cook healthily--and, of course, to get enough sleep at night, but life for most of us just isn't like that.

Unless and until taking care of one's health is seen by everyone, including employers, as equal in importance to doing one's job and caring for one's family, we are going to remain a very unhealthy nation.

Posted by: JJinArlington | March 30, 2010 1:55 PM | Report abuse

My "other" reason is binge eating disorder. Can't recommend it.

Posted by: shantybird | March 30, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

*sigh* I just like food. Unfortunately, food likes me back, and won't go away. So I try to eat the healthiest that I can without making myself miserable, or worse, obsessed with my next meal.

Posted by: magicdomino | March 30, 2010 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Incidently, I eat more ice cream with ShawnDC's custom of eating out of the container with a spoon. I think that I don't need a bowl because I'm going to have just a spoonful or two. Next thing I know, half the pint is gone! It works better for me if I put my portion in a small bowl and put the rest of the container away. It helps even more to cut the ice cream with bananas or berries. :')

Posted by: magicdomino | March 30, 2010 5:44 PM | Report abuse

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