This week I had a session with my client, Jon, with whom I meet about every six weeks. Jon told me that he’d gotten a bit off track and his weight was up, which was frustrating to him because he made a New Year’s resolution to lose the last 10 pounds he wanted to lose. Jon told me that in the last week he had been trying to get back on track, but he wasn’t able to be consistent. In this case, Jon was making the classic mistake that many dieters make when they’ve gotten off track and decide it’s time to recover: he went from not practicing many of his healthy habits to expecting himself to snap back into doing everything he was doing before he got off track. Unfortunately, for Jon and most dieters, it just doesn’t work that way. In his several weeks off track, Jon’s resistance muscle had gotten weaker and it wasn’t strong enough to allow him to consistently do everything he was doing before.

I discussed with Jon that we needed to build back up his resistance muscle (and that, generally, building it back up takes much less time than strengthening it in the first place). We did this by cutting down his goals for the week and making sure that they felt fully manageable to him. Once he had a week of doing some “easier” skills, we would add in a few more skills, and then the following week add back in even more. It’s a graduated approach to getting back on track, and it allows Jon to build back up his resistance muscle as he goes.

Jon decided that this week it felt reasonable for him to read his Advantages List and Response Cards every day (but only cards that were relevant to the skills he was working on), give himself credit, and eat everything sitting down, slowly, and mindfully. If that goes well, next week we’ll add in overcoming hunger and cravings and eating according to a schedule. If that goes well, then the following week he’ll once again start counting calories. Jon and I discussed all the sabotaging thoughts that might get in the way of his doing these skills this week, and he made some new Response Cards (including one that reminded him why he wasn’t working on more things this week:

Trying to get back to doing everything all at once just didn’t work. I need to build back up my resistance muscle by being 100% consistent with what I’ve committed to doing, and before I know it I’ll be back to where I was before.)

If you’ve gotten off track with your New Year’s resolution, this is exactly what you need to do, too! Stop expecting yourself to do everything and instead figure out what feels completely doable this week. Recommit to it, do it (and give yourself so much credit for doing so!), and then add one or more things next week. Build back up your resistance muscle layer by layer, and before long you’ll be back to the place you want to be.

5 replies
  1. Nancy Bernard
    Nancy Bernard says:

    I am in exactly the same position as Jon and am very frustrated! Thanks so much for this message. I am going to take your suggestions and put them into action!

  2. Mary Ogden
    Mary Ogden says:

    Thanks for a great example! When I am trying to make progress on something or trying to change a habit, I seem to have the most success when I do one thing at a time and take very small steps. For example, focusing on healthy eating at ONE meal today, or writing ONE sentence in my journal. It doesn’t feel as big and dramatic but, for me, creates more lasting change.

  3. Theresa Bucy
    Theresa Bucy says:

    This is the perfect article for me today! Thanks to my WW friends for sharing the link. My resistance muscle is certainly weaker! Ready to strengthen it again. Thank you!

  4. Oola
    Oola says:

    I had a few months of setback last fall. I took it easy returning to my former good habits. It felt doable and rather natural. Several of Beck’s early strategies have been so good for me I’ve never had to use calorie counting or weighing.


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