A Lapse Isn’t A Relapse

Many of us head into the New Year with great intentions to get healthy or lose weight.  We often take on exercise plans, begin weight loss programs, or start a diet.  It is not uncommon to start off feeling very motivated.  We keep to our plans and see progress being made.  But as the weeks pass by we slip up a bit and sometimes the weight comes back on.

This can be frustrating and discouraging.  We think that we have failed or even consider ourselves to be failures.  However, part of taking on new programs or making lifestyle changes is making mistakes.

Many of us look around and see people who appear to have unstoppable amounts of will power.  They appear to be able to hold off from touching everything that seems tempting.  However, the truth is that each of us has a set amount of will power.  It is not an unlimited thing.

Will power diminishes as the day goes by, meaning that when we wake up in the morning, we are at our peak amount of will power.  This is why it is so much easier to make great decisions like eating well or hitting the gym earliest in the morning.  Later in the day, we have less will power and it is far more difficult to make these difficult decisions.

Stress is also one of the biggest causes of derailment from our healthy plans, quickly diminishing will power.  When we add this to our hectic schedules you can see that is very easy to find ourselves making poor decisions.

When this happens, it is important to remember that a lapse from your healthy plan is not a relapse.  One mistake or a few mistakes does not make you failure.  It does not send you back to square one.  We can all learn from these mistakes.


Take a step back from your situation.  Why did you make a different decision from what you had planned?  Did stress cause these decisions?  If so, it is important to figure out what triggered your stress reaction and then find a way to plan for the next time this might occur.

When we understand our triggers, we can make a game plan to sidestep these potential derailments. 

Don’t get down on yourself.  You are not a failure.  Do not compare yourself to others.

We often look at celebrities and see how they always eat healthy and always look great.  While this may be the case, remember that this is what they do for a living.  They have a healthy living entourage to keep them on track.  Celebrities have trainers, nutritionists, and even cooks to achieve their goals.  And when all else fails, they have stylists and doctors to help them too.

Just as athletes need coaches and students need teachers, anyone who is trying to make healthy living changes needs a support crew.  That includes family members, friends, and peers at work.  Let people know what you are trying to do.  Ask for their assistance in supporting you.  Maybe a friend at work would be happy to join you in the lunch room instead of grabbing fast food.  Perhaps your family would join you for a walk after dinner each evening.  Enlist your crew.

Don’t forget your biggest asset.  You are the biggest and best support you could possibly have.  Don’t get down on yourself for making mistakes.  Remind yourself that this is part of the process.  When things don’t go as planned or you are having a rough day, be your best friend and sit back and help yourself assess the situation.  Figure out where things went wrong and help yourself determine how to make everything work better in the future.


Enjoy life.  Learn from your mistakes and move forward.  Don’t dwell on the past and remember that a lapse is most definitely not a relapse.

How do you get yourself back on track when things don’t go as planned?

9 thoughts on “A Lapse Isn’t A Relapse

  1. Had this happen to me on Monday. An unexpected load of stress somehow led to eating candy for lunch while my whole grain pasta, veggies and apple sat forgotten in the fridge. I would have loved to follow that up with a lazy evening in pajamas and a big bowl of ice cream for dessert, but I reminded myself that that would make me feel even worse in the long run. So I went for my run, did some homework, and ate a healthy dinner as originally planned. I was really proud of myself for not letting a moment of weakness derail an entire day.

    • Great work. That is absolutely how to do it. Learning from a mistake and making it better later in the day is a great way to go. I’m sure you felt much better when it was over too.

  2. It has helped me so much this year to have told a friend what my goals are. She checks on me often, and knowing that’s coming gets me out the door. But not even that helped when I was traveling and then sick for four days.

    Thanks for this post – it’s a great reminder that a set-back doesn’t mean a full re-start.

  3. Great post and very important at this time of year!

    Two things:
    – I always like to remind myself and others that one meal isn’t a day, a day isn’t a week, a week isn’t a month, and a month isn’t forever. You didn’t fail – I hate that just like I hate the word ‘cheat’. If you practice ‘intentional eating’, there is no such thing as cheating … on the other hand, once you start labeling foods as ‘bad’ and assigning guilt, you negatively impact your relationship with food.

    – People assume I have infinite willpower because I will run in any weather and lost so much weight and so on. But I like to use this semi-joke “yes, I have so much will power I have managed to lose >100lbs … TWICE!” The obvious irony being that in order for that to be true, I would have needed to have gained that weight initially … and then having lost it, gained some of it back again!

    What you said is important – willpower is not infinite, and a lifetime is very long, and we can all just do the best we can!

    • Thank you SO much for sharing this. Willpower isn’t infinite. And more often than not we need to “fail” to succeed. Usually multiple times! All mistakes are lessons that bring us closer to what we want or need. I’ve never been a fan of cheat days. If you want a splurge, go ahead and splurge. But knowing how you will balance it out is key.

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