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Almost eight months later...a maintenance blog

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I hit my Spark goal on December 2nd last year. As August looms, my eight month maintenance "anniversary" quickly approaches.

One thing I've found since entering the Land of Maintenance is that it means different things to different people. Therefore I'll start by telling you my personal definition. Maintenance began when I hit my Spark weight goal AND sought to stabilize this final weight. The "AND" is important for comparison purposes, because I know that many enter Spark maintenance after hitting their weight goal, but choose to continue to lose weight. It may be many months before they decide to leave the weight loss mode, but they count their maintenance as beginning when they hit their initial goal, as opposed to when they decide to stop trying to lose weight.

In my own definition, maintenance isn't about hitting the scale number, but about learning to stop the weight loss and transition to a healthy lifestyle that maintains new habits without my former compulsive focus. In other words: How can I balance health, Sparking, and "real life?" There is no right or wrong in defining what maintenance means to you or me, but it helps when comparing apples to apples.

Weight Loss: Like most people, I joined Sparkpeople because I was unhappy with my weight. I inherently knew that I needed better eating habits and regular fitness. I quickly caught on that it was de rigueur to regularly profess that I was not focusing on the scale, but healthy lifestyle. That said, despite my best intentions, the thrill of downward scale movement often drove my definition of success. I make no bones about it. I was obese and my ultimate health couldn't be gained unless that new lifestyle of good nutrition and increased fitness included loss of dangerous and damaging excess fat.

Maintenance: I think that there are distinct stages that you go through in maintenance, much like the stages of acceptance to other dramatic life changes. I've seen these reflected in the blogs and comments of friends. We progress at different rates, and some get caught in the maelstrom of the changes, but common themes emerge. I suspect that if one doesn't come to terms with these issues, it's a lot harder to maintain the results of Spark success.

STAGE 1: OMG I HIT MY GOAL WEIGHT AND I'M NOT PERFECT. I have mixed feelings because on one hand I am thrilled and can't believe I'm wearing these new, smaller sizes. But somehow, I thought I'd look even better. Maybe I should lose just a few more pounds? Maybe I should adjust my goal? (Note to self: You are comparing your 55 year old self to your former 21 year old self. Why are you surprised that things have shifted, wrinkled, or softened? Get real.)

Result: I have the same genetic structure I did when I was fifteen, weighed 125 pounds at 5'8" and was convinced that I'd be perfect if I could just lose ten pounds - in other words, I am who I am and if I don't like what I'm seeing, it's probably because I need to chose a more flattering clothing style and stop trying to be someone else...and not that I need to change a scale number. I am mostly comfortable in my skin. Sometimes I wish that skin was more firm and fabulous, but I'd rather patiently wait several years for my loose skin to possibly shrink a bit than fill it with back up with fat and have people remark on my smooth lack of wrinkles.

STAGE 2: WEIGHT IS A RANGE AND NOT A NUMBER. I've thought about my goal number for weeks/months/years. Since I "hit" that number on December 2nd, I rarely see it appear on the scale. I must accept that my weight will vary each day. Can naturally fit people quote their weight to the decimal point like I have been doing?

Result: I took the Spark Maintenance ticker approach to my weight and I use the +/- five pound approach. My weight may stray from five pounds over/under my "final" weight, and that's okay. If I eat out or eat past satiety, I weigh more than THE number the next day, and I should not be surprised or concerned. If my weight is lower than THE number, it is not a cause for celebration and should not evoke a feeling or decision to "keep" that new number. I have had months where I'm three pounds under for weeks at a time, and other months where I'm five pounds over, and they are equally acceptable.

STAGE 3: WHAT GOALS DO I HAVE NOW? The honeymoon is over. I hit my weight loss goal - so where do I go from here? I need some Spark goals, but the rules have changed. What has value to me now? Have I shifted my focus to things that are SUSTAINABLE?

Result: I decided to concentrate on lowering body fat instead of weight. But that's still a number. I found even more satisfaction in having medium or long term goals that require a continuation of my healthy pursuits to attain. Examples are long-range backpacking trips, races, etc. (More on my recent backpacking trip coming soon in a blog.)

