Minding ‘the gaps’ in eating routine aids weight loss

After celebrations or festivals such as Christmas, Easter or birthdays; trips away or times of stress, extra ‘treat’  foods and drinks may be more readily on hand.

If these breaks or ‘gaps’ in normal eating get ‘out of hand’ then they can quickly scuttle your weight loss or cholesterol lowering plans.

The same can be said of training hard for any ‘marathon’ in life. 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’ i.e focused or on track for 100% of the time.

How do you handle the down times?

It’s what you do in ‘the gaps’ between the ‘all on’ and ‘all off’ phases that really matters to your physical and mental well-being.

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 can lead to negative outcomes. For example:

  • “That weekend felt so good being relaxed and doing what I like..lets take a break for a while longer, I’ll get back to the gym soon”.
  • “I feel guilty, I shouldn’t have eaten all those Easter eggs, I’m hopeless at losing weight. I can’t do this anymore..etc”
  • “There aren’t enough hours in the day to think about healthy eating and exercise at the moment. When things ease up I’ll get back on track”

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 (e.g your confidence and self esteem) that matters most to your health.

Making changes to anything in life is the easy part, maintaining the changed behaviour to create a healthier lifestyle is where the work begins. Here are a few ideas that may help you to stop the “yo yoing” dieting behaviour:

Value achievements when they happen

Think back on the times when you had a ‘win’in any aspect in life.

  • Focus on your feelings
    When you passed that test that you set yourself, or finished a project on time, how did it make you feel? E.g. elated,  surprised, excited, relieved, humble, great, exhausted.
  • Motivation
    Why was that goal important to you then 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? How organised were you? What did you do and not do that bought success?
  • 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 of your technique.

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 the weight goal no longer matters or does the goal now feel too big?
  • “The recipe”
    What have you changed to the formula that worked for you last time?
  • 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 to the point where you think the weight no longer matters to your health?
  • What would happen if you did nothing?
    Will you undo 20%, 50% of the work you have achieved to date? Will this problem go away by its self or get harder as you get older?
  • Maybe achieving your new weight/health goal isn’t as far away as you think
    In fact it could be that in terms of weight loss it’s only your lunches or your fluid intake that needs sorting out and the rest of your eating plan could be super. However your negativity permeates every aspect of your eating and exercise routine until you have convinced yourself you are beyond redemption so might as well have that extra glass of wine or chocolate bar and be done with it.

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 in life.


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.


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 and help to extend and enrich your life.


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 those who care; decide on “your recipe” or course of action and get cracking right now.

If you need any dietary support then contact us today.

Other articles by Lea you may find motivating

Facing the down times without weight gain
Dietary help for depressed athletes
Break free from procrastination for better health
Our ‘Attitude’ is the key to better health
Overcome misconceptions about weight for better family health


Dr Adam Fraser The Third Space
Dr Adam Fraser  You Tube Presentation The third space 

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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