I believe maintenance can be learned. I’ve been at this for over two and half years, and I seem to be getting better at it. Here’s a way of looking at my progress in terms of what is going on in my head at any given time. See the bottom of this post for a related blog post about framing my progress in terms of levels of maintenance.
Over the past 2+ years I’ve noticed some phases that I seem to go through. I don’t think I ever saw these phases so clearly before because I never got this far in maintenance in the first place. This time around is different because I haven’t given up - I’ve persisted enough to gain some longer perspective. And I have some very good buddies who keep an eye on me and offer up tuff love on the occasions I need it.
Phases of Maintenance
1) Honeymoon Phase
“Woo hoo! I’m smaller! I can wear normal-sized clothes! Who IS that person in the mirror, anyway?!”
“Wait a minute, what should I be eating, now? How much should I be eating now?”
2) Is this it?
“Is this all there is?”
“How come my life isn’t magically better in all aspects?”
“Sure I look better and can move better, but this sure feels like a lot of work. Can I stop tracking, now?”
3) Regain. Ouch.
“Maybe It’s just water gain. Maybe this is just normal fluctuation. Maybe the goal weight I’d picked isn’t sustainable.”
“OMG, it’s starting all over again. I’m going back to square one, I can feel it. I’m going to gain it all back again! Damn, damn, damn.”
“Do I have enough courage to admit there’s a problem and I need to track more carefully and increase my exercise?”
4) Re-loss. Sigh.
“Well, this situation isn’t pretty, but it’s reality. At least I know how to get the weight back off. Ugh.”
“I can’t believe I let this get away from me. Never again.”
5) Yay, I’m finally back in my “Happy Range.”
“This isn’t as exciting as it was the first time I was here, but it’s nice in a homey sort of way. I like wearing my favorite jeans.”
“Yeah, tracking is a pain, but I like my life at this size, so I’m gonna do it.”
6) Body Recomposition and new goals.
“I wonder if I could benefit from skin removal?”
“What about body fat and muscle? How can I manipulate them?”
“I wonder if I would prefer to be more (or fewer) pounds?”
“What would it be like to run a marathon? Squat more than my body weight? Kayak cleanly down a class IV-V river?”
You can see a graphic example of these phases here:
Phase 1 (Honeymoon) happened once to me in this most recent bout of weight loss. It lasted about 6 months, from January 2010 until June 2010. By June 2010 I’d slid thoroughly into Phase 2 (Is this it?).
I stayed in Phases 2 (Is this it?) - 3 (Regain) until around March 2011, with the result that I regained about 30 lbs. At that point I went into Phase 4 (Re-loss). I seem to have amazing abilities to sit around and watch myself gain weight in Phase 3 (Regain) and KNOW what to do about it, but delay flipping the switch and going into Phase 4 (Re-loss). :-/
I reached Phase 5 (Happy Range) briefly in June of 2011, only to cycle back into Phases 2-3 with the result that I regained 20 lbs by September. At which point I went back into Phase 4 again, and returned to Phase 5 in December 2011.
As you can see from the chart, I have continued to cycle through Phases 2-5, but every time the “bump” up in weight is smaller, and the length of the cycle is smaller too.
Phase 6 (Body recomposition) has been kind of going on throughout the process, but I seem to focus on recomposition more when the overall weight is stable in Phase 5.
The reason I think I’m getting better at this is because over the past 2+ years I seem to be spending more time in Phases 5 and 6 and less time cycling through Phases 2-4.
I am spending more of my time with my head in the game and my eyes on the prize, doing the work I need to do in order to keep myself where I like to be. It isn’t necessarily less effort, but it’s certainly becoming less of a struggle to make myself do it.
Here is a related blog post about learning maintenance framing the subject in terms of definition and stringency:
...and here is a similar recent blog post by THETURTLEBEAR who has been fortunate not to get stuck in any cycles: