Coping with lapses when trying to lose weight

by Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Posted on Sep 18, 06:51 PM in . No comments.


Making dietary changes isn’t always easy. Sometimes when on a diet, we can “lapse”. Many people give up their diets due to lapses, even when they are fairly small ones.

Lapses (setbacks or slips) are a normal part of change. If you can learn to cope with lapses and not let them lead to relapse or “giving up” then you will improve your chances of being able to manage your weight or other dietary changes in the long term.

Why do people lapse? (What are the usual triggers)

  • Hunger
  • Stress
  • Boredom with diet or exercise regime
  • Events e.g. parties, weddings, holidays
  • Motivation and confidence in success reduces over time
  • Goals are set too high

How can lapses lead to: “giving up”?

  • If you are not expecting to lapse and so not having planned how to cope when it happens
  • Guilt and feelings of failure at having lapsed can lead to negative thinking. For example thoughts such as “ now I’ll never be thin” or “I’ve had one biscuit so I might as well eat the whole packet”
  • If you blame yourself rather than the situation
  • If you minimise success i.e. concentrating on the lapse and forgetting about all the positive changes you have made so far
  • If you starve yourself, e.g. missing meals to make up for lapse- this is more likely to end up with you overeating later

What can I do to stop lapses leading to relapse or giving up?

  • See the lapse as a warning sign
  • Take a minute to let the negative feelings pass
  • Remind yourself this is normal
  • Think back to your reasons for losing weight
  • Don’t blame yourself – be forgiving
  • Change your thinking so you aren’t all about “all or nothing”
  • Make renewed plans
  • Ask for help from a friend, relative or health professional
  • Look at reasons for your lapse, think how you could prevent the same thing happening in the future
  • Have a plan in place for potential future times you might “lapse”

Learning from Lapses

Next time you “lapse”, here are a few things to consider so you can put a strategy to avoid future lapses. Take the time to reflect and write it all down:

Describe the situation briefly:-

  • What were you thinking before you lapsed? (if anything)
  • What happened after the lapse?
  • What could you do differently next time?
  • You may find you can plan for avoiding future lapses this way.

About the author

Anne Myers-Wright

Anne Myers-Wright RD/APD

Anne is a Health Professions Council (HPC) registered dietitian (RD), an Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD- Australia), a fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA), a member of the British Dietetic Association, The Nutrition Society and of The Dietetics Association of Australia.


Have your say

(Required but never displayed)