You peer out your car window and to your surprise the road sign reads, “Welcome to Maine.” Maine? You were trying to get to Boston! Now what? Do you angrily step on the accelerator and just blow past the sign giving you the bad news? Or do you take in the information, realize that you have made a mistake and that you are headed in the wrong direction, turn around as quickly as possible and start heading south? You probably pride yourself on the fact that as an intelligent adult with goal setting abilities, you would make the second choice.

If you were carrying a tray of glasses and one fell, would you simply throw the whole tray on the floor in sheer disgust? No, of course, not! You would set down the tray and pick up the broken glasses, and then go about completing the original task as if the tray hadn’t fallen at all. Would you beat yourself up, asking yourself over and over again, “How could you be so weak? How could you be so stupid?” No. You would simply accept the fact that the glasses broke. You would also, most likely, take for granted the fact that had instinctively taken whatever time was necessary to rectify the situation (clean up the mess and get the appropriate number of glasses refilled).

Let’s take a third scenario. You are driving home. It’s late and you are feeling tired and hungry. Your inner voice tells you to just go home and fix some dinner, and then you picture the selection of food that you have at home, and feel a sinking feeling inside. Next, you see the familiar Burger King sign and imagine a mouth-watering burger and find your car pulling in to the restaurant almost as if your car had a mind of its own. You hear yourself ordering the whopper with fries and then you watch yourself ripping open the bag and devouring the hot food almost before you’ve pulled out of the parking lot. No sooner than you inhale your last fry, you hear your inner voice begin,
“That was so good.”
“What did I do?”
“Why did I eat all that?”
“Oh, that’s OK, I’ll start my diet next week. I just won’t eat at all to make up for that binge.”
“It wasn’t that much food, at least I didn’t get dessert.”

You then turn up the radio to drown out the next onslaught of inner voices.

“You are so hopeless.”
“I can’t trust you to make good choices.”
“You have no willpower.”
“I feel like a total fat slob.”

And on and on the self-critique continues.

Why is it so much easier to see that a mistake simply means you are not getting the results that you want, in other areas of your life—and make the necessary steps to insure that you don’t repeat the same goofs, but feel so powerless to do the same when it comes to your relationship with food, your weight and caring for your precious body? When it comes to food, why are you so unforgiving about your slip-ups? Are you afraid that if you don’t beat yourself up mercilessly that you’ll continue to engage in unproductive behaviors? Well, let’s take a look at what’s true.

When you realize that you got to Maine instead of Boston, wouldn’t you step back, assess what happened, and do everything you could to avoid repetition of that same painful set of circumstances? Wouldn’t you acknowledge how difficult it was to do all that driving for nothing, how bad it feels to make such a mistake—preferably without judgment—and therefore stop and really look at what you did that could be corrected.

Perhaps you would decide to buy a navigational system for your car, or check if your current GPS is working properly.
Maybe you would commit to yourself to buy better maps and STUDY them before getting in the car. It may occur to you that you were talking on the phone too much while driving and that is a distracting activity that you will avoid from here forward, when driving to unfamiliar destinations.

The point is that rather than waste your energy on hurtful inner dialogue that does NOTHING to insure that the same error won’t be repeated, you would rationally decide on a new course of action. This, then would give you a new feeling of control and empowerment and it would be easier to swallow the fact that you did make a very time consuming and aggravating mistake. You would realize that the mistake wasn’t so bad after all because you had learned something valuable about yourself and how you are choosing to live your life.

This is exactly how you can treat your learning experiences with what doesn’t work for permanent weight loss and ultimate health and happiness. When you realize that you have messed up: let’s say you find that you just opened a 24oz. bag of chips and have already devoured half of them—as soon as you become conscious of what you are doing, STOP! Follow these four steps to turn a “huge screw-up” into an event that propels you to live as the whole, conscious, healthy, happy person you are aspiring to step into.

