Relapse Prevention for Healthy Weights


“A lapse does not a relapse make.”

I remember these wise words from Linda Crawford, Green Mountain’s first ever ‘behavioral therapist.’ She wasn’t a trained therapist, and she didn’t claim to be one. But she did lead classes looking at emotional eating issues, and was very good at it. She did her homework, read all the research, and presented some very useful information to the many women who came to Green Mountain during her watch.

Linda moved on a while ago – she’s now in Florida, playing tennis and enjoying her retirement (we hear from her from time to time). But her wisdom has stayed with many of us, staff and participants alike.

I heard her words in my head this morning as I was getting dressed for my yoga class. I’m coming off (I hope) a few days of bingeing.  Not totally clear about the issues that spurred the emotions, but I was definitely aware that I was eating emotionally. Rather than succumb to this unhelpful behavior, however, I’ve been trying the various strategies we present for consideration at Green Mountain.

They include awareness, exposure, resistance and response strategies.

  • Pay attention when you are eating.
  • Make eating a conscious act so you know when and what you’re eating
  • Enjoy the experience.

That may sound obvious, but when I’m in the middle of emotional eating, I’m certainly not eating consciously. When I do, it makes a world of difference.

Here’s another one:

Sit down in an appropriate place with minimal distractions when you eat. Enjoy conversation and background music, but avoid reading, watching TV, doing paperwork, driving while you eat. If you do eat in distracting circumstances, control the portion size and focus on the food as much as possible. When alone in a restaurant, read a book while waiting for your food to arrive, then put it aside and concentrate on the act of eating. If your family cannot do without the six o’clock news at dinner, fine, but consider giving up snacking in front of the TV during the evening.

Again, much of my emotional eating occurs in front of the tv or with a book in my hand or just standing as i prepare meals. If I limit my eating to places where I’m less distracted, or limit the behaviors I engage in at the dining room table, I end up eating much less.

Such strategies are part of the cognitive behavioral approach to relapse prevention that has been so successful with drug and alcohol addiction. Whatever it’s called, it sure helps me work my way through lapses (short-term steps backward) to help keep them from becoming full-blown relapses (where I would regress into old behaviors for long periods).

The good news is that, after years of working on such behaviors, I rarely find myself caught up in them anymore. The better news for those who are just beginning the work is that whether we’re just starting, or have been at it a while, looking at periodic lapses as learning opportunities instead of failures offers a positive way out of the moment when things aren’t going the way we want.

3 responses to “Relapse Prevention for Healthy Weights”

  1. kathy says:

    I have been struggling with unhealthy food/life choices for over 20 years; I now hover around 280 pounds and each day seems like a “relapse” – ITS SO HARD TO WRITE about this stuff- it is my first time to post a comment, but I feel it is important to reach out for more support than I currently have and reading this blog site has been an inspiration. The prevention tips are just as valuable for everyday living. Thank you for the encouragement. Kathy

  2. Marsha says:

    You make a good point, Kathy. Support is one of the most important keys to successfully achieving any kind of change. We put this blog together as a way to provide more support to those who come to Green Mountain as well as those who can’t make it here.

    Thanks for posting. We hope you’ll keep coming back.


  3. Deborah says:

    Good for you Kathy! I want to congratulate you on reaching our for support and writting (talking) about it. Isolation is really tough when you are trying to loose or maintain weight loss. Keep visiting this site, it has great info and I would even encourage you to look into other support groups or personal coaching or counselling. This will help you deal with all the emotional stuff that is so tied up with weight loss. You are NOT alone with these feelings, millions of women around the world have the same struggles.

About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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