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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
    Great blog emoticon emoticon
    1976 days ago
    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. Its a price everyone can afford but few are willing to pay.

    Excellent blog.
    1976 days ago
    Love it. One of the things that is helping me get there is imaging that I've gotten to the point of maintenaince. When I started seeing it as a forever thing, I take in stride small bump ups and downs, but understand that getting right back in line is the important thing. I do find it is getting easier. Most of the time I don't have the dreadful cravings that I use to, or feel that going out to eat will forever sink me.

    Glad you got there and can't wait to join you!

    Happy 5%'ing!
    1976 days ago
    great advice. Tks for sharing
    1976 days ago
  • REEGEE257
    Wow! Covey advises: "Begin with the end in mind" and I always thought the end must be maintenance. You sure confirmed my surmise about this; and that it's a good thing to realize that achieving one goal creates the need to be prepared to shift over to the next goal of maintenance.

    Thank you for sharing and giving us such important "food for thought." We can always Keep On Sparkling! Thanks again, ReeGee
    1976 days ago
  • REENIE131
    Thanks! Great things to keep in mind for the future.
    1976 days ago
    Thanks for posting this. I was at goal, but then had a heart attack and put a lot of weight back on. And yes, it's very hard, and I think it's even harder getting it off this time than last time. Enjoyed your blog very much.
    1976 days ago
  • MIZINA730
    This is really interesting information. I've been wondering about this even though I'm far from goal. Now I will prepare myself for the truth ahead of time. What you said about not waiting until you are a maintainer is quite a concept. I will try to build the qualities of a maintainer now.

    1976 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/26/2012 7:26:24 PM
    Excellent, thanks for putting into words all of things I've experienced. I'm at goal and maintaining and have a few bouts of a few pounds over and under my goal.
    1976 days ago
    Thanks for this awesome blog. Great reminders to me. I'm battling with some regain after 105 lb. loss and working my way back to maintenance range. 7.5 lbs to go to get there-not going to try to get to the lower goal I originally chose. Too difficult to maintain. I have recaptured my discipline, thanks to staying connected to SparkPeople and terrific, inspirational Sparkers like you. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1976 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/26/2012 6:26:38 PM
    Great blog and oh so true!! But we CAN do it - now we have SparkPeople and our SparkFriends to support us!! This is no small thing - I find my SparkFriends incredibly helpful!!
    1976 days ago
  • JUDY1260
    This is so true. I'm a lifetime WW member and have fallen off the wagon twice since reaching that goal in 2009. I'm here to lose about 10 lbs that I regained in the past year. WW gives you six weeks to learn maintenance, then they declare you a lifetime member. It's a good program but they need to give more tools to their lifetime members. I joined Spark People because it's free and it has the same tools as WW. Instead of relying on points, I'm now learning about the real numbers that make up those points.
    1976 days ago

    Comment edited on: 9/26/2012 5:42:15 PM
    Great Blog! I do have to agree, everything you see and read is about losing weight but nothing ever addresses the maintnence part of it! Thanks for sharing!

    1976 days ago
    emoticon emoticon for the heads-up. I have some way to go yet, but these comments will help me focus on the need to develop a healthy lifestyle that is 'maintainable'... emoticon wish you continued success as you learn to 'live' this new chapter of your life. emoticon
    1976 days ago
    Thanks so much for this blog. I t was informative and hit home for me on so many levels. I have lost and gained back the weight several times. This time I desired to keep it off but after losing 200lbs of the 400lbs I needed to lose I gained back 60lbs. Right now I am fighting for my life and working toward getting the weight I regained back off first before I tackle the rest of my goals. I know it is a difficult road but I am ready and willing to fight the good fight of faith.

    Michelle (MDMARSHAL1)
    1976 days ago
    Great blog, Tina! I agree with all you said so much; could have written much the same list, although I've only been in "maintenance" mode a short time. Love the At Goal & Maintaining + Transitioning to Maintenance team, it has been great getting to know others who are doing the hard work needed to keep the weight off for good!
    1976 days ago
    awesome post!
    1976 days ago
  • GK1963
    Thanks for the heads up! I hope to be a "maintainer" soon instead of a "loser"
    1976 days ago
    Great Blog!!
    1976 days ago
  • JULIA1154
    Thanks - this was JUST what I needed to see today. I live in fear of re-gaining.
    1976 days ago
    This was real helpful. Thanks for the tough love. I needed it.
    1976 days ago
    1976 days ago
  • MISSB8604
    Amazing blog! Thank you so much for this. With me being only 8lbs away from goal, I really need to get into a different mindset. I've also joined the team.

