Oh maintenance. In the health and fitness realm, I feel like maintenance is weight loss’ less sexy younger sibling that nobody wants to talk about because they’re too busy debating the merits of a paleo diet versus carb cycling.
But we’ve all heard the statistic that most people who lose weight gain it all back over time, so maintenance is obviously a topic that should be discussed more often. Here are my tips for weight maintenance (gleaned from my vast one month of experience with it):
1. Track your food
If you lost weight sensibly (i.e. by creating a conservative calorie deficit and eating a balanced diet that wasn’t too restrictive) your daily eating habits aren’t going to change much if you want to maintain your weight loss. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can eat whatever/whenever you want now that you’re at your goal weight. An extra 300-500 calories per day isn’t actually a lot of food, especially if you spread those calories out over the course of the day. The best way to ensure you’re not eating too much (or too little) to maintain your weight is to keep track of what you’re eating, at least until you have a clear idea of what a typical day of eating at maintenance looks like.
2. Make friends with the scale
Keeping an eye on your weight is a good way to ensure you haven’t over or under estimated your maintenance calories, however, it’s unrealistic to expect to see the exact same number every single day. You can easily gain a few pounds of water weight from eating too much salt or sugar the night before. Then there are those fun monthly fluctuations that us ladies have to deal with. So while you should monitor your weight, don’t be too vigilant about it. Give yourself a small cushion of say 3-5 pounds that you want to stay within and if your weight exceeds that cushion for more than a few days, cut back a little on your maintenance calories and see what happens.
3. Mix up your exercise routine
When I’m trying to lose weight, a fixed workout schedule is great – it keeps me motivated and every workout makes me feel like I’m getting closer to my goal. With maintenance? Not so much. I get really bored doing the same routine every week so to keep things fun, I mix it up. From my ill-fated SH’BAM experiment to my recent hot yoga obsession, I’m trying new activities and developing a more laid back attitude towards exercise. I still plan my weekly workouts, but will switch them up or skip them depending on how I feel on any given day. This makes working out feel more like a fun hobby than a life sentence.
4. Watch out for the weekend
If you’re eating at maintenance every day of the week, that doesn’t give you much wiggle room when socializing on weekends. Factor in restaurant food, alcohol and dessert and it’s very easy to eat over 2,000 calories in one sitting. During weight loss, I incorporated this into my plan by having one designated cheat meal per week where I could eat whatever I wanted. This made socializing while losing weight a breeze. One of my biggest struggles with maintenance is that I now have to be a little more conscious of my weekend eating habits (how ironic). I still indulge but now I have to keep track of how much I’m consuming on days where I previously gave myself carte blanche to go balls out.
5. Focus on the positive
One of the first things I did when I transitioned to maintenance was create a list of all the benefits of healthy living that have nothing to do with vanity. When I’m feeling less than jazzed about working out or eating healthy, I think of how healthy living has enriched my life in different ways and that makes me realize all of the effort that goes into it is totally worth it.
Why do you think so many people fail to maintain their weight loss?
What are your tips for weight maintenance?