I believe maintenance can be learned. I’ve been at this now for over two and half years, and I seem to be getting better at it. Here’s one way of looking at my progress, based on the number on the scale. See the bottom of this post for a link about how I frame my progress in terms of mental phases.
There are various levels of maintenance. You can define weight maintenance in many ways. www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
I have several nested weight-based definitions I’ve been using.
1) Keeping off at least 10% of my original weight (under 302 lbs)
I’ve managed this since January 2010. This is the broadest definition I use when I’m talking about my overall maintenance path since losing the weight in 2009. I’ve been within this definition consistently since January 2010.
2) Keeping under 160 lbs, with attention paid to body composition.
This was my original goal, since at this weight my BMI is under 25. I removed the emphasis on BMI in order to be consistent with my more recent philosophy that any BMI under 30 can be considered “healthy” (since BMI doesn’t account for muscle mass or bone weight). I like how I look and feel here. When I am above 160 it’s usually because I have more fat on me.
I’ve been inside and outside of this range since January 2010. I had a 4-month streak within that range January 2010-April 2010. Then I gained out of this range. I briefly dropped back under 160 in June 2011. Then I regained. I again dropped back under in December 2011 and I’ve managed to stay here for the past 8 months. In two weeks I’ll have managed 9 months here. I’m shooting for a year - that will be an accomplishment, for sure.
3) Keeping within +/- 3% around 150 lbs (145.5 -154.5)
This is the most stringent definition that I use. It’s based on the paper described here:
. It’s also the definition we use for the maintenance challenges in the At Goal and Maintaining Team teams.sparkpeople.com/ma
My central goal weight has slowly dropped. At first it was 155 (150.4-159.7), then it was 152.5 (147.9-157.1), and now it’s 150. I’ve discovered that I can do more stuff in my kayak at a smaller size, so that’s where I like to be. As with the previous definition, if I weigh more than this range it’s usually because I have more fat on me.
So far I haven’t yet managed to stay within my chosen +/- 3% weight range during one of our team maintenance challenges. I keep trying, though, and I think I’m getting better at doing it. We just started a new one this month, and I’m going to do my best to hang in there for the next 12 weeks. Part of the reason I run these challenges is to give myself the accountability and motivation to keep working at it.
The good news is that I am getting better at staying within a goal weight range, with less and less fluctuation. There are people on the At Goal and Maintaining team who consistently manage this, so I know it’s possible. And since I am getting better at it, I think it’s reasonable to assume that if I keep working at it, one day I can be one of them, too.
Perhaps in a couple of years I’ll discover I like life better at a higher weight or a lower one, or maybe I’ll have found a more accurate way to assess body composition and that will become how I gauge maintenance. But for now, watching the scale and my % body fat and my athletic performance suffices.
(Update and clarification; I DO track my body composition, and here is a post explaining how: www.sparkpeople.com/mypa
Here is a related blog post about learning maintenance, framing it in terms of mental phases: