Before and After weight loss chef success story Virginia Willis

Staying Motivated: Real Life Self-Care and Weight Loss

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Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce

Self Care and Weight Loss are at the top of the trends in January. It’s a new year and lots of folks are looking for a “new you.” February comes around and it can be a bit harder to stay motivated. Chocolate starts looking more tempting.

I’ve been there! Who wants to feel deprived or eat sad food? Who wants to give up chocolate? Nobody. Read on to find out all about my day-to-day philosophy of real-life health and wellness.  (Plus, how to make this seemingly decadent Chocolate Dipping Sauce that I know you are going to love.)

Virginia Willis Before and After using Self Care Tips for Weight Loss

How to Lose Weight?

The new year is a great time to get started, but do you know what is really the best time to get started? The day you start! Who cares if you made a resolution and have faltered? Nobody.

I’ve lost 65# and kept it off for over 3 years. My attitude is that some days are better than others, but I figure that if I am on the right side of things more than not, then I am doing OK.

Self-care and weight loss are tricky. I’ve reframed it as:

health gain > weight loss.

Happiness is not found in a number between your toes. Wellness is not just about weight.

Virginia Willis Self-Care with Life Guardrails

What are Life Guardrails?

I’ve developed a series of Life Guardrails for Real Life Self-Care and Weight Loss. Guardrails are built along the highway at especially dangerous places to keep you out of the ditch and on the road. 

My life guardrails are eating healthy, exercising, and mindful behavior.  

Thoughts →Actions + Tools + Measure= Results

We have to dig a little deeper to transform the thought of a guardrail into an action.

Then, we have to discover or create the tools that will help you complete the action.

Lastly, we have to assess and measure

  • I ASK myself, “Who Do I Want to Be?”
  • I determine the ACTIONS and TOOLS that will help me be that person. What Do I Need to Do? What Do I Need to Do It?
  • I ASSESS each day and MEASURE success in my journal. “Which Actions were Productive? Where do I Need Improvement?”  Writing it down makes it real to me.

Virginia Willis and Self Care Techniques for Weight Loss

Who Do I Want to Be?

I was unhappy and overwhelmed by the amount of weight I needed to lose. SIXTY-FIVE POUNDS? Are you kidding me? Instead of tackling that scary number, I decided to head in the direction of “healthy and strong.”

#1: Who Do I Want to Be?  I Want to Be a Healthy and Strong Person.

Being healthy and strong is not a number, it is not a destination. It is a way of life.

→ What do I need to do? The Life Guardrail Actions are to eat healthily and exercise.

Tools that help me accomplish my goals include the WW app  , better-for-you recipes like this Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce, and exercise dates with friends that increase my accountability. (I won’t blow off a walking date like I might blow off going solo.)

Virginia Willis tips for Self Care and Weight Loss

#2 Who Do I Want to Be? I Want to Be a Clear and Focused Person

Like many, I can be guilty of numbing. Clear and focused is the opposite of numbing. Numbing is anything that “takes the edge off.” That means food, wine, shopping,  instagram… you get the picture.

Brene Brown says: “We cannot selectively numb emotion. If we numb the dark, we numb the light. If we take the edge off pain and discomfort, we are, by default, taking the edge off joy, love, belonging, and the other emotions that give meaning to our lives.”

If I want to eat a cupcake, I want to come at it from joy, not shove it down my throat because I am sad. If I want a glass of wine, I want to come to that from happiness, not numb my feelings with alcohol. I don’t want to start my day distracted by emails that can wait or mindlessly lose hours on Facebook.

→ The Life Guardrail Actions are to avoid numbing behaviors (+ plan on failure!), practice guided meditation, and educate myself regarding behavior modification and healthy habits. 

Tools that help me accomplish my goals include the Insight Timer app and time management management tools including Focus on my iphone or  the Pomodoro Technique.

Virginia Willis tips for Self Care and Weight Loss

#3 Who Do I Want to Be? I Want to Be a Calm and Graceful Person.

Your brain only has so much bandwidth. Creating a plan contributes to a sense of calm. Graceful is not only to describe someone like a ballet dancer or yogi. The term graceful means” full of grace.” The manifestation of grace is kindness in my eyes, one of my core values.

→ The Life Guardrail Actions are to follow a schedule and be kind

Tools that help me accomplish my goals include a general schedule taped to my cabinet to keep me “in line and on time.” I also have reminder alarms set throughout the day. 

