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Starting with Maintenance: One Approach to Weight Loss

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

How many calories a day can I eat and maintain my weight at around 142?

About 10 calories per pound. That's all.


About 1400 calories a day was my weight loss range; now it's my maintenance range.

Does it matter whether I exercise or not? Not much, actually, with respect to weight loss and weight loss maintenance. Exercise matters, for sure. It matters for cardio and strength and toning and balance and flexibility and above all for mood and general well-being and optimism.

But for me at least, exercise doesn't seem to affect weight much -- except to remind me, as I see the calories ticking away on the elliptical or the rowing machine, how much effort it takes to burn even 10 calories.

Sure, I know weight loss is supposed to be about "calorie deficit", burning 3500 calories for every pound. But awareness of the energy expenditure linked to calorie burn is for me mostly an incentive not to load calories into my mouth mindlessly! And while I'm at the gym, I'm not eating: another good thing.

If I'd decided from the beginning at 230 pounds that I wanted to weigh about 140 and adopted the attitude that a sustained weight of 140 means 1400 calories for life, would that have helped?

I think so.

One thing I know for sure: my former assumption that once the weight was lost, I could revert to former levels of eating (all that pent-up demand for french fries and potato chips and chocolate chip cookies) resulted only in yo-yoing,

If I had it to do over again, I'd start with maintaining my way to permanent weight loss.

And of course I do have it to do over again: starting every day. That's maintenance.

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I think you are absolutely right. 1400 seems to be my magic maintenance number too, though I'm still working on defining my maintenance life.
    1957 days ago
    great blog! recognizing the maintenance mindset has been such an "aha" this time around, and tracking the calories and the fitness minutes keeps us honest. i think it comes as a surprise to many people, just how few calories we really need to stay healthy, with the right nutrients. and it takes learning how to eat at that calorie level to reach the goal, and to stay there - a lifestyle change for many.
    1957 days ago
    This is part of the reason why I often stayed on the lower end of my range while I was losing weight. The idea of having to cut back calories even more as I got closer to goal or in maintenance would have been totally demoralizing for me. Knowing that I can eat a bit more (and it's really just a bit!) in maintenance has been a big boost for me. I think that's something to consider as you're losing weight and another reason why planning for maintenance while you're still losing is key!
    1957 days ago
    You're just so damned smart!
    1960 days ago
    What a novel concept. Thanks for sharing!
    1960 days ago
  • JULIA1154
    I've had to learn to value exercise for it's other benefits rather than huge numbers of calories burned because that's just not my reality.

    I do find that the stress reduction from a good, consistent workout pattern translates into less 'stress snacking' as well as better sleep and value these benefits ALMOST as much as I would a huge calorie burn.

    Thanks for a terrifically worthwhile and thought-provoking blog.
    1962 days ago
    Very good! Very, very good! Every day, every day... well said!
    1962 days ago
  • BRIAN36
    Lucky for me I'd read two things early on that would shape my journey and lead me to achieving and maintaining my loss for 5 years now. #1 don't do something to lose weight that you aren't willing to do forever. #2 Act as if. If you want to weigh 129 pounds, act as if you already do. Eat that way, workout that way, walk that way, think that way, LIVE that way.

    1962 days ago
    THIS. is an amazing blog. Thank you for demystifying something so many people worry about by using "plain talk." It just makes making a plan easier.

    I commend your great work!!!!

    1962 days ago
  • NANCY-
    Interesting approach. The good news is that we can still have volume if we are smart and consume veggies. As for exercise, For me it is more about therapy, stretching, swimming, keeps my body from getting still and moving without pain is heavenly.

    Thanks for sharing your insight it really helps.
    1962 days ago
  • KANOE10
    Great blog. It is a daily effort..and no we can't go back to old ways of eating!

    Great job on figuring out maintenance.

    1962 days ago
    I have to keep reminding myself of that, day after day!
    1962 days ago
  • DALID414
    Thanks for letting me into the mind of maintaining. I can't wait to get there!!
    1963 days ago
    Great blog! I am still figuring out my maintenance range, but it was a real ah-ha moment for me as I was nearing my original goal that maintenance is a lot like losing weight, except more challenging in some ways. But knowing that (finally!) is helpful as is knowing we are well worth taking good care of ourselves.
    1963 days ago
    Totally on board with this. In fact, I found my target eating level before I found my goal weight. I just kept eating at the range that was "enough" and my body found where it wanted to maintain.

    Exercise? I've often said that it is my stress management plan. And it is. But it also helps my knees and back not hurt, and all that good stuff.

