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Getting weight goals back on track after setbacks

girl on a bikeAfter celebrations or festivals such as Easter, Christmas or birthdays; trips away or times of stress, extra “treat ” foods may be more readily on hand. If these breaks in normal eating get “out of hand” then they can upset our weight loss or cholesterol lowering plans.

The same can be said of training hard for a marathon at work or on the track. You might work hard on a project or training routine, the pressure is on and you give it your all, then the job is done, the race won or lost and you take a break.

No one can “be good”,* focused or on track for 100% of the time.

How do you handle the down times?

It’s what you do between the “all on” and “all off” phases that really matters.

Interruptions come at work too as we cope with an ever increasing onslaught of information and jobs to do. We transition from one mind set or task to another. This has been labelled by Dr Adam Fraser as “The Third Space” as being that moment in time between one state of being and another when it is easy to carry over the mind set and emotional state of one situation onto the next and this can hinder performance.

Applying this idea to weight loss it is easy to see how one day (or weekend) of overeating could easily lead onto feelings that lead to negative outcomes e.g.:

  • “That weekend felt so good being relaxed and doing what I like..lets take a break for a while longer, I’ll get back on track next week”.
  • “I feel guilty, I shouldn’t have eaten all those Easter eggs, I can’t do this..etc”

Breaking with routine or eating extra treats is not the issue here. It’s all about how long the break goes on for and how it affects you mentally.

Making changes to anything in life is the easy part, maintaining the changed behaviour for a life time is where the work begins and here are a few ideas that may help you to stop “yo yoing” behaviour:

Value achievements when they happen

  • Focus on your feelings
    When you passed that test that you set yourself how did it make you feel? E.g. elated,  surprised, excited, relieved, humble, great, exhausted.
  • Motivation
    Why was that goal important to you and how do you feel about it now?
  • Support
    Who was there to support you? e.g. family, friends, partner or coach.
  • What was your recipe for success?
    How long did you train for?, what did you eat?, what didn’t you eat?
  • What was your lifestyle like at the time?
    Did you still socialize, travel, party, eat out?
  • What still needs to be improved?
    Even when goals are reached there is always room for refinement.

What has changed now?

If you are noticing that the weight is creeping back on look at the things you have listed above to see the things that have altered e.g.

  • Feelings
    Do you still have the same level of self belief?
  • Support
    Are the same people around you or have they started to question your need to continue?
  • Motivation
    Have the goal posts moved for you and no longer matter?
  • “The recipe”
    What have you changed to the formula that worked for you?
  • How is your lifestyle now?
    Has it become more relaxed and easier or have you found new stressors?
  • Are you feeling happier now?
    More accepted by your friends or opinion leaders?.
  • What will happen if you do nothing?
    Will you undo 20%, 50% of the work you have achieved to date?

Managing change

Dr Fraser notes”Its not what you do, it’s what you do in-between what you do that matters” He advises in the work situation to:


Be positive and note the things that work for you, ideally, as they happen.E.g.Ask yourself “how did I just improve then?”


Learn what it takes for you to relax, to be calm and focused when working in a high performance state.


As you move from one state of being to another think about the behaviour you want to exhibit.

Tips to help you refocus

Dr Adams strategy can also be applied if you are trying to maintain your goals for weight or exercise or in fact anything you want to achieve.


List more than one reason for why you should achieve your goal.
E.g.Take weight loss. Losing weight so you can look better in your wedding suit or dress may not be sufficiently motivating to last past the great day. But tying this weight goal to other passions you may have such as being fitter or more fertile to have children; being more mobile and independent; or having more energy to work more efficiently are likely to offer more lasting rewards than just a drop on the scales.

You might also find it helpful to read Lea’s article “Facing the down times without weight gain”.


Learning how to relax is really important otherwise food or alcohol can be seen as “the treat I deserve for all that hard work I’ve been doing”. This is not to infer that the odd Easter egg or glass of wine is a problem. However because our lives are so busy these days eating and drinking can become a “quick fix” when in fact taking up a hobby, going for a swim, making love or music may provide more satisfaction.


If you are keen to get back on track then simply write down your new goal; set a time frame with achievable milestones along the way; seek support from someone who cares; decide on “your recipe” or course of action and get cracking.

If you need any dietary support then contact us today.


* Note “be good” is an expression often applied to staying on track with eating which the author does not believe is helpful when people are trying to change behaviour. One’s “health” not ones “goodness” is determined by what we eat or drink.

About the author View all

Lea Stening

Lea is one of New Zealand’s leading paediatric dietitians and also specialises in Sports Nutrition. She has specialised in Paediatric Nutrition for 31 years and in 1985 was the first paediatric dietitian to enter private practice in New Zealand. Lea helps families through her private consultations, public lectures, newspaper and magazine articles as well as television and radio interviews. Read more »

View all posts by Lea Stening »


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