Dealing with setbacks

Take a step back, reassess, and move forward.
Published February 5, 2017

We have all been there.  You have been diligent about tracking, made healthy eating choices and even added in some extra activity, but the scale tells a different story. It doesn’t budge - or – despite your efforts, you are up a pound or two.

It can seem like all of your hard work was for nothing, and it’s tempting to abandon your good habits for an unhealthy indulgence. But setbacks are a normal part of any journey, and weight loss is no exception.

Time to take a step back, and reassess

When you hit a snag, it can be easy to be hard on yourself, and lay the blame at your own feet. Many people feel like they need to be hard on themselves to stay motivated towards a weight loss goal. While being self-critical may work temporarily to get back on track, it doesn’t last. Criticizing yourself can lead you to feel anxious, less confident and less motivated.  If you approach your setbacks with self-compassion, it can actually increase your motivation, because you care about yourself and wan t to see yourself happy.[i]

Being kind to yourself during times of struggle can be key in reigniting your inner motivation. Those who show compassion to themselves and their struggles are more likely to make healthier eating choices,[ii] exercise for positive reasons, not out of guilt[iii] and are more likely to keep the weight off.[iv]

Moving forward after a setback

Use this three-step approach to keep motivated:

  1. Acknowledge: Without judgement recognize that you are experiencing difficulty
  2. Recognize: Know that you are not alone in your journey and others are having the same struggles as you.
  3. Remember: Always be kind and caring towards yourself

Maybe you haven’t had a major setback, but you have hit a plateau. Check out the Plateaus article in our Plan Basics section for tips on how to get motivated again.

Ready to tackle your weight loss goals again? Read up on great goal setting with our goals how to guide.

[i] Neff KD & Dahm KA. Self-compassion: what it is, what it does and how it related to mindfulness (pp.121-140) in M. Robinson, B, Meier & B. Ostrafin (Eds.) Mindfulness and Self-Regulation. New York: Springer 2014

[ii] Sirois FM Self-compassion, stress, and coping in the context of chronic illness. Self and Identity 2015;14(3):334-347.

[iii] Magnus, C. M. R., Kowalski, K.C., & McHugh, T.L.F. The role of self-compassion in women’s self-determined motives to exercise and exercise-related outcomes. Self & Identity. 2010;9: 363-382

[iv] Mantzios, M., & Wilson, J.C. (2014a). Exploring mindfulness and mindfulness with self-compassion-centered interventions to assist weight loss: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results of a randomized pilot study. Mindfulness, 1-12.