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Managing slip ups: weight loss

Sometimes things can get in the way of our goals when we're working towards our weight loss target.

What does 'slip up' mean?

Sometimes when trying to lose weight, it can be common to have a 'slip-up'. This is a term used when you may have done one of the following:

  • Eaten something unhealthy
  • Eaten something you wouldn't usually in your healthy eating routine. For example, you had a slice of chocolate cake after your evening meal instead of fruit.
  • You haven't stuck to your plans for physical activity

Having a slip-up can feel disappointing. But there's almost always something you can learn from it to help you prevent it from happening again.

Why do slip-ups happen?

Slip-ups usually happen when:

  • You're hungry. You may not be eating regular healthy meals or had the time to prepare them.
  • You have no time. We often lead busy lives and it can be difficult sometimes to find a block of time in your day to be active.
  • You're in a situation out of your normal routine, such as being away on holiday.
  • Your expectations of  your dietary plans or how much physical activity you can do are too high or strict. Allow flexibility within your lifestyle so you don't feel overwhelmed or pressured.
  • You have emotions or feelings such as stress, sadness or tiredness
  • You weigh up the pros and cons and make a conscious choice not to do any activity or to eat something unhealthy.

Managing difficult emotions

If you get off track and a slip-up happens, the trick is to not beat yourself up about it and abandon your  weight loss goals altogether.

Slip-ups don't undo your good work if you hit recommended activity levels and eat a healthy diet most of the time. Part of a healthy lifestyle is balance. This can include making less healthy choices sometimes.

Try to avoid 'all or nothing' thinking,  where you see things in black and white. Don't use words such as 'always', or 'never': "I've not met my step goal today, I'll never succeed at reaching my goal."

It's important not to feel like you have fallen off the wagon completely, or say: "I've ruined all my hard work. I feel guilty, I've let myself down." You've only had a small diversion, and you'll get back on your road to a healthier lifestyle.

Instead try to look at slip-ups in a more balanced way.  Positive thinking is the key.   You can still make a healthier choice the next time you:

  • Plan to do some exercise. For example:
    • "Even though I missed my step goal yesterday, I've been doing my best and met my goal all the other days this week"
    • "I accept that I overindulged this weekend. But I'll plan ahead and make sure I plan in one extra session of activity this coming mid-week"
  • Sit down to eat. For example:
    • "Even though I've eaten some cake today, I've been doing my best and making healthy eating choices most of the time"
    • "I accept that I've overindulged this weekend. But I'll plan ahead and make healthy meal choices this coming mid-week".

Moving forward after a slip-up

Learning from the experience is one of the most helpful things you can do after you've had a slip-up.  Rather than focusing on what it was, think about:

  • How you'll move forward
  • What you can learn from it
  • How you can respond to it

One way to answer these questions is to come up with a plan to deal with a similar situation. This will help you stay on track with your weight loss goals.

One such plan is the 'If-then' plan. They're a good way of making new habits stick. To give an example:

"If I didn't go for my planned run today ... then I'll make sure I have an extra run around with my kids at the playground"

Find out how to make your own If-then plans

Check your goals are still achievable

A reason why you might be having slip-ups is because your diet or activity goals are too difficult. If you think this is the case, think about breaking your goal down into smaller achievable steps.

You could then tackle these  in the short term to help you get back on track. To give two examples of unrealistic goals:

  • You haven't run for over 2 years but you plan to run every day this month
  • You've put on 10 pounds in weight but you need to lose it by next week

Break these goals down into smaller steps instead. You could follow a running plan you've found online, or plan to lose 1-2 pounds a week.

It means you're building up to your goal and may mean you're less likely to have slip-ups. You're also more likely to continue to work towards your weight loss goals. Find out how to set small, achievable goals.

What's next

Get tips to maintain your weight loss, activity and healthy diet