eating off track

How To Bounce Back After Eating Off Track

January 10, 2018

Even after weight loss surgery, food choices and eating off track happen. For many, there are still issues with emotional eating that can lead to eating off track more than once in a while. Sometimes, it’s just a matter of poor planning, and succumbing to quick eats. Also, eating off track is not a death sentence, nor does it mean that you'll be unsuccessful in the long-term. When you've had WLS, eating off track is something to be aware of and it’s good to remember that the process after weight loss surgery is about growth, not perfection.

You Have a Clean Slate From Eating Off Track

You've just got to get ahold of your eating, be more self-aware and get yourself back on track before it becomes a long-term pattern that leads to weight regain. Additionally, if eating off-plan has been your long-term pattern, there is still hope for getting back on track and changing your ways. There is hope!

Every day that you are breathing, you have choices. You are given a clean slate every day, and you can begin again.

Having weight loss surgery is a lifestyle change, not a diet. If you see it as a diet, this will be the first mistake in perception, which also can be altered.

Furthermore, if you are struggling with trusting yourself with food or have a habit of emotional eating, it’s probably best to seek out an eating disorder specialist or bariatric counselor to help uncover the deeper issues which may be coming up. While some need deeper work, others just need some accountability, motivation, and support.

“The Compound Effect”

One of my favorite non-WLS books is “The Compound Effect” by Darren Hardy. In this book, he states that it’s not what we do once that makes a difference in our lives but what we do daily, repetitiously. For people who eat off track regularly, they are bound to regain.

For those who eat off track “once in a while” it can be easier to reposition themselves to get back on track because it is clearly not their norm. The importance of mentioning this book is that what we do over time repeatedly is what gives us our results. Therefore, it’s important for long-term success to gain awareness, change the behavior to get back on track and stay on track for continued weight loss and subsequent weight loss maintenance.

Remember, that this is a process and it’s important to take yourself off autopilot and be more conscious about your eating so that you are eating on track more regularly.

If you get off track once in a while, it’s important that you don’t beat yourself up, but instead acknowledge what happened, shift the behavior and keep moving forward. The more you beat yourself up emotionally, the more you’ll be tempted to go back and use food to soothe again.

Food is fuel and while it’s present in our lives for multiple occasions (weddings, birthdays, meetings, etc.), it is a good reminder that it should not be a coping mechanism and if it has become one, use these strategies to get back on track. If there is still a struggle, this may be a sign that deeper work needs to be done and it is highly recommended to consult a professional.

5 To Do Items To Bounce Back

1. Forgive Yourself

Acknowledge that you ate off track and forgive yourself. Compassion is not the same as permission. This doesn’t mean “hey, I get to do this again” or “I got away with it.” This means that you are not harboring resentment for making a mistake and that you acknowledge the action and being compassionate with yourself.

2. Build Awareness of Your Patterns

Take a good look at what you do most often. This will give you more insight into your behaviors, help to take yourself off “autopilot” and allow you to look at your behaviors more consciously. There is a famous saying by Eckhart Tolle that “awareness is the agent of change.” To be aware is to see where you are not on track so you can change your behavior and get back on track.

Once again, this is not an opportunity to beat yourself up emotionally. Awareness is so you can take a good look at what’s going wrong, what’s going right, and then taking a deep look at yourself so you can take conscious action and move forward from where you are.

Additionally, not being truthful about your patterns only hurts you. If you choose to hide from yourself, you’ll eventually see it in the mirror. Be honest and forge ahead. You can do this!

Questions to help gauge your patterns

  • What are you eating daily?
  • When are you eating daily?
  • How much are you eating at each meal?
  • Are you triggered by your emotions? Do you turn to food? If yes, how often?
  • How often are you eating “off-plan”?  How often? Be honest.

Create a meal plan and schedule your meals

You’ve heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” Having a meal plan or meals planned in advance can really help you avoid emotional eating or eating off track. Of course, there will still be people who could sneak a chip, or a snack, or something “off plan” however, for most people having a plan and a schedule really helps with hunger and knowing what they will eat and when.

Will there be times when you ogle the ice cream, the cookies, the chips, or something else?  Will there be times that you actually eat them? Yes. Of course. You are human.

The point here is that three times a week is not occasionally, or “once in a while” and in fact, three times a week, is quite regular, so check the pattern and frequency so it can be corrected if needed.

3. Journal Your Feelings

The goal is not to make you feel like you need to be perfect, but to help you get your emotions out so that you are not eating your feelings. If you feel triggered, stressed, or have had a bad day, pull out a journal, or utilize another emotional support mechanism to help you process your feelings.

Some feelings are deeper and it’s understood that some people don’t want to “feel the feelings” on their own because they are too overwhelming. This is where you may need to talk to a professional if you just feel like you can’t go there by yourself or with a close friend. Some people prefer to speak to a professional because they don’t want to share their issues with their friends which is understandable. Either way, it’s important that whether you use a journal to write it out, talk to a friend, or see a therapist/counselor, that you are doing this for you and your growth.

Reminder: You are important so don’t minimize your feelings and recognize that it’s not healthy to hide behind them with food. As noted before, it will show up in the mirror.

4. Get Support/Accountability

You can also call a friend, post on the forums, or schedule an appointment with a therapist. There are always resources available to help you get the support you need.

Accountability and support are necessary to help you when you feel triggered or like your willpower or focus has waned. Knowing that someone else is in your corner helping you get across the finish line can really help you see that you aren’t alone, and this is all part of the process. It’s also a good reminder that you are human, no one is perfect, and we all need to reach out and know that other people are going through it too.

Sometimes accountability can help provide great support because you realize that you are totally normal, your feelings and struggles are real, and that you can overcome this one step at a time.

5. Reinforce Your "Can Do" Attitude by Celebrating Small Successes

This is another reason why keeping a journal is good. You can write down and keep track of your successes to show you the results of your efforts.


  • “See, chocolate, Ha! Ha! You don’t have the best of me! I avoided you and feel great this week! I am in control!”
  • “It’s Tuesday and I said no to the donuts in the conference room. I am Woman (or Man), hear me roar!”
  • “I got into that new pair of size 10 jeans today! Woot Woot!”

Whether you share NSVs such as pushing food away, getting into a smaller size pants, or the weight loss on the scale, your successes are provable tidbits of information that reflect your new mindset and remind your brain “Oh yeah! I’m doing this! I did this. I can keep doing this!” and that reinforces the neuropathways in your brain in the new direction of the new behavior.

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Kristin Lloyd, PhD is a licensed psychotherapist, mindset mentor, certified clinical hypnotherapist, and energy psychology practitioner guiding individuals to embrace healthy habits and fuller lives after WLS. A WLS patient herself, Kristin understands the challenges of WLS patients. She is the founder of Bariatric Mindset and author of the two bestselling books: Bariatric Mindset Success and Release Your Regain; both available on Amazon.
Read more articles from Dr. Kristin!