Another tool that’s become indispensable is my Gratitude Journal. When I assess at the end of the day, I single out a kind action. Kindness has been shown to increase self-esteem, empathy and compassion, and improve mood. Science says so


How to Make Lasting Change?

The process is very logical – it doesn’t make it easy, but it is easy to make sense of. You are what you do. Little things add up. Instead of reaching for the full-fat ultra decadent ganache, swap in this Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce and fruit.

  • Who Do I Want to Be? I want to be healthy and strong; clear and focused; and calm and graceful.
  • What Do I Need to Do? What Do I Need to Do It? I need to act like the person I want to be and find the tools to help me do it.
  • How Did I Do? I assess and measure at the end of each day.

Virginia Willis tips for Self Care and Weight Loss

You Don’t Have to Bend Over Backwards

You don’t have to do everything all at once. My Life Guardrails evolved and are still growing. My journal at day’s end will often look something like this:

H&S: →(I kinda sorta ate healthy; I exercised)

C&F: ↓  (I avoided numbing; I did not mediate)

C&G: ↓ (Late for bed/schedule; yes I was kind)

As long as I have more in the “yes” column than the “no” column, then I am doing okay!  Do I sometimes mess up, hit the guardrails, and scrape the proverbial paint? Of course, I do. I’m human. Do I try to think about what I need to do better the next day? I certainly do and you can, too.

@VirginiaWillis Instagram QR Code@VirginiaWillis on Instagram

Thanks so much for reading! Here’s the recipe for Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce that is silky, rich, decadent — and only 3 WW points for 8 luscious tablespoons.

Bon Appétit Y’all!

Virginia Willis


Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce

Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce
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Skinny Chocolate Dipping Sauce

Chocolate Dipping Sauce that is silky, rich, decadent -- and only 3 WW points for 8 luscious tablespoons? This dip was a revelation. It feels very indulgent and is a bold and deliciously bitter combination. Add confectioner's honey to sweeten, as desired, but give it a go with sweet apples like Honeycrisp and you may not need it.
One batch lasts about 4 days. Great for dipping fruit and as a fudge topping for Halo Ice Cream! I have used fancy cocoa powder, but I generally use Hershey’s Special Dark.
Prep Time5 minutes
Course: Dessert, Snack
Cuisine: American
Diet: Low Fat
Keyword: chocolate, chocolate dipping sauce, weight watcher recipe
Servings: 4
Calories: 25kcal


  • 3 tablespoons dark chocolate cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons peanut powder
  • 9 tablespoons water
  • Apples or bananas ice cream if it’s serious, for serving


  • Combine cocoa, peanut powder, and water. Stir to combine. Serve with apples or bananas. Store in a sealable container in the refrigerator, up to 3 days.


Calories: 25kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 0.3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.02g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 0.003mg | Sodium: 38mg | Potassium: 57mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 0.4g | Vitamin A: 19IU | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg

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Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained chef Virginia Willis has foraged for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and executed the food styling for a Super Bowl commercial seen by over 160 million people. She is a James Beard award-winning cookbook author and chef for Food Network Kitchen. Virginia lost 65 pounds and has kept if off for over 3 years. Her health journey has been documented in Eating Well, as a cover story for Woman’s World, Allrecipes, and AARP. Virginia has embraced her new outlook on life and has become a cheerleader for those wanting to make their own life changes, “If a French-trained Southern chef can do it, you can, too!” Her cookbooks include Fresh Start: Cooking with Virginia My Real Life Daily Guide to Healthy Eating and Weight Loss; Secrets of the Southern Table, Lighten Up, Y’all, Bon Appétit, Y’all, Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, Okra, and Grits. She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Alex vs America, The Rachel Ray Show, Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. Virginia has also been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52. She has contributed to Eating Well, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. Fans love her down-to-earth attitude and approachable spirit. Learn more about Virginia and Good and Good for You Living, a real life health and wellness approach for mind, body, and spirit that includes food, fun, and fitness at

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Kathy OC

    Thanks Virginia. Really needed to hear this today. Met you at Rancho La Puerta years ago with my 2 daughters and we thoroughly enjoyed your cooking class!

    1. Tysm for reading!! Rancho La Puerta has really had a tremendous influence on me and my health journey!

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