Welcome to the third and final installment of Finding the Spark. This week, we’re talking about how to get your motivation back after a lapse. Now, a lapse can be anything—getting off of your exercise program, going outside of your dietary recommendations, not logging, not monitoring your blood sugars if you’re diabetic, even missing your weight management appointments or meetings. Think of a lapse as any obstacle that impedes your progress in the short term.
First and foremost, do not beat yourself up. You are not a failure if you have a lapse—you’re human. We all have events in our lives that cause lapses from time to time. And everyone has them. The cause of the lapse can be positive or negative. You get married, you have a lapse. You get divorced, you have a lapse. You get a new job, you have a lapse. You lose a job, you have a lapse.
Now, lapses are not always caused by events as dramatic as the ones I mentioned. It can just be a bad day at work—or a great day at work! Life happens. We just have to roll with it.
So now that we’ve covered the first step in recovering from a lapse (not beating yourself up), let’s talk about the other steps you can take.
Recommit to starting again now
If you’ve had a lapse, that’s totally normal. What we don’t want to do is make that lapse a bigger issue than it is. This means getting back on track as soon as possible. Don’t wait till tomorrow, don’t wait till next week. Start again now. Otherwise, that tendency for procrastination that we talked about in part one may creep up again. So accept where you are. Don’t worry over it. But start again immediately. If you’ve stopped logging, pull out the logs again. If it’s hard to work in your exercise, set aside specific time for it—even if it’s only ten minutes. Make whatever baby steps necessary to recommit to getting back on track now.
Stop the all or nothing thinking
When most people have a lapse, they spiral out into this hopeless mindset in which “I’ve already messed up—what’s the use in trying again?” I call this Eeyore Thinking. Remember Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh? Eeyore saw everything from a negative standpoint. We don’t want that. Don’t be Eeyore.
Few things in life are an “all or nothing” affair. And weight management is certainly not “all or nothing.” Every little bit counts. It doesn’t matter how small you think the progress is. It’s progress. By that same token, it doesn’t matter how monumentally you think you messed up as long as you are willing to try again. Everything can be fixed with the right mindset.
Start counting your wins
Related to the second point—once you’ve restarted after a lapse, start counting everything you’re doing right. I don’t care how small it seems. If you logged one meal post-lapse, that’s a win. If you took a fifteen minute walk, that’s a win.
Too often we get wrapped up in major progress markers, especially when we’ve been doing something for a while and we tend to discount the “small things.” This is magnified after a lapse because we assume we’ve messed everything up. To counteract that, we have to start giving ourselves credit for the things we are doing right after the lapse, no matter how small they seem. It’s a matter of building your confidence back up. Remember, we want to stay as close to an internal locus of control as possible.
Rely on your support
Getting back in the groove of things can be hard. But, fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone. Talk to your support (and yes this can include your weight management program providers) about what you’re doing. You might even want to speak to your program providers about the lapse itself, so they can suggest strategies to keep the lapse from becoming a repeated relapse. Often, simple techniques can make a world of difference.
Use If/Then Statements
If you find that your motivation is still flagging after working to get back on track, start employing if/then statements. These statements need to be positive. Let me show you the difference:
UNHELPFUL IF/THEN STATEMENT: If I exercise, then I won’t feel like a failure.
HELPFUL IF/THEN STATEMENT: If I exercise, then I will feel better both emotionally and physically.
The first statement is negative. That’s not going to help anything—that’s just another form of beating yourself up. The second statement, on the other hand, is motivational. It gives you a positive goal and/or reward to work towards.
Use this technique in any case that you’re feeling unmotivated. It can be extended to almost any activity from logging to making better food choices.
Your best course of action when dealing with lapses is first to be on guard for small changes like missing appointments or activity goals. These can have a snowball effect so we want to catch them as soon as possible. From there, simply take action as soon as you can to get yourself back on track.
The biggest thing to remember in all of this is that lapses can happen to anyone. This is part of life. However, we want to ensure that these lapses do not turn into relapses: long term recurrent issues usually linked to repeatedly doing (or not doing) a certain behavior. If a relapse is not addressed and dealt with, it can place you perilously close to a collapse—which is simply giving up. This is where one of my personal favorite mantas comes into play:
Do not let a lapse turn into a relapse and do not let a relapse cause a collapse.