Supporting Fitness Clients Through Lapses and Relapses

Supporting Fitness Clients Through Lapses and Relapses

As a health and exercise professional, you may already be comfortable with the notion that relapse is common. Perhaps you have regularly witnessed your clients stray from their stated wellness goals. In my everyday work, I see clients waver in their commitment to lifestyle changes, especially in the realms of weight loss, smoking cessation and chronic disease management. Over the years, I have come to appreciate that occasional lapses in health-related behavior change are common and even to be expected. No one is perfect, after all.

To help my clients succeed in the long term, I normalize their slip-ups and even prepare them for more mistakes in the future. Then, I help them renew their commitment and make a viable plan for getting right back on track. Consider these practical strategies to better support your clients:


  • Differentiate between a small lapse and a full relapse. People occasionally lapse or briefly revert back to former habits, perhaps not exercising for a week or overeating at a dinner party. Remind your clients that these short and occasional missteps need not reverse their hard-earned progress. Reassure them that they can take control of the situation by getting back to a healthy routine right away. The risk to their progress becomes real, however, if these small-scale slip-ups continue unabated and unaddressed. At that point, your client could be experiencing relapse, or a full return to old and unhelpful habits.
  • Talk back to the…

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