Maintenance after weight loss is one of the most challenging aspects that many people struggle with in their weight loss journey. One of the things I find that helps is to think of the early stages of maintenance as a continuation of your weight loss program, because trying to lose weight is a very intentional exercise. Thinking about the food, planning food, tracking measurements, all these things involve very conscious and mindful decisions that contribute to success in weight loss. Certainly when I’m working with my clients, this is what we’re doing to track results, but also to ensure that they’re learning and developing good, healthy habits. Carrying this mindset with you into the early stages of maintenance will help to transition to a lifestyle where you can maintain weight and be more flexible with food but it is a process.
What Happens During Maintenance?
What I have often seen with people who struggle with maintenance is that after they have successfully lost weight and they’re moving into maintenance, they just let go of the plans, routines and structure that helped them lose weight. Maybe initially in maintenance they’re trying to eat well, but they’re not establishing good routines that they can keep as a lifestyle, and they let go of the planning and prepping around food. This is often a very insidious process because it’s not sudden, significant changes, but rather small changes and lack of attention to detail, that gradually becomes more and more frequent, and leads to putting the weight back on.
When you move into maintenance, it’s important to continue to be mindful that you’re continuing many of the routines and habits that allowed you to be successful in losing weight. This doesn’t mean that for the rest of your life you are always going to make this strong, mindful effort when it comes to food. But you just need to recognize that maintenance is a new phase of the longer journey towards permanent weight loss. Later on down the road, maintenance will become second nature, but as you transition from losing into maintenance, you still need to be very mindful.
Here are a few examples of the most common things that people let go of when they move into maintenance:
- not preparing/packing healthy lunches if you’ll be out during the day
- not staying on top of the grocery shopping
- not planning meals ahead of time
- not weighing themselves
Another issue that is important to be aware of is to make sure you adjust your habits and routines when there are significant changes to your lifestyle. For example, whenever the pandemic restrictions are lifted, maybe you’ll change from working at home to going back to the office. That’s a major routine change that you need to mindfully consider in order to maintain your weight loss success. Are you going to pack lunch? What will you pack? Are there restaurants near work that can support healthy eating? All of these things are important to consider so that you’re prepared, and don’t find yourself making impulsive and quick decisions around food that soon become habits but they are unhealthy habits.
How Keep Yourself Accountable During Maintenance
In the earlier stages of maintenance many people may initially follow through on their routines but, then slowly fall off track. When this happens often they don’t want to face the truth, so they don’t step on the scale and keep avoiding it. They fool themselves thinking “once I have a good few days I will then weigh myself. Next thing you know, a few weeks have passed and then it is even scarier to step on the scale. If you wait until the point where your clothes are getting a bit too snug, you may be in for a brutal surprise when you do step on the scale but it usually takes about 10 pounds before clothes become uncomfortably tight, and that’s quite a bit of weight to have to face losing again. Not to mention the impact on mindset, it’s very upsetting and discouraging to know you’ve worked so hard to achieve something and then see yourself losing the results of your hard work. I’ll tell you, it’s a lot better just face reality, the sooner the better. Continue the habits that kept you accountable around food and weight, these things are very important in the early stages of maintenance.
Another important part of this is always checking in with yourself and trying to keep yourself honest. It’s important to be able to recognize when some of the old patterns are creeping back in again during maintenance. Ideally, you don’t want to have to be quite as rigid during maintenance as you are while losing weight. I like to go by the 80/20 rule: 80% of the time, you’re eating well, healthy food, and it maintains your weight. But, there’s some wiggle room about 20% of the time when you can indulge and have a treat, and you’ll be fine. But as one starts to get 70/30, or 60/40, that’s when it can be an issue, and the weight can start coming back. So it’s about recognizing when old patterns start making their way back in the maintenance phase too often and being able to stop those patterns. For example, maybe you like nibbling on cheese and crackers while making dinner. Doing that once a week is fine, it won’t sabotage all of the progress you’ve made, But, if you find you are doing that three, four, five nights a week, you will start seeing some increases when you step on the scale.
Dealing with Cravings
Sometimes, these old cravings may never fully go away, which doesn’t mean you can never eat those foods again, but you just always need to be checking in and be aware when it might be getting out of control. Cravings are tricky because they come from a very powerful part of the brain that can take over. For example, if chocolate is one of your strongest cravings, (I relate to this example!!!!) and you want to be able to treat yourself to some chocolate but not have it spin out of control. Every once in a while, sure, you can treat yourself to a piece of chocolate, but if you find yourself thinking about having chocolate more and more frequently that craving is getting more powerful then that means you are no longer in the driver’s seat regarding chocolate. The important distinction is knowing when you are the one in control, making a conscious mindful choice to have an indulgence, versus when you feel out of control and it feels like something else is driving you.
Being Honest with Yourself
When I work with my clients, cravings are something we address as they come up, even if they don’t “give in” to that craving, but it crosses their mind. It’s important to ask questions when you experience cravings, such as what was going on at that time, were you stressed, were you tired, were you emotional? How was that food you were craving helping you in that moment? The more you focus on these cravings and where they’re coming from during the losing phase, the more mentally prepared you’ll be for maintenance. You’ll be able to identify these things and make changes before it gets out of control.
Fundamentally, when you’re starting maintenance, you’re not of the woods yet – you worked hard, but you need to continue working hard for a bit longer to ensure your long-term success. Keep checking in with yourself, and be honest with yourself, because then you can catch things and turn it around easily, as opposed to letting it get out of hand and feeling discouraged. Many people struggle with this sort of yo-yo-ing pattern where you lose weight, then gain it back, then lose it, then gain it again. We really want to be able to lose the weight and put it behind you permanently. To do this, we need to carry the right mindset into the maintenance part of it. This way, you’ll be in a much better position to get a good handle on all those habits, all the mindset issues, and put the weight struggles behind you for good.
I hope you found this information helpful.If you want to learn more:
- You can book a complimentary call, and discuss your challenges, and obstacles, and together we can determine if my program is right for you.
- You can also go to my Facebook page, @DrSherBovay, where you can find and join my Private Facebook group, The FastLane Mind Body Reset Mastery Group. Here, I host Facebook lives and frequent posts where you can engage and learn more.