    Thank you very much!
    1976 days ago
    Thank you, TINAJANE76, for telling it like it is about maintenance. I'm so grateful for everyone in the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team for existing here on SparkPeople, for working to become more visible, and for sharing your strength, hope, and experience. This post, and people like you, are beacons for the rest of us, shining a light on the path to maintenance.
    1976 days ago
    It never really "over" for those of us with weight issues? OK, you've helped me out of my dream world and I can see that I need to learn to LOVE this process. Big order but I am willing to keep on. Many thanks.
    1976 days ago
    Tina, one of the best blogs I've ever read! The best (and only) on maintaining! Good for you! You're pop, pop, popular!
    1976 days ago
  • -RUBIES-
    Outstanding blog!
    emoticon emoticon
    1976 days ago
  • KAREN91
    A lot to think about for when I get to maintenance! I've been there before and always regained, I want to be part of the 5% this time. I think your insights will help me and alot of other people. emoticon
    1976 days ago
    I concur with everything in your blog! Maintenance is hard. I lost 46 lbs.(this last and final time!) and kept it off for over a year. I gained about 8 lbs, but have things back in control and am working on getting back to my goal (about 4 more lbs.). I can remember when I was close to goal thinking "great, when I get to goal, I'll be able to have (insert bad food!) ..." treating my goal like the end of the journey.

    I do, however, feel more confident that I know now when things are getting out of control and I have the tools to get back the control. I try to weigh a couple of times a week just to keep a gauge.
    1976 days ago
    Thanks for the great blog. All along this journey, I've tried to look for examples of what life will be when I get to "that point" so I'm prepared to do it right or more accurately so I'm prepared deal with the challenges of the next stage. I've thought a lot about what maintenance will be like and I've thought of some of what you've said but not in as much detail or with as much thought. So thank you! I'm saving this for reference and I'll be revisiting it many-many times.
    Congrats on the terrific results of your hard work and on maintaining!

    1976 days ago
    Great blog. I'm not really overweight right now but I realized that I have been up an down with the weight over the past years. I would lose the weight, get comfortable, start eating whatever I want and then yes, the weight would come back again. Now i'm at a comfortable enough weight and looking forward to sculpting and toning my body and I wonder if I will still be motivated when that is done. Thank you for the advice.
    1976 days ago
  • KELBELL685
    This is a great blog and so true!! Thanks for sharing!
    1976 days ago
    I was sure that this was written just for me. I fear going into maintenance because I have failed at this several times before. I intend to treat it the same exact way I have been doing all along and just increase my daily calorie intake in small increments and monitor the weight along the way.

    Thanks for a great blog.
    1976 days ago
  • CRISSA1669
    Wonderful post...now these are the types of posts I LOVE to see make the Popular blog posts(no offense to any of the other types..I just like to see good solid tips and info versus the social stuff..) Thank you!
    1976 days ago
    emoticon Great blog!
    1976 days ago
    Thank you for the honesty . and thank you for sharing.
    1976 days ago
    I'm hoping that by the time I get to maintenance that these new habits and way of eating will be integrated into my mind so that it won't be a "going off" a diet... (God knows I've had enough years to "practice") :)
    1977 days ago
    Thank you so much, these are excellent insights and very helpful!
    1977 days ago
  • ANNE1123
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1977 days ago
    1977 days ago
    Wow! This is definitely the best blog I've read on SparkPeople. You have covered so many aspects of the struggles of maintenance and spoken directly to me.

    1977 days ago
  • PURPLE180
    1977 days ago
  • DNRAE1
    Your blog is truly inspiring and "spot on"! Every diet I've ever done failed due to not knowing how to maintain my weight loss! Thank you for your inspiration and all the things we need to know and incorporate to maintain any weight loss! emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1977 days ago
    emoticon Blog post had to share!
    1977 days ago
    Oh you touch on so many nerves! So right! Thanks and very motivating blog.
    1977 days ago
    Thanks for sharing!
    1977 days ago
  • DOTTY7267
    Thank you for sharing this with us. It is very hard because people can't understand why you are still watching what you eat and going to the gym - when they perceive that you don't need to. One thing that I also feel is critical is setting far reaching goals - something that keeps challenging you to obtain.
    1977 days ago
    Thanks!! Well Done!
    1977 days ago
    1977 days ago
    Well Done
    1977 days ago
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