The Secrets of Success: Look Forward, Not Back

By , SparkPeople Blogger
When we were researching and writing our best-selling book, The Spark, we discovered 27 secrets of success that thousands of successful SparkPeople members have used to reach their goals, lose weight and keep it off.

We're sharing 15 secrets from the book on the dailySpark from March 1-15.

Secret #14: Don't look back.
We define "successful" members as the people who have reached their goal weight OR lost at least 100 pounds but are still on track to reaching their ultimate goal. Of all of the most successful members we surveyed, literally ZERO percent said they let setbacks derail their efforts. How did they get back on track?

Of all successful members, 84% said that if they hit a setback in their pursuit of weight-loss or fitness goals, they just acknowledged the bump and quickly moved on to get right back on track.

In my opinion, this is one of the most important strategies you can master if you're going to succeed in long-term weight loss. It seems so simple, yet it's amazingly difficult for so many people to move forward after messing up or making a mistake—no matter how small. You may not even consider yourself a perfectionist, yet when it comes to weight loss, you suddenly expect perfect performance from yourself and beat yourself up when it doesn't go exactly as you had planned.

I know this feeling all too well. Growing up, I was Type A personality all the way. If I got a 95% on a test instead of 100%, it could push me to tears. When I gained weight in college, I was particularly hard on myself. When it came to losing that weight, I'd try the strictest, craziest diets ever and then get so mad when I failed that I'd further sabotage myself. You know the scene all too well. You expect to follow your eating plan perfectly, but then someone brings in doughnuts. You can't resist and you eat one. Then you're so mad that you "failed" that you eat another. Then you skip the gym. Then you eat ice cream for dinner. What's going on here? Despite the fact that behavior like that makes no sense at all, we do it all the time—and it's a big reason so many people fail at long-term weight loss. To quote one wise SparkPeople member (~INDYGIRL), "If you got a traffic ticket, you wouldn't go break every traffic law the rest of the day like you do when you eat a bite of pizza and just keep going. I like to remind myself that one slice of pizza is always going to have fewer calories than two slices of pizza."

We all need to learn to forgive ourselves in weight loss and in life. The most successful SparkPeople members have, simply by acknowledging their mistakes, learning from them, and moving on. What other choice do you have? No one is perfect—especially when it comes to weight loss! It may not happen overnight, but you CAN learn to forgive and move on, making you more likely to stay on track. Here are some SparkPeople resources that will help.
The Spark features story after motivational story of real-life people who learned how to put this secret into practice to reach their goals. Read their words--and get 12 more secrets to success--in The Spark.

Have you learned to overcome setbacks and continue pushing forward? How would you advise others to do the same?

