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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
  • NEWMOM20121
    Great blog.
    2037 days ago
    LOVE this blog! Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your journey.
    2037 days ago
    Awesome, thanks for the info, your so right though I lost weight only to mess up in maintaining, but here I am strong and ready!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2037 days ago
    Great stuff! I wish there were a way to save this -- is there?

    Thanks again for this, I am really enlightened, and need to keep this for my not-too-distant future (I hope)!

    Huge hugs,

    2037 days ago
    great blog thanks
    2037 days ago
    Amen! You are exactly right on all points. It is the hardest phase ever!
    2037 days ago
    Very good wisdom here - and it gives those of us who are still in losing mode something to think about when planning for the future. Thanks.
    2038 days ago
    Sound advice.
    2038 days ago
    Great post....
    2038 days ago
  • BERRY4
    Thank you for such a "meaty" write-up! You don't mince words and you really hit the nail on the head REPEATEDLY from several angles.
    Thank you! emoticon

    I'm working through several of the scenarios you presented, and it IS reality in the dailyness to keep up what you've (we've) started.
    2038 days ago
    Wow, so helpful. I lost 30lbs a few years back and wasn't able to maintain it at all, as I wasn't prepared for the transition into maintenance, and gained it back plus extra.
    2038 days ago
    Wow, great blog! You should feature it on the At Goal and Maintaining Team. It should be a featured blog post as well! You nailed it down girl! Way to go!
    2038 days ago
    Fantastic blog! Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom, experience and insights.
    2039 days ago
    Great blog, thanks for sharing this. Congrats on your success!
    2039 days ago
    Amazing blog! It should be highlighted!! You said it well. -Marsha
    2039 days ago
  • TIFFY0906
    Great blog
    2039 days ago
    Even though I am nowhere near maintenance, I have known a lot of this stuff for ages (that in maintenance you lose a lot of the positive reinforcement you had during weight loss). Thank you for expressing it so eloquently. I am sorry (but totally understand) that you won't be on the Dawgs this time around.

    The prospect of joining a maintenance team seems so foreign to me at this point. I am at least 15 lbs. away from goal (about 30 lbs. away from my stated goal, but that may be too low). But you give such common-sense advice that hey, I will consider it.
    2039 days ago
    This is an amazing blog. I have met my goals before and two years ago found myself there just by chance. I was single and always find it easier to stay in my goals. But no one wants to be alone just so they don't have to work hard on maintenance. It's about the balance of making the right decisions even when temptation is knocking on your door.
    and remembering he never goes away, and sometimes even tries to find trickier ways to get in. But stay vigelent and healthy and your weight seems to follow.
    2039 days ago
    Awesome blog!!! emoticon I agree with everything you wrote here, and that's why I try to focus on my fitness level and a healthy lifestyle just as much if not more so than just losing pounds. That way when I get to maintenance level, I can keep going with those goals each day. I know it will still be work that's why I never think of my journey as a diet or weight loss plan. I'm on a mission to be healthier and become an athlete, and I never want to stop improving in those areas. Losing weight is just a wonderful byproduct of that!
    2039 days ago
  • SUSIEQ911
    Very well said!!!
    2039 days ago
    I love it! Great blog! I'm nowhere near maintenance but, I have a better idea of what lies ahead and when the real work begins, I will be better informed. Thank you!
    emoticon emoticon
    2039 days ago
    Wonderful post! I love that there is a mantainer's team to offer support and encouragement. Thanks for taking the time to write the blog and give so many good tips!
    2039 days ago
    Great Blog! You have hit the nail on the head! emoticon
    2039 days ago
    You hit all the points ones needs to remember when they are maintaining.
    I think the biggest problems many have is reaching goal and thinking this is it. They will forever be at that magic point in their life.
    I point out on the different seminars I have spoke at that to simple lose, especially a large amount of weight is only the first step in a long process that will involve you for your whole life.
    Sometimes people set unrealistic goals , and it's not possible to maintain. It takes trial and error to reach a comfortable weight, one that you can safely maintain.
    If you are fortunate to work with a dietitian and doctor during this transition it is helpful. But not even the doctor always knows what is best for each individual.
    I am 5'6'' and he says I can get down to 120 and still be healthy. I am at 139 , goal was 135, and I sometimes struggle to keep it here. But I really don't want to be that skinny. I was that weight before and looked unhealthy.
    So sometimes it's a trial and error to find what weight your body responds the best to.
    This weight loss journey has no end, the road might get easier, but there are obstacles and detours, pot holes one has to look out for.
    I was 335 lbs , 3 years ago, and that memory is enough for me to be vigilant and keep tracking, weigh weekly and never return to the obesity hell I spent 14 years in.
    I wish the best for everyone who is battling a weight issue and for continued success on the road of maintenance.
    Be strong, stay positive.
    Tisha emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon
    2039 days ago
    Wonderful tips for maintainers. I've been at this maintenance thing for over 17 months now and am now in that 'regained a few pounds stage,' you talk about in #3. I need to find a way to lose these 10 lbs. before it becomes 20 or 30. I am still about 5 pounds below my goal, but at one time I was almost 20 pounds below my goal and somehow found 15 pounds? Where did those come from? I AM vigilant and self-disciplined. I deprive myself every single day and yet I gain weight!? How does that happen? Oh I know how it happens. I'm not vigilant enough, my self-discipline falls short from time to time and I don't deprive myself 100% of the time! Oh I know. BUT....I LOVE being normal for the first extended period in my adult life. I HATED being fat. Those two things alone should be enough to keep me from gaining more and hopefully will inspire me to lose at least 10 pounds before Christmas season arrives, which is when I started the gaining process last year!

