Anyone who has ever managed to lose weight, will understand what I mean when I say it can be highly addictive. Stepping on the scales and seeing it move in the right direction feels incredible. Bumping into someone you haven’t seen for a while and hearing those magic words “have you lost weight?” can keep you smiling for hours. This is a good thing. During the weight loss phase, these little boosts are extremely motivating and can help us overcome all sorts of obstacles.
Let’s face is, there will be days when you won’t feel like training. There will also be times when Susan’s hot chicken roll seems more tempting than your Tupperware of salad. It is at these times when the motivation, which comes from seeing results, will help strengthen your resolve. Even if it means you don’t sit beside Susan at lunch!
So, what happens when the weight loss phase is over? You have reached your goal and decided that you don’t need or want to lose any more weight. You are happy with where you are. However, you have worked too damn hard to simply revert to your old ways and end up right back where you started, right? Que the maintenance phase! Although strictly speaking, calling it a “phase” is a misnomer, because if we do it right, this “phase” will last as long as we do.
Yes, you heard it right. Maintenance is forever!! In truth your weight can only ever do one of three things. Go up (we have already established that this is a non runner,) go down (again, not ideal seeing as you are already at your target,) or stay the same.
It’s the FOREVER bit that people have a hard time accepting. I was definitely not prepared for it. I assumed, like a lot of others, that I would go on a diet, do that for a while, then come off the diet and go back to “normal.” So, that’s what I did, LOTS of times. It was a continuous cycle of weight loss, followed by almost immediate weight gain. I was missing an important part of the puzzle. I had failed to realise that it was my “normal” which was doing the damage. The very definition of insanity, I was doing the same thing and expecting different results.
I credit myself with a reasonable amount of intelligence, but damn it took me a long time for the truth to sink in. Keeping weight off requires the same amount of energy and focus as loosing it in the first place. Good nutrition, exercise, hydration, sleep and stress management are all just as vital in maintenance as they are during weight loss. The simple, but perhaps unpopular, reality is that taking your eye off the ball, will eventually cause a back slide.
Another unfortunate reality of weight maintenance is that those little boosts I spoke about earlier don’t really exist. When maintaining your weight, by definition, you won’t see the scale moving much, if at all. Your friends and family will be used to your new sleek physique and so probably won’t dish out as many awe struck compliments as they did when you were loosing weight. All this means is that you will have to rely on intrinsic motivation. In other words, it’s all on you! You will need to focus on how good you feel inside yourself to help you to make good decisions on a daily basis.
So yes, maintenance is hard, and it is un-glamourous, but one thing you do have going for you, is that you know you can do it. You have successfully reached this point, so you know you just have to keep doing what you have been doing and you’re golden!
I am not for one minute saying you need to meticulously count calories for the rest of your life. Neither am I saying that you need run marathons or compete in Crossfit. I do however, recommend that you continue to track your weight, at least until you find the sweet spot and figure out what you can and cannot get away with.
I got married three and a half years ago. I had lost about 15kg on the run up to the wedding and was pretty happy with my body by the time I walked down the aisle. Since then I have lost a further 5kg. I have done this so slowly that I really consider it to be more maintenance than weight loss per se. In this period there have been holidays, birthdays and Christmases (of course.) There have been times I have completely overdone it, and times when I knew I needed to keep a tighter rein on things. Life does not need to stop at the end of your weight loss. However, if you think going back to how you lived before your diet began will help you keep your results, you are just as deluded as I was.
When I gave up smoking more than a decade ago, I remember saying to my husband that I would never smoke again. Not because I didn’t want to light up a cigarette, but because quitting was so hard that I doubted I would be able to put myself through it again. This is similar to how I feel about my weight. Loosing weight is as emotional roller coaster and not something I would choose to go through again. So, maybe maintenance is worth the effort after all. Be well xxx