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Weight Loss
5 min read

How to Recover Gracefully From Weight-loss Setbacks: 7 Tips

Written by
Holly Young
Published on
October 20, 2022

It’s almost inevitable. At some point, most of us will have a weight-loss setback—whether it’s as minor as having one too many "treats", or as major as falling ill with an acute illness that requires hospitalization and intensive care. A weight-loss setback doesn’t just feel like a failure; it also feels like you’ve blown all your hard work so far. Anyone who has lost weight and kept it off knows that maintaining it is more difficult than losing it—and how you deal with setbacks will determine your future success. Here are 8 ways to recover gracefully from any weight-loss setback, so that you can get back on track again sooner and stronger than ever before.

The Tips
Tip 1: Recognize that setbacks are normal. If you accept that weight-loss setbacks are normal and expected, you’ll feel a lot less pressure to avoid them. You’ll stop waiting desperately for the scales to tip in the right direction or the numbers on the scales to go down and be less terrified of being “out of control” with your eating. You’ll also be able to look at the different potential causes of your setback more objectively and take action to recover more quickly. It’s important to not let the fear of a setback keep you from even starting your weight-loss journey.

Tip 2: Give yourself grace. There will be days when you miss the mark, whether you're too tired to work out or you skipped meal prep and ended up eating whatever was quick and easy. Weight-loss setbacks are not a reflection of who you are as a person or your self-worth as an individual. 

You are not a bad or unworthy person, or a failure because you’ve gained a few pounds or a dress size, or experienced a slower rate of weight loss than you expected. You’re human and you’re doing your best. 

When you’re beating yourself up, ask yourself what benefit that is bringing you. Negativity doesn’t get you anywhere. Instead, it attracts more negativity into your life because that’s the frequency you’re operating on.

Tip 3: Learn from what caused the setback. Once you learn to recognize your triggers when it comes to overeating, you can then use that information to avoid similar situations in the future. For instance, if I have a hard conversation with my husband or son, the first thing I want to reach for is chips. Thankfully, I know that my salty, oily food is my emotional crutch so I don’t keep chips in my house unless I specifically planned that into my week. Instead, reach for essential oils, write in my journal, or practice breathing to regain my peace. 

If you had a major setback such as getting sick, you can learn from the experience and take steps to strengthen your immune system by eating healthier, increasing your intake of vitamin- and mineral-rich foods, and taking supplements like vitamin D, zinc, magnesium and probiotics to support your immune system.

Tip 4: Revisit your weight-loss strategy. Be kind to yourself while also acknowledging the fact that you can't keep doing the same things if you want a different outcome. Maybe you’re over-consuming the right foods, or maybe your diet doesn’t supply enough nutrients. Review your current weight-loss strategy to see if there’s anything you can tweak to make it more effective.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I enjoy my current fitness routine? If not, try something new. You don't have to go to the gym if that's not your jam. Find an activity that brings you joy, and stick with it. Belly dancing, water aerobics, hula hooping, and Tabata are just a few out-of-the-box options to explore.

  • Am I getting enough restful sleep? Poor sleep influences your dietary choices and interferes with your body's insulin function, resulting in increased body fat storage. In addition, it interferes with appetite and satiety hormones, making you eat more than you should.

  • Am I being honest with the calories I'm consuming? It's easy to over-consume, even when we're eating healthy. Or maybe you’re letting stress get the better of you and eating 'emotional' food too often. Food diary apps are great tools for being honest with yourself and for learning about the best foods and ratios to fuel your body.

  • Is my weight-loss goal realistic? Maybe you’re trying to lose weight too quickly, or maybe you need a more realistic goal. You may be doing too much or too little exercise, or maybe your training program needs an overhaul. If trying to lose weight on your own isn't working, you may need help from a professional.

Tip 5: Get back on track immediately. Once you’ve discovered the cause of your weight-loss setback, it’s time to get back on track. Don’t let a minor setback derail your entire weight-loss journey. Start with the next meal or workout.
Tip 6: Celebrate small wins towards your bigger goal. Remember that those who succeed don’t do it in a day; it’s a long journey. Celebrating the small wins towards your goal can help you stay motivated and focused on the bigger picture.

Our brains looove small wins. Each time you achieve a mini-milestone, your brain releases the happiness hormone “Dopamine”. This reinforces your commitment to your larger goal. By celebrating the small steps you'll move on to the next steps.

A few ways to make sure you're celebrating small wins:

  • Reflect on your wins from the week. Pick one day a day to spend 10-15 minutes thinking about everything you did well this week. I like to do this on Sundays before I meal prep. In a journal or on a motivation bulletin board, write down each action that brought you a sense of accomplishment towards your overall weight-loss goal. Maybe you succeeded at not eating past your cutoff point, took a walk after a stressful conversation instead of reaching for comfort foods, or passed on girls' night at the bar in favor of a bubble bath and an early bedtime.

  • Reward mini-milestones with nonfood treats. Rewards can be almost anything, as long as they don’t interfere with your current progress. I'm a big fan of a spa day pass. My Nonfood Weight-loss Rewards blog post is full of good-for-you goodies to treat ya self with.

  • Celebrate your wins with the right people. This is my favorite. Get a group of growth-minded friends together to share success stories. This could take place in person somewhere fun and fancy like a healthy happy hour with fizzy mocktails at the Ritz Carlton, or throw a Zoom party rockin’ your comfy sweats with your favorite tea. Celebrating achievements with a community is a game-changer.

Tip 7: Don’t be too proud to ask for support. Speaking of community, don't be afraid to ask for support. Having a partner, friend, or coworker, who is on the same weight-loss track as you can help you feel more accountable, provide motivation, and be there to hype you up as you reach your goals.

and finally…
Tip 8: Invest in Yourself to Finally Reach Your Weight-loss Goal. As a health and fitness professional, I’ve seen hundreds of women beat themselves up over weight-loss set-backs. Having a personalized success strategy is crucial for sustainable weight loss and something worth investing in.

If you’ve had a setback that’s been particularly tough, getting back on track can feel intimidating and overwhelming.

After years of working with weight loss clients, and maintaining my own 100 lb weight-loss, I designed a complete solution for you in the HŌLVIBE Habits Virtual Coaching Program. There’s no need to do this on your own. 

Over the course of 12 weeks, I will hold your hand and walk with you through the exact steps I took to lose 100+ lbs and keep it off for over 5 years. Together we will:

  • Uncover any mindset blocks that may be sabotaging your success
  • Overcome Emotional Eating, Self Image Concerns, Food Addiction
  • Achieve long-term success with your health and fitness goals
  • Gain complete freedom from food and weight issues to evolve into the vibrant and thriving person you are meant to be!

If you are currently struggling to lose weight, or have recently hit a stubborn weight-loss plateau, then this program is designed for you! 

Learn More about HŌLVIBE Habits
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