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The Top Ten Things I Wish I Had Known about Being a Maintainer Before I Became One

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Monday, September 24, 2012

10. Maintenance is HARD!
I've accomplished a lot of things in my life. I earned a scholarship to a private college my family never would have been able to afford otherwise, got my degree, built up a successful career and worked my way up to partner of a PR firm by the time I was 28. I then gave that all up to move to another country, learn a new language, go back to school and start a new career and a new life with my husband. NONE of that was as hard as losing weight and keeping it off is. I've never made such a consistent effort with anything else in my life and I've never failed as much at anything as I have with my efforts to manage my weight. Commercial diet programs don't seem to put much emphasis on maintenance support and although I think that's a huge gap, I can understand why. If most people realized just how hard it is to maintain your weight in the long term before starting a diet, many of them would be hugely discouraged from even getting started. I'm not saying this to be negative or to dissuade anyone who hasn't reached their goal yet. Just know that your work is not done when you reach your goal. In fact, you're just getting started.

9. Most Maintainers Will Fail
Again, I'm absolutely not trying to discourage other people, but statistics show that approximately 95% of people who lose weight will regain it. I've been in that 95% half a dozen times in my life. The encouraging thing is that it does seem to be something you can master if you keep at it. As with addiction, most people don't kick their habit on the first try. That's why it pays to be persistent. Maybe you won't be successful in keeping off the weight the first time or the second time or even the third time. But each time, you'll learn something new about the process and about yourself. And eventually everything will come together and work for you. And you'll finally keep the weight off for good.

8. Maintenance is Not the End
Just because you reach your goal doesn't mean that you can go back to your old habits. Successful weight loss is not a race with a finish line that you can collapse at after crossing. People who view it that way will quickly end up right back where they started. I've viewed it that way many times in the past and always ended up with the same result: near-instantaneous regain. Yes, most people can loosen up a bit once they reach goal, but the key words are "a bit". I typically only eat about 200 extra calories a day on maintenance than I did when I was losing plus an extra few treats on the weekend. I need to be just as vigilant on maintenance as I was when I was losing weight or the weight will come back fast.

7. Maintenance Lacks the Luster of Weight Loss
Do you know how you feel when you step on the scale and see a two-pound loss? How great is it when you fit into a smaller size? How about when someone compliments you on your progress? Feels pretty good, doesn't it? How exciting do you think it feels to see the same number on the scale every day? How about when the compliments taper off because people are used to seeing you at a healthy weight? Maintenance doesn't give you the same thrills you get when you're losing weight and have visible progress and regular compliments to keep you going, which brings me to number six...

6. Motivation Needs to Come from within When You're on Maintenance
Think of all of the wonderful external motivators you've got when you're losing weight (see number seven!). So what do you do when you don't have decreasing numbers on the scale, smaller clothes and daily doses of compliments to encourage you? Getting to your goal means that you have to reexamine your reasons for wanting to stay at goal and use them to motivate yourself to stick with it. Sure, you can still get motivation and inspiration from interacting with other people (like the members of the 'At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance' team here on SparkPeople). But if you don't understand why maintaining your weight is important to you, you'll have a very difficult time staying motivated to keep going.

5. Being at Your Goal Weight Will Not Solve All of Your Problems
Yes, it will make you thinner, it might solve some of your health issues, it might make you more attractive and it might make you more confident, which can spill over into other areas of your life. But reaching your goal will not make other people like you more, it won't make you an inherently better person, it won't solve your marital problems, it won't make you a better parent and it won't save you from a job that you're unhappy with. You'll just be thinner and all of those other things will still be there for you to deal with. If there are other areas of your life that you're not happy with, weight loss alone won't make them all better. You'll still need to tackle those issues separately.

4. Maintenance Still Involves Sacrifice
As you were losing weight, you had to make a lot of sacrifices to reach your goals. You couldn't always indulge while everyone else around you was if you wanted to be successful. You had to pick and choose your indulgences and you did it because you knew the payoff would be worth it. The same things are true on maintenance. You can't always eat what you want. Sometimes you still feel hungry even though you've eaten all of your calories for the day. Sometimes every ounce of you just wants to curl up on the couch and watch a movie instead of hitting the gym. But you pass up the extra cookies at the Christmas party, you don't cave in to the evening munchies and you drag yourself practically kicking and screaming to the gym to get your cardio and strength training in because you know you'll think the sacrifice was worth it when your next maintenance anniversary rolls around. And you know that you'll almost always feel a lot better about yourself for having done these things.

