21 micro habits to make weight loss stick #7: Course-correct right away

Adopt a different mindset around mistakes, and everything will improve 100-fold, says Food Psychology Coach Laura Lloyd.

As a former binge eater, Laura knows the ‘I’ve had one, now I’ve broken my rule’ mentality all too well. Here, she talks you out of it, whether you’re trying to lose weight or end binge eating and overeating for good.

When we are overeating or binge eating, or falling off the diet wagon regularly and landing on hard tarmac of guilt and shame, we want to know we can ‘cure’ it.

We want to believe in a future where we are binge free.

I want to offer you the suggestion that your journey might not look quite like that. And that’s OK. 

The key here for me, is the word ‘journey’.

I often say we’re on a food psychology journey, and for me, the metaphor is a game-changer. 

For instance, I don’t think of myself as sick, and I don’t get to a destination called ‘cured’.

I think of myself as someone who developed binge eating habits, and overeating habits, and emotional eating habits, and is evolving newer better habits.

I’m on a food psychology journey, and I’m learning all the time.

Like a pilot, I don’t expect to never drift off course – there will always be winds and weather in my life.

But, as the years have gone on, I have learned to course-correct much, much more quickly and efficiently.

And how does an autopilot course-correct? In tiny, 1% adjustments, made as it’s going along. 

Nobody stops the flight and starts over.

Nobody puts out an announcement over the tannoy:

“Fasten your seatbelts, we’re going to flip this plane over onto a completely new course, there’s going to a be a lurch but don’t be alarmed, we’re just taking a radically new direction.”

You just keep moving forwards, making adjustments, tracking your new position, monitoring the data, and course-correcting in tiny increments. 

A snippet from my story:

I used to go deep into self-hate and depression when I didn’t like food choices I’d made in the spur of the moment.

A lot of regret and disappointment before I’d find the energy to start again. 

Now, I do some journaling, figure out what happened, am thankful for the next thing about my life my eating has shown me, and save the day. I don’t even wait until tomorrow.

Sure, I’ve had moments when I’m like my classic: 

“Oh crap. I ate half a large bar of chocolate, and I only planned to eat two squares.”

If I’m in a success-fail (‘fixed’) mindset, I’ll go into drama about an overeat, with lots of colourful emotive thoughts:

  • “I’m out of control.”
  • “It’s happening again, I should be beyond this by now.”
  • “Does this mean technically I’m still a binge eater?”
  • “I shouldn’t be a food psychology coach if I do this.”
  • “I was doing so well, now I’ve blown it.”
  • “I’m going to gain weight from that.”
  • “Maybe I should finish the chocolate bar and get it out the house. I obviously can’t handle it.”
  • “I can’t stick to my plans. I can’t trust myself.”



If I’m in a ‘growth’ (learning) mindset, I’ll go into analysis mode.

  • “Hmm, looks like that happened.”
  • “What were we thinking?”
  • “What were we feeling?”
  • “Noted. What do I plan to eat for the rest of the day?”
  • “Today’s already a good day, because I stopped in my tracks. That’s a skill I’m developing.”
  • “I can stop at any time.”
  • “This is great practise. In my future life as someone who has kind control of her eating, I’ll need this ability to course-correct more than anything.” 

The second version, without all the self-judgment, gets me course-corrected from that very moment. 

The first version takes about a week to get back on track.

Either way, though, I get back on my journey. 

Laura Lloyd

Food Psychology Coach, The School of Food Psychology

Here’s how most our binges happen.

Some of us get this urge to binge coming upon us like a cloud on the horizon. It’s like a building of emotional tension.

And if that’s you, maybe you recognise planning to binge, looking forward to a binge, maybe shopping especially for your binge or looking forward to being by yourself, and once the idea has suggested itself, it feels like an inevitability.

Working to counter the mind’s autopilot to follow that suggestion is something we’d be doing with CBT and hypnotherapy in my cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy coaching practice, and maybe I’ll write a more involved blog post about this particular trajectory to a binge developing that applies more specifically to you.

But for many people, overeating and binge eating is more of a ‘slippery slope’ kind of event. 

You make an eating mistake, and it gets out of hand. 

You know, doob-de-doo, you’re going along, and with your eating you’re doing pretty good.

“I’ve been good”, you tell yourself. Maybe the scale goes down in agreement.

You get an urge to eat something you know you’d previously made a decision that you wouldn’t today. Those Orios look good.

“I’ll just have one,” you think.

One turns into three, and then you feel vaguely bad about it, but you plough on anyway.

“Today’s a write-off, I’ll start over tomorrow,” you think.