STAGE 4: WHERE DOES SPARKPEOPLE FIT INTO MY LIFE NOW? This one has been challenging for me. I was admittedly compulsive throughout the eleven months of my weight loss. I Sparked for an hour or (much) more each day, rarely strayed from my daily calorie range, figured out strategies to allow me to vacation or eat out without compromising my goals, was known to venture out at 11 PM in my reflective vest to capture required fitness minutes, read every single status and blog of every single Spark friend...yeah, I said compulsive and I meant it. I got to maintenance and realized that some of my activities had become rote, and I needed to evaluate whether they would, could or should continue to hold value for me without modification.

Result: In maintenance, I always come back to the question: Is this sustainable? I've radically changed the way I Spark. I am no longer seeking Spark points for quizzes and polls. I am more likely to reference saved articles or search for relevant new articles by key words rather than read everything that passes by. I have become more selective. That holds true with reading blogs too. If a year of blog-reading has shown that a friend's daily blog is for Spark points rather than specific content, I'm more likely to skip. I don't force myself to read blogs that depress me, or equate blog-reading with loyalty. I try to remember that ultimately that person has written the blog as a personal outlet. I also put a halt to blogs that preach to me - I feel that I have the right to share my own journey but not tell others how theirs should go, nor feel compelled to model their journey. There are many roads to success and no "right" way to do it. I sometimes worry that a period of absence may be met with an assumption that I've lost my way, but I put my own needs first. I try to stay active enough that my loyal friends know that I am there for them and have kept a commitment to my maintenance plans, because the examples, actions and caring of my own friends in maintenance were so important to me during the challenges of my weight loss phase. I needed to witness that change is possible, and those friends made that happen. I have never connected my Spark page to my Facebook, but admit that many of my long-term Spark friends have migrated to being Facebook friends and we're more likely to share there than here because that social app is more user-friendly.

STAGE 5: I WILL HAVE MY UPS AND DOWNS. The difference between the naturally thin people and me was that they understood moderation and averages. Even my most enviable-figured friends have days that they eat the whole burger, finish the fries, and order dessert. But they don't do it every day. They don't look at their weight as a sentient being that has control over their actions like a puppeteer. They understand that it's all about balance.

Result: I am in control of my own spaceship. Going through a phase where my tummy feels bloated or my butt feels a bit tight in my pants does not mean I'm sliding down the slope and returning to obesity. Instead it's a reminder that I need to keep things in balance, and it doesn't really take a lot of work to reverse things. Obviously I know how, or I wouldn't be in maintenance.

STAGE 6: THAT SCALE NUMBER IS NO LONGER VERY IMPORTANT TO ME. If I maintain healthy eating habits and keep exercising, my body will be healthy and I'll know this by how I feel, how I look, and how my clothes fit - even if I never step on a scale for the rest of my life. My blood pressure no longer rises and falls with the number I see.

Result: Most days I couldn't actually tell you what I weigh. I assume it's in "the range" when I get dressed and my clothes feel great.

I just returned from a twelve day trip to a mountain scout camp in New Mexico, where I kept up with teenage boys while carrying a thirty pound backpack, up and down mountain trails. I had no aches and pains at the end of each day, I slept on the ground in my tent, and I had plenty of energy for programs and activities at each camp. I've been making this trip every few years since I was in my late thirties, yet have never found it as effortless. I didn't have to "prepare" for the trip because my normal cardio and strength regime maintains a fitness level that allowed a successful trek by just doing what I normally do. That's what maintenance is all about, as far as I'm concerned.

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  • _CYNDY55_
    Very emoticon Your emoticon Blog❤
    1919 days ago
    I did just what you said and headed towards your blog entries....and look at the GOLD emoticon Mine I found. I couldn't have said it any better! LOL!!!!
    I agree with you...BALANCE says it all...thankfully I have already learned that.....and LOVE this healthy lifestyle! I made it my goal last year to eyeball body fat and can say I am at a healthy 24%! I am fit and look forward to running more & longer distances. emoticon ....::::

    I am so proud of you for reaching, maintaining and celebrating your goals!!
    I think Life is a Gift and you have learned balance! emoticon awesome!

