Once you know this, failure will literally become impossible.

Food psychology coach Laura Lloyd talks you through some concepts of the way we change. 

Change doesn’t happen the way we expect. It has failure, relapse, disappointment and mistakes built in. 

How we respond to the mistakes when we try to stop overeating

– with ‘F*** it thinking’

– with guilt and self-reproach

–with abandoning hope or promises to ‘start over’

is a huge part of what turns an overeat into a binge eat. 

If we can understand the phases of change better, we can evolve our way out of overeating and binge eating.

Instead of failing and starting over, we simply settle in for a longer journey where mistakes are expected and turned into a ‘fail forwards’ approach.

We can then craft our very own weight loss journey that’s built on a foundation of self-knowledge and self-compassion. 

There are various theories of phases of change.

The first one I ever came across was shown to my as part of David Brookes’ Slim From Within package – which was my first ever experience of a self-help book, and got me out of binge eating. (It’s not a binge eating recovery book per se though, it was just the only thing I had ever seen that put ‘food’ and ‘the mind’ into the same sentence). 

It was this one, the Kubler-Ross change curve. You might have come across this in your professional life. 

Graph showing the emotional phases of change

This one is concerned with the emotions of change. It’s a fabulous reminder that, in contrast to the mental image of a hugely enthusiastic Rosemary Connolly in legwarmers with a measuring tape around her waist, change begins with feeling like crap, for quite a while in fact. 

So if you’re feeling low and like you can’t get started – see yourself as already in a process, and take comfort that change is already afoot, mentally and emotionally. The actions result from emotions, so they will come later. 

Take me, weighing myself yesterday, for example.

First thought: “F***!” = Shock

Next: “I’ll just weigh again to see if I get the same number. Perhaps I should take off this heavy hoodie.” = Denial

Then: “OMG. So I put on 9 pounds since before Christmas. Why have I been eating like such an idiot?” = Frustration

Then: “Urgh. I don’t know what to do to fix this.” = Depression (one of the biggest learnings for me was realising that ‘depression’ was often an indicator that I knew something needed to change, but I didn’t know how, so it felt impossible.)

Then: “I wonder what I was doing differently, when I wasn’t eating to gain weight? What was I doing consistently last time I felt good about my eating?” = Experimentation

Then: “OK, I know I have reverted to an old former habit of ‘tasting’ all the leftovers. I’m going to bring my awareness to that this week and choose not to do it by reflex.” = Decision

Hopefully next week: “I used to pick at all the leftovers. Looks like I don’t feel the need to do that as often today. I’m just becoming someone who eats what they’ve decided to sit down and enjoy.”= Integration

Another model you see often is the transtheoretical model of change. 

An infographic showing the transtheoretical model of change

Actually, what I like about this model is stage 6, which is actually often depicted, unlike in the diagram above, as ‘relapse’

Stages of change

I like this because at this final stage where you have mostly created new habits, it’s unrealistic to think that a habit is either a ‘done deal’ or a ‘total relapse’. 

In reality, the relapse part is the most important.

Your ability to review and evaluate relapse, and keep on truckin’, is what’ll make the difference between you – a smart woman becoming a lifelong Sensational Eater – and someone who binges, throws in the towel on their health plan deciding “I failed, it’s not working”, and goes on the internet looking for completely new mountain to climb.


Failure is part of change. Are you ready to fail? And not allow the feelings of failure and the self-judgments to stop your journey?

Perhaps my favourite description of the stages of change has come from the fabulous coach Corinne Crabtree. 

In a nutshell, she says: 

We start at 20/80. 20% we’re doing the new thing. 80% we’re not doing what we’d like to be, and also (painfully) we’re really aware that we’re not. But take heart: “My brain is lighting up, my brain is ready to do the work”. 

40/60. Still not doing it, except with a lot of concentration. But you could, instead of being discouraged, say to yourself: “See? My brain is catching up more and more and more.”

60/40. Sometimes it’s working. You’ll want to beat yourself up. You’ll want to tell yourself you should know better. Lose the perfectionism, it just isn’t second nature yet. This is the part where clients tell me they don’t want to make food plans anymore, they think they should be ready to eat spontaneously and naturally choose perfectly. But give yourself a break: Your brain is trying to do it more often than not. 

80/20. 20% of the time we still don’t follow the habit, we need to autocorrect as soon as possible, 80% of the time it’s automatic. We have. to keep learning, relapsing, getting better and better at autocorrecting. 

So don’t expect yourself to do a detox and then live like a monk afterwards. Real change doesn’t look like being perfect. 

You don’t do it like a diet: perfectly in the first couple of weeks (then fall off the wagon).

And you don’t even do it perfectly when you’re ‘cured’ of overeating. 

You just have really good course-correction skills. 

In fact, you’ll be amazed at how much weight you can lose and still make overeating mistakes all along the way. 

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