You switch flavours from sweet to salty. Crack open the chips and salsa. Keep going. Keep eating. And by the end of the day, you’ve had a full-blown binge.

You feel sick and horrible.

You feel guilty and regretful.

You dread tomorrow, because you felt so out of control today, you’re not confident in your ability to ‘start over’, and you’ve just downed so many calories you’re telling yourself you’ll have to be all-quinoa-and-boiled-eggs tomorrow to make up for it, or run 10K, or some other punishment/cleansing activity to try to reset the chart to zero.

Maybe you go down into an ‘I’ll never solve this’ slump that takes days to climb out of.

Maybe you hate yourself hard, trying to teach yourself a lesson you’ll never forget, trying to brand yourself with the warning so you never do this again.

I get it. You never want to feel like this again.

The shame of having binged is so, so intense.

But it’s there, in the aftermath, that you have one of the best opportunities to do something different.

Simply don’t start over. Just keep going. More on that here.

There’s another opportunity to break this pattern, too, that happens earlier:

1. Firstly, don’t write off a day, because of an eating mistake.

Great metaphor (I can’t take the credit, but I don’t know where I heard it):

If you got a flat tyre on your car, you wouldn’t go round and puncture all the others. You’d get that one tyre fixed, and be on your way.

Another one:

If you looked out the window and saw that it was going to rain today, you wouldn’t go and jump fully clothed into a river to deliberately soak yourself before the rain got you.

Another one:

Have you ever seen a toddler having a tantrum because they coloured outside the lines? Screwing up the whole drawing and rolling around on the floor in the molten lava of “I’ve ruined it!”?

That’s you, right now. One of my daughters is prone to this, and you know what? She is the most perfectionist of all of them.

2. Secondly, change your all-or-nothing thinking

All or nothing thinking is killer.

It’s a key feature of diet mentality (being ‘on the wagon’, or ‘off the wagon’, but you might notice if you do it elsewhere in your life too.

Mistakes are going to happen as you solve your overeating.

They have to happen, for you to learn.

The trouble is, when you take this all-or-nothing approach, you don’t learn, you just roast yourself in hellfire and hope to do better in the future out of fear of your own retribution.

3. Inch towards less bingeing, less overeating, bingeing less hard, stopping sooner.

All you need is patience, paper and a pencil.

Little by little, you’ll figure out what happens before you overeat.

Me? Now I have the data, I can see it comes down to about 6 situations.

Eg. (I’m tired; I’m overwhelmed by self-pressure from work deadlines and self-doubt about reaching them/procrastinating;

I’m resentful of my parenting/housekeeping responsibilities;

My routine is altered and I’m disorientated;

I’m having thoughts of work or life being ‘hard’ and wanting more reward and fun and responsibility-free rock n roll experiences;

I’ve had a lot of indulgence (eg a dinner party) and am having a hard time managing my mind around the leftovers).

That’s it.

So, when we work together, we’re going to become more objective about overeats.

  • What were you thinking, right before you overate? (“I’ll just have one, it won’t hurt.”)
  • What were you feeling? (Tired, because it was 4pm. Resigned.)
  • What will you think next time the thought comes up? (“I’ll just have one – wait a minute, am I tired? I’ll have a cup of tea, put three on a plate, and go sit down with a hot water bottle, a blanket and a magazine for 10 minutes before I do the homework with the kids.” Or “I’ll just have one … is a thought my brain sends up that acts like a snowball rolling downhill causing an avalanche for me. I don’t want an avalanche. I’ll eat what I’ve planned, and go to bed feeling proud instead.”)
  • How will you keep that thought primed and ready for the next trigger situation? (Leave a hot water bottle by the kettle before I leave for work, move the washing basket off the sofa so it looks inviting, put 3 Orios on my plan each day in case I need them – I can always taper off to less when I’ve nailed this – leave a post-it note on the Orio tub; put a reminder on my phone at 3pm before I pick up the kids to get my head straight in anticipation of this tricky time of day; check in with my community or accountability partner….).

Here’s why, and there are two reasons coming up:

a) The threat of nothing, or less, or ‘being good’, or ‘starting a diet’ the next day, scares your brain sh*tless

The idea of ‘starting again tomorrow’ is basically a threat of starvation in the future.

I know it feels like you’re doing something good. You’re not. You’re reinforcing your binge habit.

That, and the repeated experience of the waves of guilt and shame that arise when you do ‘come to’ and stop eating, may make it much harder to stop – your brain knows that you’ll have to face the music when you stop, which is a great incentive to go deeper into binge mode right now.

Take away the retribution.

Make it easier for yourself to step away from the binge.

