Maintaining your weight loss can be a terrifying prospect. Maybe you've been at goal before and you're worried you won't stay there. Maybe you've never been slim so you're in unfamiliar territory. Maybe you've heard depressing statistics that 95% of people don’t manage to keep the weight off. Or maybe a fellow maintainer has scared you silly with the grim words, ‘Weight Loss Maintenance is twice as hard as weight loss.’
Weight Loss Maintenance is a tricky beast but, the first step is to remain calm! As with weight loss, the best thing to do is keep your head and take it one day at a time. Don’t think about maintaining for the rest of your life; just think about the next twenty-four hours. That sounds more do-able.
Keep doing what you’re doing
Keep tracking your food, planning your meals, drinking your water and scheduling your exercise. Change your mindset so that these are not things you do to lose weight - they are your normal everyday habits. If you lost weight with Weight Loss Resources, you've got a great tool to help your transition into Weight Loss Maintenance. Change your user settings so maintenance is your goal, then carry on!
Accept that you're in this for life
Many people make the mistake of thinking, ‘Now I’m at a goal I can go back to eating normally’. But if you want to stay in your new slinky jeans there is no going back. You need to have a new definition of normal. Which leads us to...
Make sure your methods are sustainable.
That cheesy phrase ‘lifestyle change’ rings true. You have to be willing to stick to your plan for the rest of your life, so make sure it is both realistic and enjoyable. Can you keep up the 5AM cardio forever? How long is that ‘no cake’ rule going to last? I try to ensure my food and exercise feels sustainable and satisfying, rather than dull and deprived.
Weigh yourself regularly and have an action ‘window’
When I reached my happy weight I naively declared that I was finished with the scales - after six years in weight loss mode I was sick of weekly weigh-ins. I did fine for the first six months but then I noticed my clothes were getting snug. I hopped on the scales and I’d gained half a stone!
When I weigh myself these days I see the number as feedback, not a judgement. Weekly weigh-ins help you understand your fluctuations until they no longer scare you - they’re just an indicator of a trend. Set yourself a ‘window’ of a few pounds - for example, if your weight goes five pounds over goal you know it’s time to make a few adjustments to your eating and exercise. Don’t let a small lapse become a relapse.
Accept that there will be tough times & learn from your mistakes.
Initially I thought successful Weight Loss Maintenance meant seeing the same number on the scale every week. But as with weight loss, there will be tough times. Sometimes life gets crazy and maintenance slips down the priority list. Sometimes you get fed up and eat a big bag of crisps. The key is to not let a blip derail you, rather view it as a learning opportunity. Ask yourself, what lead up to this moment? What was I doing, or not doing? How did I feel? Was I tired, cranky, upset or feeling deprived? How can I prevent this happening again?
Be patient and forget perfection. At first I was frustrated by the frequency of my setbacks but, I didn’t learn how to lose weight without making a few mistakes. Why would maintaining my weight loss be different?
Tackle your demons
Your body may have changed but you didn’t get a personality transplant. If you’ve got a long history of emotional eating for example, the issue won’t disappear just because you’ve lost weight. It’s important to understand any underlying issues, otherwise they’ll resurface when life gets challenging. Be sure to reach out if you need help.
Find positive support Surround yourself with inspiring influences to reinforce your new lifestyle.
Join a running club, chat regularly to a fitness-minded friend or join an online message board. The Weight Loss Resources Maintainers Forum is a great place to start. Read blogs written by maintainers like Roni’s Weigh and Jack Spratt. They’re a daily reminder that Weight Loss Maintenance is possible!
Think before you eat
I was a bit cocky at first. ‘I know what I’m doing now,’ I’d say. ‘I can eat what I want!’. But I learned the hard way that it never ends - you need to think about every meal and have a plan of attack. If I’m going out for lunch I’ll eat a healthy breakfast and a pared-down dinner. I’ll pick what I want from the lunch menu but keep it balanced - I might have the burger and chips but drink plain water. I might go for the gooey dessert but have a salad for main course.
Talking to yourself helps too! When faced with the workplace chocolates or a second helping of dinner I try to pause. How will I feel five minutes after that’s gone? Am I really hungry? Do I really want it? The self-talk helps prevent mindless eating, although I admit that some days I cave in if it’s a really special piece of cake!
Remind yourself of the rewards of being slim
There's so much to celebrate when you're losing weight – smaller scale numbers, smaller clothing sizes and fitting into smaller spaces. When you're maintaining your weight loss the rewards aren't so obvious. There’s no thrill of ‘have you lost weight?’ comments. Nobody seems to congratulate you for staying the same size!
With Weight Loss Maintenance the validation has to come from within. Remind yourself of why you do the hard work. I made a list of the benefits of staying smaller: Being able to wear knee-high boots. Not having to worry about fitting into a plane seat. Not being scared of a flight of stairs. Buying clothes from ‘normal’ shops. When I'm struggling with my eating I carry my list on an index card in my wallet. I read it daily, or before every meal if I need to. It refocuses my mind like a splash of cold water on my face: ‘Oh yes! So that's why I don't eat a chocolate bar every day!’
Plan some non-fat adventures
Weight loss can be an all-consuming process. It might have been your pet project for months or even years. If you’re lost without that goal to strive for, it’s time to find some new ones that go beyond the size of your butt. Make a list of things you’ve always wanted to try - both big dreams and everyday ideas. My own list includes salsa dancing, baking bread, visiting Japan and training for my blue belt in kickboxing. Channel the energy and determination you showed with your weight loss into learning something new. It will help with your Weight Loss Maintenance too - you’ll be so busy you won’t have time to obsess about your waistline.
Celebrate your maintenance anniversaries
Maintaing your goal weight is something to be proud of. Lynn Haraldson-Bering, co-author of weblog Refuse to Regain, celebrates the anniversary of her 12 stone loss every March 12. ‘Like staying sober, married, or cigarette free, maintaining a weight loss takes diligence and hard work,’ Lynn says. ‘It deserves to be acknowledged for the accomplishment it was and continues to be.’
If you’re new to Weight Loss Maintenance, celebrate every month you stay at goal. Admire your sexy bum in the mirror. Cheer yourself after a sweaty gym session. Savour your smaller jeans. Once you’ve clocked up a year of maintenance, why not have a big party?