Everyone has lapses-but what's the difference between those who can recover, and who can't? When researchers looked at the successful weight losers in the National Weight Control Registry, and compared them to some who'd regained back some of their weight after one or two years, they found that even a small weight gain was hard to reverse: those who'd regained the most weight were the least likely to be able to take it off again. That's extra incentive for you to act quickly on a relapse-and also to keep weighing yourself regularly. (If you can't seem to face the scale and have stopped weighing yourself, it's time to do something. First get on the scale and confront the reality. Start weighing yourself every day, at the same time. A growing body of research supports daily weigh-ins as a method to avoid weight gain or regain.)

It's a good idea to designate a "red flag" weight-say, 3 to 5 pounds above your weight goal. If you see that weight on the scale, consider it a signal that you need to act immediately with a "back on track" strategy.

The 6-Step Plan for Relapse Prevention

1. Step back and ask, "What happened?" Look objectively at what brought on the lapse.
2. Calm down. Take a few deep breaths and remind yourself, "One slip-up does not make me a failure."
3. Renew your vows. Remind yourself of how far you have come, and how disappointed you'll be if this one slip-up undoes all your hard work.
4. Learn from it. Think about what pushed you to your lapse (your food diary notes can help). What can you do differently next time?
5. Implement your "back on track" strategy right away.
6. Call for backup. Ask for help from those people who are supportive and who want you to succeed.

The EatingWell Diet (2007)