Reward yourself with affirming thoughts after you stop (you’ll need to have these rehearsed in advance, don’t expect to break the habit of a lifetime and have self-encouraging compassionate thoughts by chance when it next happens – habit is stronger than that!).

Of course, if you have looked into binge eating or overeating, you have probably come across ‘restriction mentality’. I talk about this more in my Binge Breaker Masterclass.

The binge is the ‘all’ and Tomorrow is the ‘nothing’ in the binge-restrict cycle.

A little sidenote:

There’s more to the binge-restrict cycle than just understanding that restriction causes a backlash.

That’s not the whole story, which is why I have a whole masterclass on this topic. You have to understand the nuances before you start ripping the food rule shackles off yourself.

In short:

  • Restriction has a sister, called Expectation, which you’ll learn about in the Binge Breaker masterclass. Also, ‘restriction’ is in your THINKING, not just your ACTIONS.
  • Furthermore, ‘restriction’ does not automatically create a backlash reaction, if it’s self-loving and compassionate – losing restriction doesn’t mean you’ll never say No to your urges to eat again when you take authority over your food choices in a self-loving way.

b) Rewarding your mistakes with more eating strengthens the giving-in muscle

You eat a little. You feel bad. You ‘reward’ – in dopamine terms, for your brain’s chemistry – your guilt with food. You reinforce your habit loop.

So, how will you reward and reinforce ‘not eating’? An urge jar is good. I like to set up a real reward for myself for a few days of getting through a repeated urge to overeat – I buy myself a new T-shirt. I look on Etsy and find one in advance so I know exactly what I’m aiming for.

But the biggest and juiciest reward is your own inner words of self-affirmation and encouragement. Don’t imagine that being kind to yourself is ‘letting yourself off’.

You’re not being soft on yourself when you nurture behaviour that’s a step in the right direction.

I don’t consider myself a binge eater any more, and I never will be one again.

Technically, I do overeat sometimes.

I have not ‘stopped’ binge eating, as in, I never arrived at a point where I planted a flag and said “I never do this and will never do it again”.  It would feel like tempting fate.

But also, I have stopped.

To be clear: I never get up the night to eat a whole bag of muesli any more. I never find myself at the bottom of a peanut butter jar, or with an empty cookie wrapper in my hands, wondering what just happened. I never make myself sick. I never eat until I have to go to bed for the rest of the day.

I still make eating mistakes – by which I mean, I occasionally make choices I regret, and then have to manage my mind around that.

I don’t classify these overeats as a binge, even if it’s a whole bar of chocolate. I don’t label it as such: that scares me and sends me into self-judgment.

I’m not locked into a pattern. I can find my centre again.

These off-course moments are very telling.

They are a red flag from my emotional life, showing me where my life needs a little work.

They keep me honest. They stop me checking out of my emotional self and auto piloting through my life.

Sure, they scare me a little, and I have to have kind, firm conversations with myself to stop it spiralling.

But I’m on a journey, and I get there by putting one foot in front of the other.

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Yes please!

Just a little side note from me:

Self-judgment is never even slightly helpful, people, if you want to lose weight.

It will stop you in your tracks. Self-judgment creates inaction.

I mean, we think it’s failure that’ll stymie success. That’s not true.

As Brooke Castillo says, failure is not the opposite of success. Inaction is the opposite of success.

Essentially, feeling like a human car crash because you have a lot of thoughts that aren’t helping you, and a lot of habitual behaviours bothering you, just makes it painful to look at what you’re doing, and analyse it.

Which is why we put off leaning in and looking at what we’re really doing when we’re messing up.

But when we do look at it with curiosity, it’s SUCH a relief!

It’s your ability to go into ‘data analysis’ and 'I'm learning new skills' mode that takes the drama out of your weight loss journey:

Scale gone up? Just data – which habit or skill do I need to learn next?

Mum make a snide remark about how you’re ‘getting too thin’? Just data – how can you let other people’s opinions wash off you like water off a duck’s back?

Notice that you ‘can’t’ sit down to work without a road snack to get from the kitchen to your desk? Just data – what am I thinking and feeling about my work?

Go all-out on chocolate one day, and body feels sick and jittery afterwards? Just data – what was I thinking and feeling that day? Does this information from my body change how I think about ‘how much I love’ chocolate?

Self-doubt creates overwhelm. Overwhelm stops you starting. And, once again – that inaction is the opposite of success – not failure.

Failure is very informative. Failure means you’re trying things. It increases your probability of hitting on a solution.

Laura Lloyd

Food Psychology Coach, The School of Food Psychology

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