Falling Off the Weight Wagon

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Despite your best efforts, you have strayed from your weight management plan to maintain your ideal weight.  You ate a rich, unhealthy meal, had two pieces of that delicious chocolate cake, and didn’t exercise that night, as you were visiting friends at that local restaurant that you visit every few months.  You wake up the next morning and feel horrible that you ate all of that unhealthy food and didn’t exercise on top of that.

 The first thing you should do is stop and take a deep breath.  The second thing you should do is realize that this is not the end of the world.  Many people stray from their weight management plans from time to time.  The third thing you should do is realize that your hard work up to that point is not in vain and is not nullified just because you were “bad” for one night.1

 You can “make up” for that one “bad” night and still be able to achieve your weight maintenance goals.  It will just take a little extra effort from you to make it happen.

The Key is to Not Let that One “Bad” Night Become a Trend

Okay, so you were “bad” for one night.  It is not going to destroy your weight maintenance goals.  However, if you let that one “bad” night become a trend of having many “bad” nights, that trend will destroy your weight maintenance goals and you’ll have to do considerably more work in order to undo the damage caused by that bad trend.

 Therefore, do not let one “bad” night become a trend.  In addition, you need to learn to recognize the situations in which you will have a tendency to eat foods with low nutritional value.2  These types of situations include during business travel and at birthday parties. It’s okay to splurge and “take a night off” from time to time, but not on a regular basis.  You must have the mindset and willpower to be able to keep yourself from falling back into bad habits that caused you to have excess weight in the first place, or you will be battling again to remove that excess weight.

Return to Weight Loss Mode For a Short Period

If you start to see that you are gaining weight again, you will need to adjust your eating and exercise habits for a short period.  You need to return to “weight loss” mode from your “weight maintenance” mode, especially if you are no longer at your ideal weight.

 This means you need to cut back on your calorie intake and/or boost your exercise activity.  For instance, if that night on the town caused you to eat a total of 3,500 calories total for the evening, you ate about 1,500 calories extra (presuming you are to eat 2,000 calories a day).

 One pound of body fat equals 3,500 calories.  Depending on how well you have been managing your weight via your weight maintenance program, you may have gained a few pounds recently.  To counteract that extra 1,500-calorie intake, you need to decrease your calorie intake by 500 calories for three days.  In other words, you need to eat a total of 1,500 calories for the next three days, not the normal 2,000 calories you eat.

 This way, you will get your body back into balance after that “bad” night you had.  This is known as redistributing your calorie intake. Presuming you eat 2,000 calories a day, that would be 14,000 calories a week.  If you ate 3,500 calories on day 1 of the new week, that only leaves you with 10,500 calories for the rest of the week, not 12,000 calories if you had only eaten the usual 2,000 calories on day 1 of the new week.

 Conversely, you could also modify your exercise routine in order to burn more calories.  This would help to counteract the amount of extra calories you ate from that “bad” night out.  The easier way to modify your exercise routine is to lengthen the amount of time you exercise.

 For example, if you normally exercise for 60 minutes, and say, it normally burns 500 calories, try exercising an extra 30 minutes.  This would help you burn 250 extra calories.  If you need to burn an extra 1,500 calories from that “bad” night out, it would take you 6 days of exercising an extra 30 minutes to help counteract that “bad” night out (assuming you don’t also change your eating habits).

Make Changes to Diet and Exercise Habits to “Make Up” for “Bad” Nights

If you combine changes to both your eating and exercise habits, you can rid yourself of the 1,500 extra calories by only cutting back a little bit on food intake and only adding a little bit of extra exercise.  For instance, you could eat 1,750 calories (a reduction of 250 calories from your normal 2,000-calorie daily intake) for 3 days and exercise 15 minutes extra (75 minutes total) for 6 days.

A reduction of 250 calories per day by food X 3 days – 750 total calories by food reduced


An increase of 125 extra calories burned via exercise X 6 days – 750 total calories by exercise added


1,500 total additional calories burned off – this is the same amount that you splurged on from that “bad” night out.

The main point is that to counteract any “bad” nights out and falling off of your weight management program, you have to “pay back” that “bad” night by adjusting your eating and/or exercise habits according to burn off the extra calories you took in.

Slipping Up is No Excuse for Giving Up!

Most people who have a “bad” night of overeating and doing less to no exercise than usual will feel guilty and feel that all of their hard work has gone for naught.  This is far from the truth.  The truth is that you can make up for that “bad” night and that you won’t lose all of the results you gained from your hard work as long as you don’t have “bad” after “bad” night.  Treating yourself every now and then is fine.

The important thing to remember is that you should not quit eating healthy because you made a mistake. You should simply make time for exercise and get right back on your healthy eating plan.3 Slipping up is no excuse for giving up!

You can make up for that occasional “bad” night by compensating with less calorie intake and more exercise over a short time period.  By carefully considering what calories you are taking in and what exercise you are doing, you’ll successfully manage your weight for the rest of your life and enjoy the health benefits that go along with being at your ideal weight.


1 Healthy Weight Loss & Dieting Tips: How to Lose Weight and Keep it Off. (2011). From HelpGuide.org, A Trusted Non-Profit Resource: www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_weight_loss.htm

2 CDC. (2011, September 13). Keeping It Off. Retrieved from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/losing_weight/keepingitoff.html

3 Federal Citizne Information Center – Pueblo, CO. (U.S. General Service Administration). (2011) How to Take Part in Staying Healthy. Retrieved from Federal Citizne Information Center – Pueblo, CO: pueblo.gsa.gov/cic_text/health/healthy50plus/50what.htm


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