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Prevent Lapses from Turning into Relapses

Lapses -- little “slip-ups” in your plan -- can happen to the best of us. They can happen at any point in your journey -- the first week, at halfway and even during maintenance. It’s part of the change process. A relapse is a return to previous eating patterns and activity habits and can be associated with significant weight gain if not taken into control. You can prevent a lapse from turning into a relapse by your reaction to the lapse itself. What do you tell yourself when you gain a pound, overdo your eating or fall off your physical activity routine? Which of these internal voices matches your own?

“It’s All Over!”

If you think of your lapse as a total catastrophe, then you’re more likely to throw in the towel and give up your new, healthy diet and exercise plan. Instead, think of it as a single event, so you can move on.

“No Big Deal”

If you mentally minimize it, you may be missing a clue that you’re on the way to a relapse. The clue may not be a five-pound weight gain, but something more subtle, such as having a second helping when you’re not even hungry or skipping your usual walk for TV “just this once”.

“I Can Handle It”

Overconfidence can shake up your commitment. Deciding that you don’t need to plan your meals, track food, schedule your physical activity or make time to relax is an unfair test of your newly balanced lifestyle.

“There’s a Good Reason”

This is when you use rationalization, such as a work or social commitment, to justify your lapse. Priorities and creative brainstorming may help you keep your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.

It’s time to gain control. Think of your lapse as a “raised flag”, something that deserves your attention. To get back on track use:

Self-awareness: Understand that new people, places and things can, and will, challenge your willpower. What typically sparks your lapse? Is it a certain time (afternoon slump or late at night), place (the kitchen or cafeteria at school or work), person (the kids or certain friends), activity (watching TV or dining out), or an emotion (boredom, anxiety, loneliness).

Self-acceptance: See temptation for what it is: a temporary craving that will pass. Don’t beat yourself up. Remember, it’s feedback, not failure. Learn what you can from the experience so you can prevent it from happening again.

Action: Choose an option that provides a nurturing, equally satisfying alternative over one that’s detrimental to all your hard work. To unwind at night, you might swap mindless snacking for rejuvenating stretching as you watch TV. Practice it consistently to reinforce it and soon enough, your new, healthier habit will be second nature.

Now that you recognize your “lapse speak” you can take action. Think of a lapse as a “raised flag,” a sign to revisit your personal success factors AND an opportunity - a chance to get right back on track before it turns into a relapse.