    I am comfortable with my current cal range and fitness activities as it IS I will just continue on. I really don't care where the scales go ...I'll just keep an eye on the (( whole picture )). It's all about perspective isn't it? emoticon ...::::got to get me shades on....LOL.

    Happy journeys to YOU, my friend, and thank you for paving the way! ~ Laura
    1980 days ago
  • DOTTY7267
    Very nice perspective. Thank you for sharing your views on maintenance.
    2045 days ago
    Wow! Count it a mark of success that you are always prepared for scout long-term backpacking. I can't even imagine!
    2048 days ago
    Thank you so much. This really helps as I get nearer and nearer to my "perfect" weight.
    2049 days ago
    Thanks for the blog. I love to hear about people still plugging along in maintenance mode. It shows me there is a light at the end of tunnel.
    2050 days ago
  • JSPIN74
    emoticon ...thank you!
    2053 days ago
    Sounds like you are living healthy and have a great attitude! Congrats and thank you for a wonderful perspective on maintenance!!
    2055 days ago
    This blog by far is the most honest blog I've read here so far. Thanks for sharing your journey and good luck in all that you do :-) You are obviously a winner with a good head on your shoulders....
    2056 days ago
    LOVE this blog! I'm just a few months behind you on maintenance (I'll hit six months next week) and can relate to just about everything you've said. Congratulations on all of your success and healthy outlook. Rock on and feel free to come by the 'At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance' team (I see you're already a member :) if you ever need a helping hand.
    2056 days ago
    Thank you.
    2057 days ago
  • SH9719
    I was at the scout ranch 44 years ago at age 13. My brother has been there twice as a parent. Brings back memories. I have said this before, I think hearing from the spark maintenance club helps those who are worried about that next part of our life feel better about this part of our journey since we see maintenance does work. I blew the maintenance part 5 years ago after a 70+ pound loss (this was pre Spark) and I admit to trepidations about that period now.
    2057 days ago
    emoticon you've done great! Thanks for the blog.
    2057 days ago
    You have said this so eloquently and you are so right on!!! Thanks for shaing and congratulations on reaching a healthy lifestyle!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2057 days ago
    Thank you so much for this blog post emoticon
    2058 days ago
    Great blog! Thanks for sharing about maintenance. i have been maintaining my weight fairly good, but hubby and i like to go on weekend getaways, eat the fine food, so i exercise a little more so i can eat a little when i go out to restaurants. so far it has worked, haven't gained any weight back but i still log in food tracker and fitness tracker. emoticon emoticon
    2061 days ago
    What a brillant blog! Honest, personal, motivating....I'm looking forwad to the day I can embark on my maintenance journey.
    2061 days ago
  • DRB13_1
    emoticon so very much for sharing this part of the journey...
    It ultimately IS a lifestyle, isn't it?
    You've found the key emoticon emoticon
    You give us HOPE
    2061 days ago
    Really enjoyed reading your blog. Very important info. Thank you for your post.
    2062 days ago
    Great blog! I always love reading your thoughts ....thanks for taking time to share with us!
    2065 days ago
    Thank you!
    2066 days ago
    I emoticon you! You've been my inspiration since I joined SP. And thanks for responding to my occasional blogs. I love when I see that THETURTLEBEAR has responded!!!
    2066 days ago
    emoticon What a cool picture--and you look the model picture of health. Bravo to you for establishing such doable goals for your maintenance program. And thanks so much for sharing.
    2066 days ago
    Love the pic! You look fabulous as does the view. Way to go! Another great blog my friend. I'm quite a way from maintenance; but I'll definitely remember this when I get there. Congrats on all your success!
    2066 days ago
  • SUNSHINE20113
    emoticon funnily enough, I have just returned from the first trip I have been on since I started sparkpeople that didn't include my travel scale in my bags- I have just reached the point where I'm ready to start moving away from relying on weighing myself every day.
    it's lovely to hear your perspective on weight maintenance and to hear how you're doing.
    2066 days ago
    As Pssn4Fitness said, your blog is just what I need to help me understand maintenance. Like Mobycarp, I'm still trying to come to grips with maintenance, and I'm still tracking, weighing every day, and being a bit of a points whore. I know that will change, but that's where I am right now.

