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Thrive!
By Anne Simpkinson

5 Tips to Get Back on Track After Falling Off the Weight-Loss Wagon

Since making my New Year’s Resolution to get to a healthy weight this year, I’ve had a relatively easy time of it. For months, I was focused, on target, and lost weight each and every week. 

Until the first week in August, that is. Since then between cravings, work deadlines, travel and tempting summer treats, I fell off my self-designed program, got back on, fell off again—and finally got back on track.

Here are some tips, advice, strategies and stories I found that helped me get re-focused and re-inspired. 

1. Get back on the scale.
First step: Fess up to what damage you may have done then simply start all over again. In the weight-loss game, you’ve got to be honest with yourself about what you weigh, what you’re eating, and how much and if you’re exercising. The scale is the place to start.

2. Keep track of what you eat.
A food journal is an essential weight-loss tool. It’s one of the keys to the Weight Watchers system but you can find free online food journals like the one at myfooddiary.com or sparkpeople.com. By journaling, you stay aware of everything that goes into your mouth and are better equipped to make wise food decisions. 

3. Aim for progress not perfection. 
This is an article written for men, but we women can certainly make use of its very valuable advice. I love its premise: Falling off your diet is the best way to stay on it. I can’t count the times in the past when I imposed tight restrictions on my food intake and lost weight only to indulge away my resolve. To avoid that scenario, the article suggests the following:

• Plan to cheat (in moderation, of course).
• Don’t rely on snacks.
• Don’t have tempting foods lying around. Make sure you have to go out and buy your tempting snacks—very sound and valuable advice.  

4. See an occasional slip-up as a part of the process.
It’s not so much that we fall off the wagon, what really matters  is how we deal with the slip-ups when they happen. The most effective way is, just like the song says: “Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start all over again.” Simple but wise advice. If you want academic research to back up that philosophy read about the abstinence-violation effect which is basically black-and-white thinking: Because I fell off the wagon, I can’t lose weight. The corollary is: I fell off the wagon, therefore, I might as well binge. The takeaway from this article in a nutshell is: Always remember, you have a choice, you are not powerless. And if you feel powerless, then call upon a power greater than yours for help: prayer.

5. Visualize positive outcomes.
If you’ve been avoiding exercise—whether it’s gardening, walking, doing yoga, swimming, whatever—remember how good you felt afterwards: refreshed, back in touch with your body, energized. When I’m exercising regularly, I hold myself differently. I stand taller and feel better. Remembering that feeling helped me get back to the health club.

When I find myself over-indulging in food and my stomach starts to pooch, I remember how good it felt to slip into jeans I hadn’t been able to wear in years! I specifically make myself remember the compliments I’ve gotten about my weight loss. And I remember how good I felt not being literally weight-ed down. 

Focusing on the positive, actually conjuring up a felt-sense of energy and positivity, helped me get back on track. It can help you too!

Anne Simpkinson is the online managing editor of guideposts.org. She co-authored Soul Work: A Field Guide for Spiritual Seekers and has edited two anthologies entitled Sacred Stories: A Celebration of the Power of Stories to Transform and Heal and Nourishing the Soul: Discovering the Sacred in Everyday Life. A spiritual practice, good friends, lakeside cottage and two lovely feline companions continue to transform and enrich her life.