Preventing Relapse: Emergency Procedures for Getting Back on Track


For those of us still working to learn how to listen to and trust our internal cues, the holidays can be a challenging time.  When we overdo — and it’s almost guaranteed that we’ll overdo a bit during this time of wonderful, not-the-usual food in abundance — if we drop back into our old habits of beating ourselves up about our “failure” and just generally falling back into old patterns as a result, well, it’s obvious where we’ll end up.

To help you avoid this scenario, I looked back into our files and found these “emergency procedures for lapses” that were devised now over 30 years ago by Linda Crawford, our first behavior specialist at Green Mountain, who helped so many women during her time with us.  (For the record, she’s happily thriving in Florida these days, still pursuing her passion for tennis.)  I updated the tips a bit, but in essence, they’re what has worked for many women over the years.

So without further ado, here are Green Mountain’s tips:

  • Take a time-out. Give yourself the time to calm down, to allow yourself to think more rationally about the situation.  Deep-breathing and meditation work wonders here.
  • Stay calm. Carry that calmness throughout the next steps, which are essentially problem solving.  Staying calm allows us to see much more clearly.
  • Renew your commitment. Using positive self-talk, remind yourself of your ultimate goal and why it’s important to you.
  • Re-establish your priorities. Priorities often need tweaking to meet our needs at any one time or place. A great example for this time of year: Aiming to maintain instead of continuing to lose weight.
  • Weigh your expectations against the consequences. Expectations can be defined as mental images of what we hope will happen. Picture what it means to your lifestyle if you try to live up to your current expectations.  The bottom line is determining whether they’re realistic.  And remember — you are the person to decide that, not anyone else. Example: You expect to avoid all sugar during the holidays. What does that mean to your feelings of deprivation?
  • Make an immediate plan to take charge. Deal with the moment you’re in as well as coming up with an action plan for the next time the situation that caused the current lapse arises. Translation: Get back on the horse now and plan for the future, too.
  • Ask for help if you need support. Adequate support is the most consistent predictor of success for achieving and maintaining healthy weights. Reach out to those you trust to help, whether it be friends, family or professionals.

Do you have any tips for getting back on the horse?

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

Marsha has been a guiding force at Green Mountain at Fox Run since 1986. In addition to overseeing a professional program that helps women establish sustainable approaches to healthy living, she is a respected thought leader when it comes to managing eating, emotions and weight. She has been a voice of reason for the last three decades in helping people move away from diets, an area in which she is personally as well as professionally versed. An accomplished writer and speaker, Marsha is the author of six books, including the online course Disordered Eating in Active and Sedentary Individuals (co-authored by Karin Kratina, PhD, RD, Human Kinetics), What You Need to Know about Carbohydrates (Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics [The Academy]), What You Need to Know about Vitamin and Mineral Supplements (The Academy), and The Pregnancy Cookbook (co-authored by Donna Shields, RD, Berkeley Publishing). She has worked extensively on a national basis to educate the public about nutrition and the impact of dieting on eating behaviors, including binge eating and emotional eating. Active in many organizations helping to further the cause of health and wellness, Marsha currently serves as vice chair of the Binge Eating Disorder Association and vice president of The Center for Mindful Eating and has been active in the Association for Size Diversity and Health in support of Health at Every Size(R) principles.

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