Avoiding Relapse

Relapse in the fitness industry is simply defined as sliding back into old, unhealthy habits without a foreseeable end. Usually, it results from the inability to cope with stressors or environmental triggers that derail an individual’s progress toward permanent healthy lifestyle behavioral changes. Stressors can take the form of pregnancy or new motherhood, illness or injury, an old favorite edible or drink, missing out on a workout one day…and then the next, vacations, etc.

These things, in and of themselves, are not evil. They may detract from an established routine or healthy behavior but they do not necessarily end the behavior. They are stressors. They cause lapses, short bouts where a lifestyle behavior is broken.

I believe that where lapses become relapses stems from a sense of guilt for not accomplishing “what everyone says” is right or healthy or good or better or

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meaningful. I will give two examples. The first pertains to myself. I have a horrible sweet tooth and I caved into it the other day and bought a bag of Swedish Fish. Boy, are they tasty! Yet I cannot help feeling a bit guilty about eating them because I know they aren’t the best thing in the world to eat, not when I have a pineapple staring at me from the kitchen counter. The second are two ladies who graced me with their presence in a class I subbed for this morning: they had not been to the gym, or had not worked out even, in a week; one had suffered a severe cramp in the stomach and, as accountability partners, this derailed both exercise routines. However, they showed up today and I was able to give them the advice stated below.

Life happens. No matter how much we plan, or how controlled we are in our daily routines, sickness, injury, children or spouses, work commitments, muscle strain, that tasty morsel, and so forth get in the way. It is not always bad to succumb to these things. When we’re sick, our bodies need rest. When we go out to eat with friends, we ought to enjoy our time and eat whatever we like. The trick is being aware of the stressor that has cropped up in your life, and the feelings associated with it, so that you can cope and move on as guiltless as possible.

In more basic terms, know what and why.

When we know why we do what we do, we are more able to adapt to the situation, cope with the stressor(s) involved, and avoid complete relapse–that awful thing that makes us feel more guilty, worthless, out of control, and less likely to try correcting the behavior again. Say, an individual eats when highly emotional. The best way to cope with this behavior, which can lead to weight gain or other health issues, is to identify what causes the emotion, why it happens, how the emotional reaction can be controlled better…and from that then how better to control their eating. While solutions are not always simple (some require outside help), the path toward success is. Self-awareness of one’s behavior, self-acceptance when one slips up, and the adjustment of personal goals when a lapse occurs, are the best ways of coping with lapses. What we want to avoid is complete, permanent relapse.

Remember, know why and what, and that tomorrow is full of new beginnings and a fresh dose of self-control. Don’t give up! Get back in the saddle and try again. The ladies in my class did. So am I. I’ve hidden those delightful red gummies so that I do not see them whenever I search my pantry. Now if only I could exchange my teeth for ones less inclined toward sweets!

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3 thoughts on “Avoiding Relapse

  1. Very well done, and extremely great point to remember. We always can start over tomorrow. We do not need to beat ourselves down or give up the second we make a “mistake” or error. Thanks for that reminder!

  2. Good stuff. Exactly right. I have to start over every day, all the time. I have “relapses” constantly for health reasons. It gets harder as I get older to get back on the horse and try again. I sometimes wonder if it’s worth it, but this is the only body I have and I’m told, “use it or lose it.” Not a threat, real life. So I do what I can on any given day, then maybe a little more the next day, a little less the day after that if the pain is bad, and more when the pain lets up, but it’s still all progress.

    As for the “sweet tooths” they reside in your brain, darling girl, so unless you want to pull that marvelous brilliant brain of yours and replace it with, well, mine (or a woodchucks), I suggest you just continue to use self-control. It’s okay to have one or two gummy worms a day. Ask any robin; they’ll tell you worms are good for the soul.

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