4 Steps To Restart Weight Loss After Stopping

restarting weight loss: it's not linear.

Restarting weight loss can be tough. Something can come up, we stop our weight loss journey, waiting for a better time. If it happens regularly, it can become discouraging, making us feel like we’re a failure.

The truth is that getting off track is part of the journey. It happens to everyone. And believe it or not, getting off track can be a good thing. It can mark milestones that are remembered as the best parts of our story. Often, challenges are how we get eureka moments that trigger big insights that allow us to repair our feedback loop.

The key to restarting is by understanding why we got off track and discovering the underlying reasons. We can then set up an achievable plan on how to restart. This post shares some steps on how to do this.

Step 1: Understand Why You Paused Our Journey

The first step in solving any problem is to understand why the problem occurred in the first place.

Unfortunately, sometimes we feel that the reason is that we’re a failure or that we don’t have it in us. This is a lie, and the fact that you’re reading this looking for a solution is proof. As long as you’re still looking for a solution you haven’t failed. You don’t fail, you succeed or you learn.

Why we pause a journey is related to the three factors of the Weight Control Spectrum. These are environmental reasons, physiological reasons, and mental reasons.

Environmental Reasons

Has something changed in your environment that may have caused you to gain weight? A shift in responsibilities that has forced you to adjust your routines, or new external temptations? It doesn’t even have to be a huge environmental change. Years ago, a pizza chain started this deal where you could get a $5 medium pizza, hot and ready. It was such a great deal and I loved deals. I would regularly go there for lunch, sometimes even eating the whole pizza which was probably 1500+ calories. Good deal for my wallet but a terrible deal for my health. This link is an example of a similar story.

Physiological Reasons

A change in our physiology can be a reason why we stop trying to lose weight. Back pain, a broken bone, a long-term illness, or even a short-term illness can be a reason why we stop. Sometimes, even after we recover, bad habits we built while we were out of commission may stick. I remember getting into an exercise routine but then herniating a disc in my back so badly that I couldn’t go to work for a week. It took months of recovery and then months beyond that to eventually get back into an exercise routine.

Mental Reasons

Mental reasons can be one of the biggest reasons why we stop a weight loss journey. There are many examples of this:

  • The scale isn’t budging, whether it’s because it lies or because we actually aren’t losing weight. We stop because we aren’t making progress or no longer believe.
  • Increased stress can make us eat self-medicate by eating more, and we may not even realize it.
  • Something else in our life takes up a bunch of our mental energy. We then reduce the amount of mental energy we may need to support our weight loss journey.
  • Something in our lives causes us to get sad or depressed. This can dramatically adjust the hormones in our body which in turn impacts our weight.

Basically, every reason why we stop losing weight is due to these factors, or a mixture of all three. Here’s an example: because of the pandemic, people have gained an immense amount of weight. Part of it is due to the fact that many have had to change their environment to work from home, to take care of their children, to take care of their loved ones or even themselves, and also have to deal with the stress and mental load of such a dramatic change.

If you’ve stopped your weight loss journey lately, ask yourself, what is the main reason why? That will help you with the next step.

Step 2: Reflect on the Reasons

restarting weight loss: reflection is important.

Now that you have a reason for why you’ve stopped, it’s time to reflect. The reason can be simple and temporary and if so, that’s great. The reason can be deep and permanent, and that’s okay too because an understanding of this at least gives you a starting point on what needs to be addressed. Here are some key questions for reflection:

  • Is the reason you stopped due to a temporary environmental, physiological, or mental change, or will it be long-term?
  • Have you stopped because of something new that has happened in your life, or is it something that happens to you regularly and repeatedly regardless of the changes that pop up in your life?
  • Were there any specific events, actions, or feelings that may have triggered the stop?
    • Note that this question, much like all reflective questions, needs to be done in a way that is balanced with accountability but also forgiveness. It doesn’t matter if these events, actions, or feelings were “your” fault. What matters is what is done to move forward. Paradoxically, sometimes it’s BETTER if it’s your fault because changing yourself can often be easier than changing externalities. Remember that the point of this reflection is to discover actions to move forward, not to judge ourselves or others.

These reflections can often be hard to do, but when done well, can be immensely powerful for the repair of the feedback loop. If you are struggling with this, ask yourself how you usually solve problems. I often solve problems by writing, so often my reflection is done through writing. If you’re someone who is better at solving problems by talking to people, it may be worth doing these reflections with a friend, partner, or another third party.

Step 3: Use Your Reflections to Answer Two Key Questions

Now that you have more insight into why you’ve stopped, it’s now time to address the why and find a solution. Depending on how deep the problem is, it may be as simple as a micro-change, or take more time. Even if it takes time, small micro-steps can be the pathway to an eventual solution. There are two key answers that should be answered:

  1. What will I do to get back on track?
  2. What will I do if the same issue that caused me to stop comes back in my life?