    Here's to maintaining our HEALTH. Weight is only a part of the picture. emoticon emoticon
    1963 days ago
    Sad, but true. Maintenance is just as hard (if not harder) than losing the weight to begin with.
    1963 days ago
    Interesting thoughts.
    And yes, if we want to succeed we have to practice good habits every day.
    1963 days ago
  • _LINDA
    That is interesting so many people are in the same boat. With my current level of exercise, my calorie range is 2100, but if I put in no exercise (like when I recover from surgery) it goes down to my weight loss range of 1200-1400. Once you have lost the weight and are fit, it does take way more intense and tougher exercise to burn any significant calories. But for me, the more I exercise, the more I can eat, which is my bonus for all my hard work. The key is spacing it out through the day, like they say you should eat little meals several times a day to keep the metabolism burning.
    Good luck with 1400, that seems low to me.. As long as you can get all your proper nutrients in..
    1963 days ago
    I'm disappointed to hear that exercise really doesn't allow you to eat more, and from the rest of the comments below it seems like that's pretty much the case for everyone.

    This is when we need to use the Judith Beck, "Oh well." It just "is what it is."

    I don't know how many calories I need to maintain my goal weight of 135-140, but if I did know it, I would probably start eating at that level right now. I'd lose slowly and be prepared for what I would be eating in maintenance.

    Thanks for your blog today. I am realizing I have to give up my ideas about the way I WANT things and start to deal realistically with the way THEY ARE. Not always easy!!!
    1963 days ago
    Thank you. Your story and those of others describing their past yoyo dieting have been an eye opener for me. I don't care if I have to weigh, measure and track forever. I made this journey once and I do not want to retrace my steps. As you know, you can eat of lot of food for 1400 calories as long as they are the right choices. Hang in there. It's worth it and so are you.
    1963 days ago
    My maintenance is just about 1200 - maybe I messed up my metabolism by a lifetime of yoyoing and dieting by undereating. Yet for me this really isn't a negative thing because if I eat foods that my body thrives on - lots of vegetables, some fruits, chicken/turkey, yogurt it actuallly takes me effort to get to 1200. The "convenience" foods, snacks out of a bag, etc. quickly add up to 1200 and I feel lousy after eating them. 1200 is helping me to do what is best and feels best for me.
    1963 days ago
    emoticon this might explain my frustration. Although I stay within my allowance, I'm certainly not loosing anything, even though I exercise a lot. At that calculation, I'm only just in deficit! No wonder nothings coming off! Even to maintain requires only 1700 calories at the moment. If I ever reach my proper weight of about 135, I'll only average 1350 calories a day.

    That needs some thinking about.
    1963 days ago
    Yes! We do it everyday. And even when I'm burning big calories on a 13 mile run, I'm told (and believe - although I've never tried a long run without eating) I need to fuel with Gu or other electrolytes and carbs and I end up with not a huge net calorie burn. So, I agree with you. Eating is the big part of maintenance, but exercise is for fitness and that matters, too.

    Great blog! I also wish I had started knowing what my maintenance range is. I am shorter and weigh a little less than you, but I can eat just a bit more, around 1500 calories. I always thought I couldn't eat as much as others my size, but your blog helps me not feel sorry for myself. It isn't fair. I'd give you 50 calories a day if I could, --- or would I?? Well, I'll never have to pass that test! So glad you can live on 1400. I know it isn't easy. It isn't easy for me to live on 1500, but know without a doubt it is worth it. Take care.
    1963 days ago
    I completely agree! Like you, I find that even when I exercise, if I eat more than I will still put on weight. Exercise is very good for me, but it doesn't allow me to eat more, unfortunately.
    I don't desire, in any way, the amount of calories I consumed when I was morbidly obese because I was a binge-eater. But I do find that in order to maintain a loss, it requires about 1500 or so calories per day.
    1963 days ago
    yes, its an eye opener to realize your maintenance calorie range. Mine is about the same as yours. The only difference for me is that when I exercise I am more hungry so staying in range is a little bit more difficult but 1400 calories is doable and you don't have to be hungry if you watch your portion sizes, get enough protein and fiber, and drink plenty of water. Great blog!
    1963 days ago
    And there is the reality of the matter. I remember a time, not really all that long ago, that I could eat pretty much anything I wanted and wouldn't gain weight. Then it came about that my eating habits added a few pounds, but all I had to do was get sick, or get a bit stressed, or have summer roll around and those pounds plus a couple of extra would melt away. And then it happened, I'd add a few pounds, and they wouldn't all melt away, and then I'd add one or two more. I'm glad it gave me the scare and dissatisfaction that it did, when it did. I could say I'm glad because it meant less weight to loose, but in reality it's because I'm not so sure that I would have had the will power and strength to succeed like so many of my spark friends have. I'm not sure I could have lost 50 or 100 or 180 or more pounds. I can't believe how hard it's been to get rid of and continue to keep off the few I've been trying to loose.

    I really did think since I didn't have much to loose I'd be able to go back to my old ways, which really didn't seem all that bad, but it didn't take me long to realize that I can't. Whether it's 5 pounds or 100 pounds, if I don't stick with my good habits, the pounds come back waaaaaaay faster than they come off. Good work, my friend, and thank you for being ongoing inspiration for me to stick to what I know is working.
    1963 days ago
    So true.
    1963 days ago
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