You probably wouldn’t associate bunny slippers with losing weight, but when you’re doing your best to shed a few pounds, maybe you should – at least metaphorically. Here’s why.

There is one thing all dieters agree on: weight loss, especially in the early phases, takes its toll physically. In a word, it’s exhausting. There are two very real scientific reasons for this.

The first is that fat cells are the garbage cans of your body. At the center of every fat call is a repository where the body locks up toxins. When those fat cells are burned for fuel all those toxins are dumped into your bloodstream, all day, every day, for as long as you’re dieting. This can make you very, very tired.

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The second is that, in order to lose weight, you are usually consuming fewer calories than you need to function at your peak level. It means that, for you to use your fat for fuel, you sometimes have to be running a fuel-deficit. And it simply won’t feel great.

But the good news is… I want you to relax during this period of exhaustion. You don’t actually have to put on bunny slippers, but that is my code for taking it easy during dieting. The greatest advantage of this is you will not get lured into activities that unnecessarily deplete your willpower.

Willpower is a cognitive function that gives you the ability to self-regulate. And we all have access to this power in limited doses. It only takes about fifteen minutes before we normally run out. Despite our best intentions, we cave to the temptation eating something we vowed we wouldn’t. Which is why it’s essential to have a program that anticipates you will run out of willpower and has you covered.

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The first big willpower depleter is exercise. Pushing yourself to exercise in the early weight loss phase is a huge no-no in my program. In fact, our studies have shown that the people who insist on exercising lose the least weight of any group. The calories burned just don’t make up for what happens if you get depleted and eat off your plan. The fact is you can do more damage with your mouth than you can make up for on the treadmill.

The next is stress. Remember, you have bunny slippers on! Don’t say yes to chairing the big PTA fundraiser, don’t accept a project at work that will mean weeks of lost sleep. Try wherever possible to take life down a notch so that the huge lifestyle changes you’re making get the space and respect they deserve.

To replenish willpower, make sure you are getting enough sleep, avoid stress, and yes, put away the sneakers and kick back with those slippers on.

Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. is the New York Times bestselling author of Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin and Free. An Adjunct Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, Susan is an expert in the psychology of eating. She is President of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to sharing the psychology and neuroscience of sustainable weight loss and helping people achieve it.

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