3. Sometimes Being a Maintainer Means Being a Loser Again
Regain to a certain extent is almost inevitable on maintenance. At some point, life will throw us a curveball that we just can't hit and we'll put on some of the weight we've lost in spite of all of our talk about constant vigilance and immediate correction. When that happens, and hopefully when it does we've developed the honesty with ourselves to take action before it TOTALLY spirals out of control, reactivating the program we used to lose weight the first time around will help us to get back down to goal again.

2. Maintenance Requires a Great Deal of Independence
Just as people use a variety of different approaches to losing weight, no two maintainers maintain in exactly the same way. There are lots of things that we can learn from the experiences of others who are successfully maintaining, but we have to know and fully understand the things that will work best for us and ensure our ongoing success. Although it's tempting to look at another person's success and want to imitate it, we all have different preferences, limitations, triggers and life situations. The program we follow to maintain our weight needs to take all of those things into account. Otherwise we'll be following another person's maintenance plan and won't be maintaining according to our needs. Being open to learning about different approaches and developing an understanding of what can work for us and what won't requires independence, self-awareness and a strong spirit. These are important characteristics in a long-term maintainer.

1. Maintenance is the Toughest Thing You'll Ever Love
Like all things that are difficult, being a successful maintainer is especially rewarding precisely because it is so hard. Many of us have failed at maintenance multiple times in the past. Yet here we are, still working at it. Growing numbers of us are getting it down, which shows that it can be done. I'm willing to keep fighting to stay here because I feel like I'm finally accomplishing something that I've failed so miserably at so many times in the past. And that makes me love maintenance all the more even though it's quite possibly the toughest thing I've ever done.

Even if you're not at goal yet, please consider joining me on the 'At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance' team:


Don't wait until you become a maintainer to start figuring these things out for yourself! This team offers a unique support system for people who are at or near goal--and trust me, support is something you'll continue to need as you maintain.
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
  • SPEEDY143
    emoticon blog... every point right on emoticon It's a lifestyle and one worth living for emoticon
    1997 days ago
    This is awesome -- thanks for sharing! I've definitely had experience with the 95% -- and I think once I get to my goal weight this time around, I will have to work on developing a full-on maintenance plan, rather than the 'woohoo - I made it, now what?' plan that I've tried in the past.
    1997 days ago
    Great blog, nice summary and well thought out! I saved this one for future re-reads too!
    1997 days ago
    I really loved your blog.
    1997 days ago
    This is so true! Ive been there so many times and I know it is just as hard keeping it off as it was to lose it. I am almost back to my goal weight after my very big surprise pregnancy. Ive taken it really slow and have been trying to figure out my strategy to keep it off during the winter months and on through. Ive signed up for local runs to keep me motivated in working out but I'm still afraid of not knowing the correct calories I need to maintain. The holidays are around the corner and I so love all that comfort food!
    1997 days ago
  • 2TIGRE
    WHAT A GREAT POST!!! I'm so glad I stumbled onto this post. While I'm not a maintainer yet, I'm not far from reaching my goal (50 down, 19 more to go). I've often thought about though that maintaining will probably be just as hard as losing has been - now I know it will.