    Thanks for writing this blog, and congrats on your recent trip to Philmont (?) Looks like you climbed the Tooth of Time (fond memories).
    2071 days ago
    Thank you for this blog. I am still wrestling with what maintenance means to me. I'll probably end up in a different place than you did, but that's okay. Reading your musings is helpful in putting together my own personal puzzle.
    2075 days ago
  • PATRICIA4472
    Thank you for the very thoughtful blog. I'm getting to this point in my own Spark journey and your reflections are very helpful. Thanks so much!
    2076 days ago
    Awesome! We are in the right place. Hope you are having a great weekend! Keep up the good work! Thanks for the encouragement! Spark on! emoticon
    2076 days ago
    Well done! emoticon
    2082 days ago
    This is beautifully stated!
    2084 days ago
  • IXCHEL23
    emoticon emoticon What a great blog about 'maintenance.' I hope someday to reach maintenance.
    2087 days ago
    This was exactly what I needed. The stages that you mention sound so familiar to me (at least the first few). My failure to adapt to those early stages led me to where I am now, starting over. Thanks for your honest blog and congrats on your success!
    2087 days ago
  • ROSET491
    Lots to think about with your blog~thank you!

    2087 days ago
    Glad to hear from you and learn how maintenance is going. Lots of food for thought in this blog.

    I've been thinking of you the past week because I remember your blogs about continuing your streak through the time of your dad's death. I lost my dad last Sunday and though there have been lots of difficult moments, I have continued my fitness routine through it all.
    2088 days ago
    Great blog, Mimi! You sure seem to have Maintenance mode under control. You're doing great! emoticon
    2090 days ago
    Great blog and photo. Timely, that my goal is getting closer, I was thinking about this very subject today. (I am probably going to celebrate but continue to lose some more in a leisurely way, while I figure out what my final weight range will be)
    2091 days ago
    emoticon emoticon
    2091 days ago
    I really enjoyed reading your viewpoint on maintenance. You definitely gave me some things to think about, although I am still in weight-loss mode.

    2092 days ago
  • JOANNA202
    Thank you for this blog. I'm at one of the early stages of maintenance, struggling a bit to understand what it is, and your summary of the stages is a real insight. And your trip to Mexico sounds amazing!
    2092 days ago
    Love the photo and the blog too. Excellent job my friend!! emoticon
    2093 days ago
  • LADYBUG1107
    Congratulations on your success!
    2093 days ago
    I have missed your wonderful blogs and have been wondering how you've been doing in your new maintenance role. I am so glad to hear that your doing so wonderfully fantastic! I love all the help & advice you have given here with you blogging. And I love hearing your story and experiences now that your in your final phase. I love hearing that weight is a range & not just one single number, that there will be ups & downs, & that later there will be a whole new role to prepare for. But most of all, I hope I look as wonderful, happy & healthy as you do!!
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    Thanks for being such a great inspirational SparkFriend.

    2093 days ago
    Great blog, you've done an amazing job emoticon
    2093 days ago
    What an incredible journey and you've found just what works for you. That's what it's all about. You have found balance and are an inspiration to others. In one way, you're your own best preacher -- that only comes with wisdom gained. Great photo!
    2093 days ago

    Comment edited on: 7/26/2012 1:05:22 AM
    Good job on the blog and nice photo. I went back and read the blog about you and Sarah meeting. A 4 hour get together, how sweet that must have been.
    2093 days ago
  • POPSY190
    This is an interesting blog and, not long into maintenance myself, I find myself nodding in agreement with your observations. It's true that SP assumes a different role once the weight loss is not a prime motivation and I think that affects interaction with some SFs as well. I wish there was a "DailyDiary" or some such section for those who just want to record daily activities (or blog to get points!). It's frustrating and cumbersome to open such blogs and then have to go back to friend feed and try to guess from subject lines just what to open and read.
    2093 days ago
  • BLOSSOM2344
    It is really helpful to see what's a ways down the road for me yet.
    My nephew was along on that trip to Philmont, can't wait to hear about it from him!
    2093 days ago
    You have done well, learned so much and loom fantastic. This is a great blog! Thank you!!
    2093 days ago
    What an excellent blog! Each day is about finding that balance in life that makes for happiness. You have given wise advice.
    2093 days ago
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    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.