Define Your Wellness Mission Chapter 11

Step 6: Plan for Setbacks

Reclaiming your wellness is no stroll through the park. You will stumble. Most studies of lapses in fitness, nutrition and recovery programs show that you can get back on track more easily if you have scripted the way you will recover.


Setbacks, By the Numbers

About 45 million Americans diet each year, spending between $1 billion and $2 billion on commercial weight-loss programs. However, with nearly 66% of Americans overweight, the success rate of most of those programs is clearly very low. Similarly, the rate of new gym membership spikes in January each year – new year resolution season! – but falls off for the remainder of the year. Most smokers who try to quit have to make an average of seven attempts. Changing your habits is clearly not easy, but the stakes are very high. READ MORE

A study of running exercise found that people who stopped running gained weight, which is no surprise. When they started again, they were unable to take off the gained weight until their weekly mileage exceeded 20 miles per week for men and 10 miles a week for women—even if they had been running less than that before! With every perceived failure, the person trying to change is more likely to feel that he or she simply cannot succeed in the long-term. LESS


Back-on-Track Checklist

Knowing what to do when you have a setback is not planning for failure—it's planning to avoid failure. So keep this list handy. The Mayo Clinic recommends taking these steps once you realize you have slipped out of bounds on the path to improving your life:

  • Take charge. Accept responsibility for your own behavior. You can get yourself back on track.

  • Buy time. If you're tempted to keep indulging, tell yourself you just need a short break. Then wait a few minutes and see if the desire passes. Try distracting yourself — call a friend or take the dog for a walk. If the craving still doesn't pass, review your goals and engage in a fun, mood-elevating activity.

  • Be gentle with yourself. Practice self-forgiveness. Think “OK, I've slipped but I'm going to get on track now.” Try not to think of your slip-up as a catastrophe. Remember that mistakes happen and that each day is a chance to start anew.

  • Ask for and accept help. Accepting help from others isn't a sign of weakness, nor does it mean that you're failing. Asking for help is a sign of good judgment, not weakness. You need support from others to keep you on track when you have difficult days. Venting can help you get back to your healthy plan.

  • Work out your guilt and frustration with exercise. Take a walk or go for a swim. But keep your exercise and activity upbeat. Use it to elevate your mood and recommit to your goals. Never use it as punishment for a lapse.

  • Problem-solve as you go. Instead of criticizing yourself, clearly identify the problem, and then create a list of possible solutions. Try a solution. If it works, you've got a strategy for preventing another lapse. If it doesn't, try the next solution and keep trying until you find one that works.
  • Recommit to your goals. Review your goals and make certain they're still realistic.


The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.