After the Goal Setting: Lapses and Relapses

My last post reminded me how lax I’ve become in setting long term goals. I’ve been setting short term goals and reaching them and I actually got to the point where, after reaching them all, I felt a little lost. I didn’t have a direction to go in. It’s at that point that many people find themselves in the midst of a lapse or relapse.

The difference between the two is longevity. A lapse is temporary. A good example of this is when you go on vacation and the eating habits you’ve put into place are forgotten. With a lapse, you are typically able to pull it together and get back on track fairly easily. A lapse is short term. (we’re going to say a week, maybe two.)

In a relapse, however, it is a complete reversion to your previous condition or lifestyle. Relapse is dangerous to your healthy lifestyle for many reasons. First, the distinct danger lies in the fact that you are no longer following healthy habits. What isn’t as palpable are the mental effects that a relapse can have on a person. It can remove the self confidence that a person has worked so hard to build up which makes them even less likely to attempt their changes in the future. Individuals see themselves as “failures” and don’t want to replicate the feelings of incompletion again.


It’s a vicious cycle as they second guess themselves and their abilities, falling further into relapse.

What they don’t understand is this crucial fact: IT HAPPENS TO EVERYONE.

Every single person, at some point in their life has suffered from a lapse, or even relapse. We are only human and none of us are excluded from making mistakes or saying “yes” when we should say no (or vice versa).

So what are we to do? How do we keep a lapse, or even a relapse, from becoming a permanent condition in our lives? There are many tactics that we can utilize, as individuals and as friends and family members of those who are seeking a healthier lifestyle.


Tools such as food journals, progress pictures, work out logs and so on, are one way to assess progress and keep healthy habits going consistently. These work for two reasons. First of all, you’re able to plan based on what’s worked well in the past. If you know a method has been effective and if it is familiar, it will be much easier to follow. Also, when you lose motivation, seeing past progress and ideas can be a powerful motivator.


Develop a network of friends and family members who are on the same journey as you. This is proven to be the best indicator of success in this context. Having a network of people to encourage and motivate you, as well as being able to do the same for them, can take you further than you could ever believe. It holds a certain amount of accountability and pushes many people to work harder. If you don’t have someone you can turn to, look for local groups and classes within your gym. Those can be a fantastic way to meet like-minded people who are headed in the same direction as you are.


Keeping meals planned, workouts made up in advance and other practical organization methods help to ensure that on days when motivation runs low, you stay on track. Remove the stressors in your life that make time an issue and if you know something triggers unhealthy eating or sedentary behavior, work your schedule and lifestyle in a different manner to avoid or manage it more effectively.


I cannot stress this enough, lapses can and most likely will happen. It is not the end of the world. Keeping a plan in place for when it occurs is the best way to make sure a lapse doesn’t turn into a relapse. And guess what… even if THAT happens, you are not confined to staying there in your relapse.


If you are struggling with relapses and lapses where your healthy lifestyle is concerned, contact me for ways to overcome either of them. Your lapse does not define you, it simply teaches you what you can do differently next time.


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