    It was interesting to hear that you were only eating 200 more calories a day in order to maintain. I've often wondered about how much I will need to tweak my diet in order to just maintain.
    1997 days ago
  • DALID414
    Thanks for the awesome advice. I can't wait to be a maintainer!
    1997 days ago
  • BECCA315
    Thank you very much for these words of wisdom!!
    1997 days ago
  • FIZZ707
    Thank u for this post. I'm no where near my goal,but uve given me lots to think about. :-)
    1997 days ago
  • GRANDMA0627
    Great insight...thanks so much! As someone who has never been a maintainer, I'm looking forward to the challenge, and a bit scared of it as well.
    1997 days ago
  • JUNEBUG4967
    It gives one pause to think! Yes, I too have lost and gained and lost most and gained. Like Vel, I can relate some of these steps to maintaining my leaving cigarettes behind. It is a near-constant decision to remain smoke free. Perhaps harder since I work around several who have not quit. To me the difference is I can be a person who never needs to pick up a cigarette again but I do have to eat still. To me that is a much harder thought to deal with. I may just have to see if I can duplicate the mental work that has led me to remain cigarette free for 3 years, 155 days.
    1997 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. You've said the truth- maintaining is difficult. I have found I, 've lost a bit of momentum recently in my maintaining journey, but like you said it is not the end.
    1997 days ago
    I wasn't surprised by many of the things I read in your blog -- too many people look at their goal to lose weight as a temporary thing. It needs to be a new lifestyle, not something you give up on and go back to your old habits when you've reached your goal.

    It is sad that you lose the gratification of seeing lower numbers on the scale once you have reached your goal. It is sad that you no longer get compliments from the people around you. It is sad that you need to get the motivation from within yourself rather than from the scale or the compliments -- but it is reality. And reality is something we all have to live with. Thank you for putting it all in black & white.
    1997 days ago
    Thank you do much for the insight, a glimpse into the future with a straight-forward warning to be prepared. I have quit smoking several times and I have lost the pounds several times. You have helped me to see that maintaining is worth a serious plan as well as small achievable goals and rewards. I will start today on my maintaining plan. After all, I already have plenty to maintain whole I am still improving my health. Big big thanks. Sincerely.
    1997 days ago
    You are so so right. Thanks for the blog!
    1997 days ago
    Well said! As I look at the previous comments, I definitely agree!
    1997 days ago
    Great blog! Good points all.

    One item you didn't mention is that there will be more people acting as detractors. Whether it be jealousy, envy, or just misplaced good intentions, there are those who will act to sabotage your maintenance efforts.
    1997 days ago
    very true and valid points
    1997 days ago
    1997 days ago
    This is excellent advice! Thank you so much for sharing. I will keep all of this in mind when I get to maintenance...
    1997 days ago
    Amen sister! emoticon
    1997 days ago
    Great blog, and all very valid points. Another thing that surprised me is that women start resenting me and thinking I am going to take off with their husbands, even though I have one of my own. Seems the more attractive you are, the more of a threat you are perceived as.
    1997 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/27/2012 10:48:28 AM
    This is so blunt, honest and real...gives me some information to work with. I never knew how hard it would be once i reach my goal... I guess that's why they say that it's better to take off the weight slowly, because it's not as much of a shock to maintain the weight loss. Thanks so much for this blog!!! emoticon
    1997 days ago
    You really said things well and for me it speaks the truth. Thx for posting this blog
    1997 days ago
    Great post. I am far from maintenance but this post gave me a lot to think about...
    1997 days ago
  • TANYA611
    Like...I vote for a love button. This blog is amazing and motivational. I am 37 years old and truly believe I have lost and gained nearly 1000 pounds since I was 15. This morning I woke up and convinced myself that I have been doing well the last week so I was going to overindulge today and even went so far as calling all my friends to meet me at my favorite diner. After reading this blog I called and cancelled as I do not trust myself yet to make the right choices. Thanks so much.
    1997 days ago
  • _LINDA
    Very well said! This should be featured on Spark's Daily Blog. You should be writing for the daily blog on behalf of maintainers!!!
    You would do the maintainer's team proud!!
    1997 days ago
    I have been having trouble maintaining and I'm not even at goal yet! emoticon
    1997 days ago
    Awesome blog and very encouraging! I found that I was largely unprepared for maintenance. My motivation seemed to have dryed up overnight and I had difficulty figuring out why maintenance kind of sucked. =P This really put things in perspective, and it really is amazingly helpful to read the journeys, struggles and check ins of other maintainers. Like anything else, you work for it and it definitely pays off!
    1997 days ago
    I agree with you , Thank-you for pointing these issue to our attention. Number five, I think is a key. If you do not address the other issues in your life you will take the risks of spiralling out of control. That is what is refereed to as a dressed up garbage can. Still carrying around all the garbage that perhaps put (ourselves) in the situation of being unhealthy , over weight. I can also relate to kicking and screaming to the gym. There was a period in my life that I had to learn how to walk again - for two years, I had to consistently train my legs in a pool , walking bar , gym equipment, more surgeries. There were a ton of times I would have rather have stayed in bed. But, I knew if I did not completed Physical Therapy I would not walk. Thanks LR - LIL Racer emoticon
    1997 days ago
  • TGILBERT1364
    Wow, you truly said the truth. You are correct, no one ever prepares you for that. I wish I would have known this 45 pounds ago. However, I'm going to print this out and review it over and over again so when I lose the 45 pounds again, I'll certainly be more prepared.

