As I'm sure many people can relate, the holidays have always been a particularly challenging time for me in terms of weight management. Part of my vicious circle of yo-yo dieting has typically sprung from the weight I began to pile on during the holidays, which I often continued to let spiral out of control once January rolled around. Last year, for the first time in my life, I finally felt in control during the holidays. I went in with the realistic expectation that I would gain a few pounds, but I had a plan both for how to navigate my splurges and for getting back on track. Although I did gain those few pounds that I had anticipated, my strategy worked and I actually had a net loss from the beginning of December to the end of January.
This year, I plan to use a similar strategy to help me get through the holidays without a massive weight gain. I've also added a preemptive dimension to my plan that I've been working on for the past month that has involved getting down to the lower end of my maintenance range to give me a bit more of a cushion. One of the novel ideas that I've been introduced to through my involvement on the 'At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance' team ( www.sparkpeople.com/mysp
) has been the concept of a goal range rather than one specific number. Back when I did Weight Watchers, your goal range essentially amounted to two pounds, which I always felt was a bit unrealistic for a person who's struggled so mightily with their weight. Hormonal factors alone can contribute to fluctuations of more than two pounds in a given week for me and I think it's unfair to be punished for something that's really out of your control. Knowing that, the last time I was on Weight Watchers, I set my goal a few pounds higher than what I really wanted it to be, so I could have a bit more wiggle room. Instead of playing those kind of games, I've come to realize that a goal range that allows for a 3% fluctuation is a much more realistic solution that not only covers just about any temporary blip I might see on the scale, but has also taken a lot of the anxiety out of my weight management. Just knowing that I don't have to be so rigid in my efforts has made me feel so much more relaxed about the whole process and has, perhaps subconsciously, turned my focus towards sustaining my healthy habits rather than obsessing about not deviating more than a pound or two.
Living in my goal range has also taught me another very valuable lesson: what's achievable isn't always sustainable. In my first few months of maintenance, I really didn't know what my permanent goal was going to be. I officially started maintenance once I got my BMI down to 25 and my plan was to gradually start increasing my calories until my weight leveled off. A combination of doing that plus a fitness bootcamp I did before my summer vacation brought me to what I considered the low end of my maintenance range, which was 12 pounds below my initial goal of having a healthy BMI.
There were a few different things that made me realize that was as low as I wanted to go. The first were the physical changes that I saw. I was starting to lose what I consider the "good meat" on my body--my cheeks were starting to draw in and my womanly bits were getting noticeably smaller. I was on my way to going from shapely to stickly and that had never been my goal. In fact, one day when my husband was hugging me, he called me "rib-cage girl" because he could feel my bones so distinctly. I knew these were all indications that I needed to tap the brakes and, interestingly, it only took a gain of about two pounds to undo them and get my healthy curves back.
The second factor was the sustainability one. One of the joys of maintenance for me is knowing that I can loosen the reigns a bit, even if it's just really a bit! As I got to the lower end of my range, I noticed that I wasn't able to eat as many calories without seeing slight gains and that, basically, if I wanted to maintain, I'd have to keep my them pretty close to my weight-loss levels. Although I had worked hard to develop a weight loss plan that wasn't overly restrictive, the idea of not being able to eat a measly 200-300 extra calories a day in maintenance was not appealing to me and certainly wasn't going to pave the way for long-term success.
And out of all this came my maintenance range: 150 +/- 3%. This basically means that the lower end of my range is about 146 and the upper end is 154. Although I admit I do psychologically like being under 150, I know jumping above that number is not necessarily cause for alarm. And although I know that I can get down to the lower end of my range, and perhaps even lower if I really tried, I know that's not a place where I'll stay satisfied or successful for long. I've found what I can achieve, now I'm going for what I can sustain.