Step One: Look at What Happened
Be honest with yourself. Think about the situation and review it in detail. Play it back like a movie but with the added benefit of the understanding about the inner state that you were in when the “incident” took place. In the above example, you were feeling “tired and hungry.” What does that mean for you? In other words, what do you tell yourself when you are feeling fatigued and hungry? Perhaps you’ll notice a belief that when you are in a compromised emotional state (tired, hungry, irritated or lonely) you throw all rules about food out the window. Notice that you do not do that in other areas of your life. You don’t decide that you’ll just ignore red lights or take merchandise from a store without paying just because you are in a bad mood. With this increased understanding, you can come to the realization that you are simply in the habit of violating your own standards of self-care when you are in a weakened physical, mental or emotional state. Don’t judge it – just take it as a very important ah-hah.

Step Two: Feel The Pain

Do not skirt around the pain of that decision. Pain is an excellent motivator. The reason you don’t run the red lights or steal just because you are feeling frustrated in any particular given moment is because you are completely keyed into the greater consequences of these acts. No matter how much pain you are currently experiencing due to your emotional state or “bad mood,” you intuitively know that you will feel worse if you make those types of foolish choices. The same thing has to happen with your relationship with food in order for you to change it. Don’t try and shield yourself from not only hitting rock bottom – but FEELING it. Get in touch with how awful your tight clothes feel before you throw on a pair of sweats to avoid the discomfort. Acknowledge the distress your body experiences when you overeat – whether that is a headache, a bulging belly, the awful feeling of compulsion or addiction to sweets and carbs or the mental anguish of guilt. Feeling the pain does NOT mean judging yourself. It is simply an important motivator and pre-cursor to step three: Making a Plan.

Step Three: Make A Plan
Look at the situation that caused your “mistake” and brainstorm 3-5 new ways that you could handle that exact same scenario should it occur again in a new and more productive way. It’s not about good or bad, right or wrong. What you are doing is deciding what results you want and then looking to your wise, creative mind to show you a way to accomplish this for yourself. Some ideas might include planning ahead, taking healthy snacks along with you wherever you go, making sure that you always have a healthy, delicious meal that you can easily whip up in less than 30 minutes waiting for you at home, always carrying around water with you, having a positive weight loss affirmation cd in your car and committing to taking deep breaths when you are emotionally challenged.

Step Four: Practice Your Plan
Of course, you’ll want to practice your new behaviors in real life. However, what is equally effective is taking time to rehearse your new responses to your inner and outer life in your imagination. Imagination is the language of the subconscious mind. Your subconscious mind drives all your behavior from getting dressed in the morning to giving you the urge to eat or stay away from certain foods. Though these desires may seem random, they are not. The behaviors your engage in throughout the day are controlled by the programming of your subconscious mind. When you decide, based on your level of pain from past choices and your desire to create a better life for yourself, to make new rules for yourself around food and eating, your subconscious mind will accept these new suggestions, provided you install them properly. To do this, take time every day to run new mental movies of you looking and feeling your best, engaging in HEALTHY eating and exercise habits. Feel the feelings as if you were already experiencing this transformation in your relationship to food and yourself.

Remember the famous words spoken by one of our truly great presidents, John F. Kennedy. “A mistake is only a mistake if we fail to correct it.” The moment you realize that you have veered off course with your food goals, take a breath and seize the opportunity to learn about yourself, grow and re-set your course to achieving the outcome that you truly desire and deserve. Affirm to yourself, “I am absolutely determined to succeed. I am succeeding. I have everything I need within myself.”

Author's Bio: 

Rena Greenberg, Director of Wellness Seminars, Inc, is the Author of The Right Weigh: Six Steps to Permanent Weight Loss used by over 100,000 people (Hay House Publishing 2006) and The Craving Cure: Break the Hold Carbs and Sweets Have on Your Life (McGraw-Hill 2007). She leads weight loss seminars at hospitals throughout the country (and tele-seminars) on a regular basis. She can be reached at (800) 848-2822 or visit