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Maintenance is not Steady State

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Since injuring the foot, I've adjusted my calorie range 3 times. First, I moved it down a little. Then I gained 3 pounds rather quickly, so I moved the range down a chunk. I lost back the 3 pounds, plus some; so I nudged the range up.

Upon reflection, what ought to happen is that as the foot slowly, every so slowly gets better I should be burning more calories. This mostly won't be in the form of exercise identified to the SP tracker, but in the form of walking more because it hurts less. That will probably create a need to adjust my calorie range repeatedly over the course of the year.

If and when I can get back to running 4 days a week, it should go back up to where it came from. If training for a half marathon (which sounds like fantasy land right now) ends up getting me to run more than I was running, I might even have a higher calorie range than where I was.

This is not what I envisioned when I achieved my initial goal weight. I envisioned figuring out how many calories I needed to eat to maintain, then settling down to eat that many. I envisioned eventually getting a feel for how much food that is and being able to stop tracking.

That's not going to happen. Real life is that how many calories I burn will change over time as I change what I do. Even without a foot injury, it was inevitable that there would be times I'd run more or run less, by enough to affect how much I need to eat to maintain weight.

So I come back to the very first thing I learned from SparkPeople: Track. Everything. I. Eat. I need to do this, because if I don't know what I'm eating I can't tell how to make changes when the weight moves somewhere it shouldn't.

Yeah, I understand that the theory is to learn natural hunger signals, eat when you're hungry, and let your body tell you when to stop. My body isn't very good at that, or I'm not very good at listening. I am less hungry now on less food than I was when I was running; but the reduction in hunger lagged the need to reduce what I eat. So my personal answer is, I need to track everything and control calories, carbs, fat, and protein. So far, I haven't felt the need to track anything else, such as sodium or fiber; but if the day comes when I need to do that, at least it will fit into the system I use.

This may be a major reason why maintenance is so hard. It's not like parking a car in the garage; it's more like trying to keep a boat in one spot in the middle of a lake with variable currents and winds. It can be done, but it requires me to pay attention and make adjustments in response to changing circumstances.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Some blogs are timeless! Found this on maintenance team and so realate long after you posted it. As a struggling maintainer I need to hear this message and it's responses over and over and over again. Thanks for sharing and keep Sparking! emoticon
    810 days ago
  • GRACED777
    I like how you expressed the idea of maintenance. It isn't easy for me, but I take heart realizing that nothing ever stays the same. Turning 63 today, I'm even seeing those old friends and family who used to eat anything and still stay thin (that was never my experience!) having to work at it now. So I'll continue to grow and learn...
    823 days ago
    emoticon I love how you compare maintenance to a boat on a lake. I totally agree with that! emoticon
    899 days ago
  • BOPPY_
    Well done.

    Actually, in your case, it is steady state -- through your intervention. Or, as close as us hooman beans ever get.

    Lee emoticon
    936 days ago
    Excellent blog! That last paragraph sums "maintenance" up so truthfully. I'll have to hang on to your analogy and use it from time to time. I see your blog was back in February. I hope you are back to running now.
    1524 days ago
  • KANOE10
    Hope your foot feels better. You are correct about maintenance. It requires daily focus, attention and adjustment.

    1524 days ago
    You put it well! I am currently training for my first HM (scary!) but doing it partly to claw my way back to "maintenance weight" after losing 20# and gaining 10 back. Your post gave me insight that "static thinking" is how I gained in the first (and 2nd) place...
    1530 days ago
    Interesting perspective. I guess maintenance is different for everyone. For me the intuitive eating works well at this point. My weight does not stay exactly the same but close. But we are all different and have different goals. I like when my weight goes up because I gain muscle.
    The analogy of the boat in the lake makes sense!
    1530 days ago
    I also find that when I am consistent in tracking my nutrition, and exercise, my weight goes the way I want (either up or down). When I start guessing, it usually goes up fast.

    Otherwise, walking is one of the most economic forms of movement, I myself need a lot of walking (hours) to make really a calorie difference vs. non-walking.

    As for the tracking, I see that if I organize it in a way that it is easy and fast to do, it happens. When it is slow and complicated, then it often gets skipped.
    1706 days ago
    That is such a good way of looking at it. And I completely agree. I always find that when I don't track is when I don't like my results. I just need to stop acting like it's so time consuming to track. Especially when I have the app right on my phone now. Hope your foot starts feeling better.

    1707 days ago
    It's always good to reflect and re-group. You'll get there! Hope the foot heals soon!
    1707 days ago
  • RG_DFW
    That's a great analogy for maintenance... I may use it somewhere
    1708 days ago
    It is a great blog, I love the way you compared maintenance to keeping a boat in the middle of the lake.
    This is the way I feel too.
    I know there is a small but happy minority who maintain their healthy weight without an effort, just listening to their body.
    But I haven't become one of them - maybe it will take years, maybe it will not happen. Until then, I'm with you in tracking everything.
    1708 days ago
    Well put!
    1708 days ago
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