    Awesome job for getting to your goal and good luck with maintenance! It sounds like you have a good foundation!

    1997 days ago
  • CHRISTY786
    I'm on day 4 of my new healthy life style change after months in denial of my maintenance stage crumbling.. to a point were i've regained 30 pounds out of the original 86lb weight loss. I was feeling like a failure, like how did I do this to myself again? But I'm back in it now and i'm motivated, and this blog was something I needed to read. Thank you very much for sharing and congratulations on your maintenance!
    1997 days ago
  • GUCCI9300
    1997 days ago
    Wow! Great information! I am at the point in my weight-loss/fitness journey where I'm transitioning into the maintenance phase, so I found your blog very helpful - it has given me lots to think about. Thank you for taking the time to write it! And good luck on your maintenance emoticon
    1997 days ago

    I am nowhere near goal, but this blog is so fantastic that I am going to print it out so that I can read it, when I am !!! Thanks for sharing.
    1997 days ago

    I am nowhere near goal, but this blog is so fantastic that I am going to print it out so that I can read it, when I am !!! Thanks for sharing.
    1997 days ago
    What a great blog with a lot to think about! I have not yet met my goal weight but have certainly experienced the issues you mentioned. It seems many people do get caught up in the "highs" of weight loss only to be sadly disappointed and discouraged when the work doesn't end. I have been thinking about this a lot lately. After recently experiencing the death of my brother at 53 because of heart disease, I can easily say that living a more intentional, healthy life is worth it! Thanks again! emoticon

    1997 days ago
    You hit the nail right on the head girl! Thank you for sharing this wisdom w/us! You are appreciated! And CONGRATS on your continued success!!! You're an inspiration!

    1997 days ago
  • DWEBI09
    I bookmarked your blog on my phone and I'm printing it out and placing it in my notebook. You hit every bump in my road to maintaining. This time I'm stopping the yo-yo effect. You can't go back to the old lifestyle.

    Thanks so much! emoticon
    1997 days ago
    Such a well thought out and written blog - A MUST READ! I am saving this one to my file....I need to remember everyday why and how maintenance means so much to me. Still struggling to lose those last few pounds I regained and KNOWING that I NEVER want to have to go through that again, I will be reading and re-reading this over and over!
    1997 days ago
    Well thought out and well written blog. I really felt your words.

    1997 days ago
    1997 days ago
    1997 days ago
  • WOLF648
    1997 days ago

    Interesting BLOG and quite true, no doubt about it.

    Thanks for sharing some of your life and thoughts with us.
    1997 days ago
    Thanks for sharing. As another Sparker on maintenance mode I fully agree with everything you stated in your blog. Another hard issue for me are the people that look at me and say, "What do you have to worry about - you are so healthy you can eat anything you want". Yeah, right :) I guess it opens up an opportunity to educate someone on the benefits of maintenance :)
    1997 days ago
  • LESLIE871948
    Well done!
    1997 days ago
    Thanks for sharing this sobering reality.
    1997 days ago
    TINAJANE76, this is an excellent article. Not too many people realize the difficulties associated with maintenance of anything, including and especially our health. It's one thing to have a lovely house but quite another to maintain it so that it continues to look lovely and only the one who's doing the maintenance understands how much work is involved. The others just take matters for granted. I feel that the awareness that you have about being a "maintainer" will stand you in good stead for the future as you get older as well as when others come to you for assistance.

    This is definitely one of the best articles I have ever seen in encouraging those who have been maintaining their health to keep at it and not lose their spirit. Well done.

    emoticon Maintenance Graduate
    1997 days ago
    Such an interesting blog! Thanks!
    1997 days ago
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