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Overcoming weight-loss setbacksBy Mayo Clinic staff
It's not unusual to occasionally get off track from your weight-loss program and slip back into old patterns of unhealthy eating and minimal exercise. In fact, given how complicated life can be, you should expect mistakes to happen and plan ahead to recover when slip-ups occur. It takes time and regular reinforcement for your new healthy behaviors to become habits.
Use these strategies to help you deal with occasional weight-loss setbacks:
- Take charge. Accept responsibility for your own behavior. Only you can help yourself lose weight. You can get yourself back on track.
- Buy time. If you're tempted to keep indulging, tell yourself you just need a short break. Stopping the downward cycle for even two minutes can help get you back on track. Try distracting yourself from your urge to eat — call a friend or take the dog for a walk. If the craving still doesn't pass, review your goals and engage in a fun, mood-elevating activity.
- Be gentle with yourself. Practice self-forgiveness. Think "OK. I've slipped, but I'm going to get on track with eating and exercise now." Try not to think of your slip-up as a catastrophe or blame yourself for being weak. Remember that mistakes happen, and each mistake gives you an opportunity to start anew.
- Ask for and accept help. Accepting help from others isn't a sign of weakness, nor does it mean that you're failing. Asking for help is a sign of good judgment. You need support from others to keep you on track when you have difficult days. Venting to a friend or walking with a friend can help you reclaim your goals.
- Work out your guilt and frustration with exercise. Take a walk or go for a swim. But keep your exercise and activity upbeat. Use it to elevate your mood and recommit to your goals. Never use it as punishment for a lapse.
- Problem-solve as you go. Instead of criticizing yourself, clearly identify the problem, and then create a list of possible solutions. If you binged on sweets, think about why. Stress? Boredom? Social pressure? Once you identify the cause, think of a solution you can try next time. This accomplishes two things. First, it shifts your thinking from negative thoughts about yourself to positive problem-solving. Second, it gives you a clear strategy for preventing another lapse in the future.
- Recommit to your goals. Review your weight-loss goals and make sure they're still realistic. Continue to focus on healthy goals such as having a healthy breakfast, going for a walk or bringing a healthy snack to work.
Relapses are disappointing. But they can help you learn to keep your goals realistic, what high-risk situations to avoid or that certain strategies don't work for you.
Above all, realize that you're not a failure. Reverting to old behaviors doesn't mean that all hope is lost. It just means that you need to recharge your motivation, recommit to your program and return to healthy behaviors.