Dealing with Lapses & Lack of Motivation

I have noticed from the member’s Facebook group that the common problems with sticking
to a weight loss plan seem to be lack of motivation and dealing with a relapse and so I want
to look at both these and hopefully come up with some strategies that will help you.


Feeling better is a good motivation at the start of a weight loss plan, but motivation can
wane and this leads to a derailment of a diet. In order to succeed you need to have a
compelling reason for wanting to lose weight. Is it a medical reason spurring you on or is it
wanting to run around with your children/grand-children. I think it’s always useful at the
start to write down why you want to change – and refer back to this when motivation is
lacking. What is driving you to make these changes? Write down the pros and cons of
making change versus sticking to the same way of doing things. It might also be useful to
note what might get in the way of making a change. Is it fear of change? Unsupportive
family? And then work out what you can do to make sure that change happens. If your
environment is not right – your partner brings lots of chocolate and snacks into the house
for instance, then it is going to be very difficult for you to make changes without also
changing the environment.


For many overweight people, eating a forbidden food leads to an immediate collapse of
motivation and what’s the point feeling. This might lead to thoughts of I have blown my
‘diet’ now so I might as well keep going and start again tomorrow. This is due to the diet
culture of labelling foods as bad and good and the cycle of deprive and binge that this
encourages. The key to changing this is to reframe your thinking. Can you learn anything
from this pattern of over-eating? Was it due to stress? If so, can you do a mindfulness
exercise when you get home from work? Was it the trigger of sitting in front of the TV after
dinner? If so, can you change this routine up a bit so that you break the habit? Maybe do
some yoga after dinner or go for a walk. You need to learn why it happened so that you can
handle the situation better next time. 


One bar of chocolate does little damage in the greater
scheme of things. If you say to yourself that you’ll never eat chocolate again – or that you
should go to the gym for 2 hours every day, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. You
need to be less hard on yourself in order to succeed so reframe by saying “if I stick to the
plan for most of the time and use lapses as a learning curve, I will be fine” or “I can eat
chocolate as part of a weight loss diet – I just need to learn to manage my eating of it.”
To succeed you need to protect yourself from a lapse leading to a collapse. A lapse should
be seen as a blip that will do you no harm, perhaps something to learn from. 


You need to
learn how to avoid lapses, but more importantly how to recover quickly so that little
damage is done. This will ensure that motivation to carry on remains high. Learning not to
fear lapses, but how to manage them when they happen is an important skill. Lapses are
normal. We all have eating rules that we break now and again. Sometimes lapses happen to
signal something that you are not attending to. Is there an emotion that you are not dealing
with very well and are using food or alcohol rather than dealing with the problem? People
with very high restraint beliefs or perfectionist ideas about good and bad food are at a much
higher risk of relapse. Stressing less about what your ideal diet looks like should help you
feel more in control – as Gregg would say “being good most of the time is good enough”.


6 steps to dealing with a lapse

1) Stop, look and listen
Why are you reaching for this snack? Are you hungry because you didn’t prepare
lunch and so ate something in a hurry that didn’t satisfy you? Can you change this


2) Calm down
Tension will stop rational thinking. Breathing techniques can really help to release
tension. I joined in with one of Tammy’s yoga sessions a couple of weeks ago and at
the end she taught the art of square breathing. This is really useful for releasing
tension. You imagine you are breathing around a square. Breathe in for 4, hold for 4,
breathe out for 4 and hold for 4 and repeat for as long as it takes you to calm down.


3) Boost motivation
Say something positive to yourself. Use this lapse as a learning experience, rather
than beating yourself up. Refer back to your list of why you started this journey in
the first place.


4) Learn
What was the behaviour change that led to this relapse? What triggered it and next
time this happens is there anything else you can do to interrupt the chain?


5) Plan
Have a post-lapse recovery action plan. This could involve making sure you eat more
protein the next day to help balance blood sugar levels, do a self-care treat, phone
someone you love to remind yourself that your body can cope with it and you don’t
need to cut back.


6) Get help
Find someone to phone or talk to who knows how to help you to calm down and
think clearly.

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Author: Katherine Bright MBANT, CNHC