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FISHGUT3 12/29/2019
thanks Report
DEEBREF52 12/2/2019
Grest advice! Report
Good advice. It's okay to know what mistakes we've made - just not to focus on them. Report
It's like walking, i just keep taking the next step. Report
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
Absolutely great Report
Good information. Thank you. Report
If you can recover quickly the set back doesn't have to mean you're a quitter or can not manager your ownself. It just takes time to make those decisions about who's the boss. Report
I've slowly learned each day is a new day, a new beginning. Report
Tank you for reminding me to let go of a bad yesterday. Report
While I agree that we shouldn't let setbacks derail us, I also think we need to "look back" sometimes in order to figure out how to move forward. If, for example, you repeatedly over-indulge and say to yourself, "tomorrow is another day", you're probably going to commit the same mistakes because you're not examining your past behavior to figure out and fix the triggers. There is, for example, a high profile blogger on WeightWatchers (one of those hired by WW to write a blog) who seems to have been losing the same three pounds for the past year and a half. She loses .2 or .4 and then every third or fourth week, something happens, she overeats and gains. Then she writes about the lesson she's learned and how she's "moving on". Except that she keeps losing and gaining the same two pounds. So obviously, she's not paying enough attention to the past because she's making the same mistakes over and over again. Report
I was able to let my difficult evening go this week, so easily that it really surprised me. I know that having SP is what did it for me, I logged everything this week and wow, look 6+ days of success and one difficult evening. I'm hyped about SP and yet understanding that it's a one step at a time process, not an all out race to the finish. Report
This is very timely for me. I have been on a great weight loss streak but had a bad day yesterday. It is so tempting to think "well, I blew it for today so I might as well have a big bowl of ice cream now". I was able to rein myself in thankfully but will save this to my favorites as a great reminder. Report
this is really helpful to me!!!!! Report
If I happen to eat something that's not exactly "healthy" as a special treat I no longer beat myself up. I maintain my exercising and might add something extra to be a "step forward". Another "step forward" is to make sure I go right back to my proper eating and portion control. I refuse to beat myself up any longer and keep me off track. Everyone is entitled to a "bad day" in all manners of life. The idea is to move forward. Report
Yep, I reverted to old habits today, so I planned better for tomorrow. What else can I do? QUITTING IS NOT AN OPTION! This is going to take some time, and every day will not be perfect, and I'm okay with that. I'm trying to look at the big picture - if I create a 3500 calorie deficit, I will lose a pound. Report
Thank you for the reminder. It is so hard when you are working and busy not to have a miss step every once in a while. Making better chooses the next time is just what I need to do. Report
Thanks for the reminder, again a set back has led to diet failures in the past, but not this time. One doughnut does not make my diet a failure, I will do better with my next choices. Report
What a Blog! This was me exactly. If I ate one doughnut I'd use it as an excuse (due to my negative thinking) to eat 5 or 6. Binge eating at it's finest.From now on I will use the pizza anology to get through these times when I'm not perfect. Remember folks sometimes it's not "one day at a time," it's "one hour at a time". Report
I love this quote! Congrats to Indygirl "To quote one wise SparkPeople member (~INDYGIRL), "If you got a traffic ticket, you wouldn't go break every traffic law the rest of the day like you do when you eat a bite of pizza and just keep going. I like to remind myself that one slice of pizza is always going to have fewer calories than two slices of pizza." Report
This is the reason I was successful with my weight loss this time and why I have been able to maintain my loss for the first time in my life! If I did choose to eat something that I really shouldn't have, I didn't beat myself up for it. I just put it behind me and went ahead. It was a freeing feeling! Report
This is the exact reason why I have failed at every diet and I am determined never to let it happen again because this time I am NOT ON A DIET. (guess what...I ate a cookie this morning)! Report
As the old saying goes,"when life gives you lemons, make lemonade". No one is perfect. Which I think is the reason so many people fail. They assume they have to everything right in order to see results. So, if they have a day when they do eat a slice of pizza or piece of cake, they get bent out of shape and figure they'll just toss in the towel and give up. That's no good. I know, I was stuck in this eating cycle for years.

I used to think that in order to lose weight, I couldn't enjoy foods I liked. I used to think I had to eat perfectly. That's the problem. As I said, no one is perfect. Eventually, I decided to stop being perfect. I decided to practice moderation instead of deprivation. You know what, that has worked.

I'm not perfect. I don't eat like a saint every day. What I do is my best to make as many healthy choices as I can. Does that mean I might have a Reece's Peanut Butter Cup ? Yes, there's room for a Reece's in a healthy lifestyle.

And that's what I tell people. It's not about perfection. It's about making good choices 80 percent of the time. You do the best you can and you don't beat on yourself for not being perfect. Perfection is an illusion, not a reality.

"If you got a traffic ticket, you wouldn't go break every traffic law the rest of the day like you do when you eat a bite of pizza and just keep going. I like to remind myself that one slice of pizza is always going to have fewer calories than two slices of pizza."