The more detail and confidence you have in your answers, the better. That being said, getting clear answers to these questions can be incredibly challenging, and can take time. This is where step 4 can come in.

Step 4: Determine the Minimum Effort Action

Reflecting on the way and answering the questions above are extremely valuable. However, one additional step that is critical is to convert these thoughts into action. Unfortunately, especially if the reasons for pausing are temporary, the reflections above can provide us with an excuse to stick with status quo. The actions may also feel so big that they cause us to hold off on acting.

The truth is that the only thing that can stop a stop is going. In my experience, the best way to get started too is to make it as simple as possible to restart. Thinking about the minimum effort action that you can make right now can often be the thing that removes any friction from getting started, allowing you to restart. Ask yourself this question:

What is the minimum low-effort action that I can take RIGHT NOW to get back on the journey, or at least, prevent myself from going backward?

Even if the action is so small that it only takes 2 minutes, 2 minutes is better than nothing. By committing to a minimum effort action that gives you no excuses, you can break through inaction and create momentum.

Two Examples: Temporary Tammy and Deeper Debbie

Here are a couple of scenarios that may help you understand how this process can be used for your own unique situation.

Temporary Tammy and the Broken Leg

Tammy was off to a great start, using Luuze to lose 5 pounds in January. This success put her ahead of schedule for her goal of losing 50 pounds this year. Unfortunately, an unforeseen accident caused her to break her leg. Not only was she unable to do any serious physical activity, but she was also unable to weigh herself to track her progress. The situation caused her to not only regain the 5 pounds she lost, but she also regained another 5. Although her cast is due to come off in a couple of weeks, Tammy is pretty dejected. It’s now April and the odds of her achieving the goals she set out at the beginning of the year are unlikely to come true. This reality makes her not want to get back on the journey. Tammy reflects on her experience.

  1. Understanding why she paused:
    • The main reason was physiological because she broke her leg. This also impacted her ability to go out and exercise (an environmental shift). The fact that she’s now feeling bad because she’s behind on her goal is also a mental shift.
  2. Reflecting on the reasons:
    • The leg break was temporary and will heal, allowing Tammy to get back to the January state where she was succeeding. She just has to be patient. The trigger for this leg break was a bit of a freak accident, so there’s no reason to dwell on that, but the fact that the accident prevented her from weighing herself was likely a cause of weight gain for her. As she reflected on how falling behind on her goal made her feel, she realized that due to the accident, the goal turned from a motivator into a demotivator.
  3. Answering the two key questions:
    1. What will I do to get back on track?
      • Recognizing that the leg break is temporary, Tammy makes a commitment that she will get right back on track when her cast is off. Because she now has 55 pounds to lose, she shifts her weight loss date target to June of next year instead of forcing herself to try to make up for lost time. This allows her goal to become a motivator again.
    2. What will I do if the same issue comes back?
      • She recognizes that being active and keeping track of her weight were important factors to her weight loss success in January. She makes a commitment and mental note to herself that if she ever encounters a future situation where she is forced to limit her physical activity or will be unable to weigh herself, she will find alternatives.
  4. Determining the Minimum Effort Action:
    • Although her cast is still on now and she’s still not really in the mood to exercise or calorie count just yet, the minimum effort action she takes is to start writing about how she will get back on track. Over the next two weeks, she ends up writing a list of physical activities to do when she is out of her cast, details out her defining motivation, and now has a plan to get right back on track when her cast is off.

Deeper Debbie and her Challenges with Perfection

Debbie has been struggling with yo-yo dieting her entire life. At one point she lost over 80 pounds, but regained it all back and then some. She restarted the journey again, losing 20 pounds. She then had a Thanksgiving dinner where a toxic family members made a mean comment about her weight, triggering her to overeat. The weigh-in the next day showed her the evidence that she over-ate, and this made her feel terrible, making her binge. Terrified of what the scale will now say, she’s stopped her journey. Debbie reflects on her experience.

