Learning from Setbacks

Learning From SetbacksAmerican culture puts so much emphasis on winning that it is often hard for people to recognize that they can learn just as much from setbacks as they can from success.

People who decide to have bariatric surgery after struggling to control their weight with diet programs or weight loss medications are familiar with setbacks. But they often feel that weight loss surgery is such a powerful treatment it will guarantee success by closing the door on setbacks.

Because bariatric surgery is a more aggressive and effective approach to weight loss for very heavy people, it does indeed bring about weight loss much faster and more easily than dieting alone. But sustained success requires commitment to lifestyle changes that are often difficult. The key to coping with setbacks that occur is not to become overwhelmed by them.

Behavior Change is a Process, Not a Destination

Behavioral change doesn’t occur in a straight line, it’s more like a cycle. People often make changes in the beginning and then find themselves fighting the change. If they are going to succeed, it is important to have a plan for managing setbacks and using it to get back on track quickly. Another way to look at behavior change is that it occurs in fits and starts as described by the old adage, “Two steps forward; one step back.”

The first thing you need to know about setbacks is that they are a natural part of behavioral change. How you respond to them, determines your ultimate success.

You can help yourself cope with setbacks and minimize their severity using three strategies:

  • Acknowledge that setbacks will happen from time to time; they are simply a step along the way to success.
  • Be aware of situations that can promote them.
  • Learn from your lapses. As Dalai Lama will say: “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”.

Acknowledge Setbacks as Part of Your Journey

Preparing for setbacks can help minimize their frequency, severity, and impact on weight loss efforts.  Some behaviorists liken preparing for setbacks to a fire drill. Even if you plan to do everything possible to avoid a fire, prepare for one just in case. The instructional materials provided before and after weight loss surgery are designed to help minimize setbacks by anticipating the lifestyle changes needed for success.

Still, breaking old habits is challenging and slip-ups will happen from time to time. Then what? Dissect the experience from your lapses.

Dissecting Setbacks to Help Identify Future Risk

Take a moment to forgive yourself for the lapse. Telling yourself you are a failure will only make you feel worse and put you at risk for abandoning your new healthier behaviors.  Instead say, I slipped up. What can I learn from the situation that I can use to keep me from repeating this mistake in the future?

A good way to understand what led to the lapse is to reconstruct a time-line or behavior chain so you can see exactly what triggered the lapse. The easiest way to do this is to work backward from the lapse step by step until you find the trigger.   Suppose you ate a sugary dessert and experienced some dumping syndrome.

  • Put dumping syndrome at the top of the list
  • List brownies, the food you ate, right below dumping syndrome.
  • Try to figure out why you ate the brownies. To answer the why questions, you need to figure out what you were doing and feeling at the time of your lapse.
  • Ask what you were doing when you ate the brownies; were you home alone, out with friends, at the mall, etc?
  • What were you feeling? Were you lonely? Did you feel deprived because your friends were indulging so you did too? Where you feeling in control because you had been doing so well that you let your guard down?

Putting Your Time-line to Work for Future Success

Now that you have some clarity about the environment that made you lapse, make plans how to avoid putting yourself in the same situation in the future, or if you cannot change the situation, how to cope with it. If you discover you ate the brownie because you were feeling lonely, make plans for breaking that mood when it overtakes you in the future. Also, figure out why you have brownies in the house.

Using reverse time-lines, you can do the same type of detective work on your behavior when you lapse or find yourself tempted to lapse. The lessons you learn from examining your behavior will help you avoid these traps in the future.

For More Information on Weight Loss Surgery.

For more information on bariatric surgery, or to schedule a consultation with Dr. Baptista, please contact Florida Surgical Physicians today.

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