I LOVE that quote! I have quoted her at least three times! Report
Love the positive attitudes! FORGIVE, forgive, forgive. That is what I am going to convince myself on lots of things in life to reach my goals. Report
I like your traffic analogy also, but for myself I use the brushing teeth analogy. If somehow I am unable or forget to brush my teeth on one occasion, I am certainly not just going to stop brushing my teeth altogether. I value my teeth. I value my health. Report
My plan today was to start utilizing more of SparkPeople today and I am so glad I set that plan. This is the 2nd article I've read that has reminded exactly how I was succesful the first time I joined SparkPeople. I re-joined Mar. 4th but have not visited SparkPeople everyday. Looking back I remember I stayed on SparkPeople so much the first month that I hardyly got anything else done. I need to visit SP everyday and I will. Report
I am actually getting this, and yes it is very powerful!!!!!!!!!!! Report
I love it. That traffic comment is one very easy to remember. Yesterday was one of those days, home made cinnamon buns calling my name .. too much time on the computor. Today it is back to my usual healthy foods and I will spend the better part of the day painting my dining room so will certainly get some extra exercise in.. Have a good day everyone. Report
I adore the traffic citation analogy! That will certainly help me a lot next time I give in to a donut!!!!! Thanks so much! Report
This is exactely what I used to do. And that is probably the main reason why all of my diets have failed in the past! There have been a few times since starting my journy on spark people that I have messed up, and felt like throwing in the towel, and I blogged about it. Then something remarkable happened, people replied to my blog with positive comments encouraging me to forgive myself and move forward, and that is what I have done so far! I have said it before, but I feel that this time it is different, and I feel that spark people has a lot to do with that! Report
Acknowledge the problem, so you can hopefully learn from it, and move on. Beating yourself up about it never helps, & just keep moving forward. That's why I love this site so much. There is so much support, & we've all been there at one time, or another. Report
one baby step at atime to get back on track Report
I think my perfectionistic streak is the source of the illogical "I've already blown it so....". Stimulus control helps me. I don't walk down the chip aisle. I don't check out the Easter Candy aisle. It does get easier. As a friend of mine says: "one good decision leads to another". Report
Something I have to remind myself evert day, often:
" progress, not perfection"
thanks Nicole, this is so me! Report
Yes, I believe this is true. One misstep does not make it ok to continue for the rest of the day, even though I too have done this. I will keep it in mind! Report
Used this idea this week. It works! Report
This was the perfect blog for me today - thanks! Report
For me this was THE number one thing I've learned since I started Spark. I was always a perfectionist, and if I blew one thing during a day, I was done. Learning how to accept a bump in the road and move on is going to be the key to maintaining my weight once I get to goal.

I am applying it to other areas of my life as well. Report
Great reminder, working on this very thing. Report
I have had such a problem with this in the past that it was one of my main goals this time...learn to forgive myself. I feel that I have come a long way at doing this, and it is all thanks to Sparkpeople and all the wonderful articles you provide. Thanks Report
I needed to read this today. I lost 10 lbs. last month and now have hit a plateau where I thought just hitting my calorie range would do the trick {I only hit it 8x last month}. I've been pretty down and hard on myself. I need to realize that plateaus are "speed bumps" and to pick myself up and move on! Report
I have quoted Inygirl ever since I read her blog. It was an awesome way to put things into perpective. I truly believe this again is an important step for me in my own 90 pound weight loss sucess. I love these Secret of Success blogs! Report
I don't look back; but, I do reflect. I remembered the old adage: If you forget the past, you are doomed to repeat it. I reflect to see where I erred, and where I triumphed. It helps to create those "learning moments," and patches of joy at small successes. I love looking back from whence I came; and seeing where I am now. It helps me to visualize where I can be in the future, if I just persevere.

No, don't look back--but do reflect.

Take care ALL. Report
I think when you have learned this secret, you have truly reached "lifestyle" mentality (as opposed to "diet"). Eventually we realize that we are going to occasionally have lapses, but if we get right back on track, the damage is minimal and can be quickly turned around. Report
Well even if Sparkpeople doesn't consider me a success, I consider myself one!

I may have only lost just over 90 pounds and am not exactly at my "goal weight", but I am pretty comfortable in my own skin now and I have kept my weight off for almost two years.

This secret to success has been the hardest for me, but it's something I can continue to work on! Report
That whole idea of blowing your diet on something means that you should just continue to eat and eat and eat - is really it takes what might have been a few hundred calorie problem and turns it into a few thousand calorie problem...It really doesn't make any sense at all...yet I have done this countless times. Seems so obvious, but somehow it isn't. Maybe that is because it is part of the "diet" culture we have ingrained in ourselves - as opposed to the living healthy approach of SP. Report
Thanks, great tips! Report
Reading this, something has just clicked. Perhaps it was ~Indygirls way of putting it, but I get it now! And that is going to be my new mantra for whenever I 'mess up' Report