  1. Understanding why she paused:
    • The reasons were partially environmental and partially mental. A toxic family member was one of the triggers. The fear of the scale and what it might say after a binge was another one.
  2. Reflecting on the reasons:
    • Debbie realizes that this particular family member has always been toxic, and she always feels terrible after interacting with them. Reflecting on what happens when she feels terrible, she realizes she stress eats and binges, which causes more stress, creating a vicious cycle. She realizes this has happened regularly and repeatedly in the past. She realizes that the challenges around the interactions with this family member are not temporary and may recur on every family event moving forward.
  3. Answering the two key questions:
    1. What will I do to get back on track?
      • Debbie reflects on her prior successes and failures around weight loss and realizes that she often succeeds when she is in a positive mindset, but turns to binge eating to cope with her stress when she is in a negative mindset. She realizes that in order to achieve her weight loss goals, the issues around binge eating need to be addressed first.
    2. What will I do if the same issue comes back?
      • Realizing that her toxic family member may retrigger her at the next family event, she adds a reminder in her phone before the next event to schedule a phone call with her best friend the day before after the event to have a vent session that will allow her to get the support she needs to deal with the issue and remain in a positive mindset. She also reflects on if there is an opportunity to address the issue of the toxic family member directly.
  4. Determining the Minimum Effort Action:
    • Although it may take time for her deeper issues around perfectionism, binge eating, and toxic family members to be fully resolved, Debbie realizes that the first step to address these issues is to understand them. She starts reading articles around perfectionism and binge eating and commits to reading 15 minutes a day about the topic.

Through this process (and maybe with the support of third-parties if needed), she can eventually shift her mindset which will lead her to permanent success in the future.

Stopping is Okay! Restart Weight Loss and Make Progress Again.

restarting weight loss: you get to choose the future.
Image from the amazing Wait But Why site by Tim Urban

Sometimes when we “fail” and stop our journey, it may seem that we can’t do it. That we don’t have it in us or that our weight is our fate. This is simply not true.

Don’t quit! The truth is that we can get back on track. We can learn from our mistakes and choose a path that leads us to success. However, unless we want to just depend on luck or fate, it is important to understand why we got off track, reflect, and create a plan to make progress again.

This process of continuous tracking, reflection, and adjustment is how I lost 100 pounds and how Luuze helps you repair your feedback loop so you can lose weight permanently.

10 thoughts on “4 Steps To Restart Weight Loss After Stopping

  1. A family emergency caused the stress to fall off the track of losing weight. I am going to go forward and get back on track with the help of the tips that are given from your site

    1. This is super common and I can really sympathize – when my father passed away I ended up gaining 20 pounds. I was able to get back on track though after reminding myself of the things that helped me lose 100 pounds in the first place.

      Thank you for sharing and I hope these tips help! My sympathies as well for your family emergency and I hope that whatever it was, that things are calming down.

  2. On my journey I’ve discovered that I’m eating not just when I’m hungry but I’m feeding many parts of me. So I made a list:
    1. My wrist….I look and it’s noon….so it must be time to eat,
    2. My eyes….I see the peanuts and eat without thinking
    3. My gut….it doesn’t feel great, so I try to make it feel better with food.
    4. My heart….I’m feeling sad, or lonely….
    5. My blood….I feel tired, so maybe it’s low blood sugar? 🙄
    6. My mouth….it can taste that creamy chocolate and it wants it.
    7. My brain….maybe I’m bored, or anxious so I think what can I eat…
    8. My emotions…..I’m afraid of getting hungry so I’d better eat more now
    9. More emotions…I’m happy…let’s celebrate
    And lastly and not often.
    10. My stomach…I’m hungry ….rarely do I get to this stage.

    So I decided to feed only my stomach. Every time I go to eat, I stop and do a slow breath, in and out, and then ask myself who I’m feeding. Then I ask my stomach if it agrees, is it hungry? Usually it says no, that it doesn’t even want what I’m going to eat….that it won’t feel good after.
    So, this is my journey now….I’ll let you know how it goes….

    1. Wow this is poetry. Thank you for sharing your discoveries! Something that you could reflect on to get even deeper is to think about WHY you feed these other parts. If you can discover why, you may be able to address and resolve that why.

  3. Thank you for your help! This was just what I needed for today, Monday, after my scale laughed at me. 🤣

  4. Hi Andrew:
    I’ve missed your emails! This “4 steps to get back on track” was just what I needed to regroup and try once again. I think mindful eating may be the key to helping me . And I really appreciated Betty LaRose’s comment about feeding the many parts of me……
    Great site!
    Thanks again,
    Lyn

  5. Andrew, I saw this and thought “ Uh Oh, he can see my trend weight failure!!🤔
    I think my problem is that right now my job is very hectic and I’m not eating enough regularly so by body is hanging on to every darn ounce!
    I needed this pep talk, it came just at the right time!

    1. A hectic job can definitely cause things that then lead to weight gain – reflect more on this if you can! Has it caused you to change your eating habits when you do eat with other types of foods, causing you to snack more, etc.? The more insight you gain the better you’ll understand what you may need to adjust!

      Also – never look at a trend weight increase as a failure – it’s an opportunity to reflect and actually build the skill of weight loss!

      Happy that this post helped you!

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