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4 Ways To Mentally Deal With Weight Loss Setbacks

By Sofia Rydin-Gray, PhD, Behavioral Health Director, Duke Diet and Fitness Center

Weight loss is not a one-time event; it is a process filled with ups and downs on the scale and bumps in the road. In fact, even with a great support team, your weight loss journey may not be smooth all the time. People who lost and maintained weight loss goals through healthy lifestyle changes have learned to manage setbacks instead of throwing in the towel. When you are committed to getting back on track after a setback or even start over, then you’ve taken a big step towards weight maintenance.

4 Ways To Mentally Deal with Weight Loss Setbacks 

Learn from Your Setbacks

Mistakes and setbacks cannot be viewed as failures; instead think of them as learning experiences.  Identify what led to the slip up, and use this data to prepare yourself, and prevent similar slipups in the future. For example, if you realize you ordered Chinese take-out for dinner for a whole week, find out what got in the way of eating a healthier dinner. Could it be that an aging parent had been sick and you had spent more time being a caregiver and less time on meal planning? Whatever the reason, it is important to be as specific as possible about what led up to the setback and then focus on what you can do as you move forward.


Don’t believe everything you think! Reframe Your Negative Thoughts

Remind yourself that a setback is temporary, is part of the process, and can be corrected! If you tend to view a setback as something permanent and non-fixable, you will begin to experience self-doubt and hopelessness. For example, remind yourself that before the setback you had been increasing your exercise each week for several months, or that you successfully dealt with a previous setback by refusing to engage in self-loathing. Forgive yourself and remember you’re only human. Then move forward in a positive direction.


Surround Yourself with Your Dream Team of Supporters

When the going gets tough, the tough reach out for support. When it comes to weight loss and dealing with setbacks, having just one or two supportive people in your life is essential. This person can be a spouse, an extended family member, a trainer, dietitian, or a therapist. Having someone to turn to who believes in you and can offer encouragement will help strengthen your confidence and resilience.  A person on your dream team of supporters can give you a “reality check” when you need to be reminded of the bigger picture instead of being caught in your own negative downward spiral. For example, when all you can think about is how you have “failed once again”, your support person can remind you of the progress you have made prior to the small setback.


Remind Yourself of Your “Why” 

“When you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”

At the beginning of any new endeavor, the anticipation of what’s to come can be sufficient motivation. Most things have a learning curve that makes the start somewhat challenging, but often rewarding, such as seeing the number go down on the scale. However, at some point things get more mundane, weight loss might slow down or plateau, or we have a setback. There is no denying that it can be quite difficult to get back on track with healthy habits when things are getting in the way. It can be especially difficult when your own mind is questioning why it is so difficult or why you should even bother to continue. Use this questioning to your advantage and turn it around! Ask yourself why you started! Remind yourself that that there was a compelling reason why you decided to begin the weight loss journey in the first place. When you reconnect with your “Why” regularly you’re preparing yourself mentally for perseverance and long term weight maintenance.


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With more than 40-year years of experience in delivering wellness and weight loss programs, the Duke Diet and Fitness Center has established itself as one of the leading weight loss and total body health destinations for health conscious individuals seeking a residential style health program focused on natural weight loss.

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