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By Greg Hottinger, RD, and Michael Scholtz, MA, Biggest Loser Club experts
Editor's Note: As we know, even Biggest Loser past contestants aren't invulnerable to gaining the weight back. Here's some expert advice on not letting your hard work backslide.
Once you have been successful with weight loss, it's terrifying to think that someday you might find yourself gaining weight again. But even a full-blown relapse does not mean that your healthy lifestyle has come to an end or that you've failed at losing weight.
Getting back on track quickly means overcoming two powerful forces: denial and guilt. Taking responsibility--and then forgiving yourself--for the choices that led to the regain will allow you to be accountable for your actions and yet still retain your self-esteem.
While the number on the scale may be all the proof that you need to know you've relapsed, taking inventory now will help you avoid all-or-nothing thinking. Even in a full-blown relapse, you are probably still doing something right--perhaps you are eating more fruits and vegetables than the old you; or maybe you are still exercising a couple of times per week; or perhaps you're simply still active on the BLC message boards.
Next, zero in on what broke down--any surprises here? By understanding the obstacles that tripped you up, you'll be able to avoid them or overcome them as you get back on track.
Evaluate the Obstacles
Fear, low self-esteem, and negative body image are examples of obstacles that can hold you back. These thoughts and emotions can undermine your self-worth and self-efficacy.
When negative thoughts and feelings are in control, they make you vulnerable; you may even subconsciously seek out an opportunity to be knocked off track. And, like a self-fulfilling prophecy, you end up quitting your program. Common situations that trip people up are work deadlines, injuries, illness, holidays, relationship issues, and plateaus.
Look for answers that will keep your breakdown from happening again. Start with these four questions:
1. Fear: What am I afraid of, if anything, about losing weight? Could fear be the source of my self-sabotage?
2. Negative Self Image/Body Image: Am I battling myself? Do I not give myself credit despite my efforts to lose weight?
3. Deprivation: Was I feeling physically or emotionally deprived while I was on track?
4. Support: Did I lose my support system that I was using for accountability?
Get out a journal and spend a few minutes thinking about each question above and write down as many thoughts as you can. Be as honest as possible.
If you are torturing yourself for your relapse, work on accepting it. What is done is done. Re-frame your relapse by seeing it as an opportunity to learn and become more resilient. Every day that you dwell on the past, you miss an opportunity to move forward.
Strengthen Your Confidence
Success breeds confidence. Focusing on areas where you have been successful will help you believe in yourself again. Try these two writing exercises:
1. Write a list of 3 to 5 personal strengths that helped as you lost weight.
2. At the end of each day write a list of 3 to 5 things you are grateful for that day. What are you happy about that you have in your life? What did you achieve? Include something positive in an area of vulnerability. For example, if body image is where you struggle, make at least one thing on your list a physical attribute.
Chart a New Course
You have taken inventory of the key people, foods, environments that created high-risk situations for you in the past. Now it's time to think about what will be different moving forward. What high-risk situations will you avoid? In difficult situations that you cannot avoid, how might you handle them differently in the future?
Realize that your journey is a work-in-progress--you can only fail if you quit. As you revisit the following four areas, think about how you can make significant improvements:
1. Fear: How are you going to work through your fears related to weight-loss? Are you going to journal? Do you plan to work with a therapist?
2. Negative Self Image/Body Image: What steps are you going to take to improve your body image in the months ahead? How can focusing on your strengths help? How can journaling what you're grateful for make a difference?
3. Deprivation: How will you redesign your plan to decrease feelings of deprivation? Do you need more calories? More variety? Did you exercise too much?
4. Support: What changes can you make to strengthen your support network? Who can you count on?
Regain Your Focus
The next step is to focus on the present moment--not the weeks and months ahead--but on what you can do today that will make it a solid day. Map out three more days, set goals, and get started. It's time to get back on track!
Greg Hottinger is a registered dietician and has worked as a nutritionist at the reknown Duke University Diet and Fitness Center. Michael Scholtz has an MA in Exercise Physiology and is certified by the American Council on Exercise.