    2039 days ago
    This is fabulous (as I am in the #9 fail mode right now). Maintaining is so much harder than losing but it is worth it. And though I've regained the weight, it distributed itself differently this time around so my clothes aren't as tight (as they probably should be). So when something does happen (which as you say it will) you will still be in a better place having done it all before (and maybe your body will be a little more forgiving too!)
    2039 days ago
    OH my gosh this is an absolutely awesome blog my friend!!!! I can not even tell you how much all of this is WHAT I needed to be hearing....

    Now as I close in on my first full month of life after reaching goal... I noticed some things and mindsets and I have to say you certianly covered everything here.

    It is nice to read your thoughts, insights and reflections - Simply as awesome blog!
    2039 days ago
  • YOUNG2012
    Awesome blog! I can't wait to say I am on maintenance and know it will be a continuous challenge for me. Thank you for the insight into what it will be like.
    2039 days ago
  • ELAYNE39
    Great topic! Thanks so much for posting it. I agree with you!
    2039 days ago
    Wow, this blog needs to be turned into an article for the resources section! Wonderful, TinaJane!
    2039 days ago
    Yes! Once again, thanks for getting this info out. I just wish I had read it a year ago. I spent the last year in maintenance, and I worked hard the whole time.
    2039 days ago
    I love that the member of the maintenance team have been becoming more vocal lately. I've been seeing quite a few blogs about maintenance, and I have to say that it's both encouraging and scary to think that I could become a maintainer in the future.

    Lots of good points here. Thanks for sharing.
    2039 days ago
    Great blog! I can really understand your points about motivation needing to come from within, because the scale/sizes/inches have barely budged for me over the last year! All the external motivators really do go away, and especially since I"m NOT to maintenance yet, I don't even have THAT to call an accomplishment! It makes it so discouraging, and I start avoiding Spark, and it turns into a cycle, and yeah... So I guess I've got a certain amount of practice at a few of those points. :D I can't wait to join you at your team, but I want to make it to 155 lbs first. 154 lbs is a healthy bmi for me, and that's when I plan to start transitioning to maintenance.
    2039 days ago
  • KANOE10
    That was an excellent blog. I voted like, I think you should send an email encouraging other to vote.

    You hit maintenance with honesty and wisdom. Everything you said is true. It is hard work. I am hoping I will come to love it.

    2039 days ago
    Great blog!! So true.
    2039 days ago
    I honestly think that this is the best blog I've read so far in my fairly extensive time with Spark. Everyone who is near goal weight should read this. Many excellent points. I will be coming back to this to read it again. Thank you for sharing and for taking the time to write it.

    2039 days ago
  • CATDUG19
    Fantastic blog!! I love that you call it straight, maintainess is not easy but so worth it
    2039 days ago
    What a great blog! I "liked" it too. Glad I finally noticed that button. Thanks to you and this team, I finally found a homebase on SP.
    2039 days ago
    Outstanding blog. #10 is a great point about the lack of emphasis on maintainance. I'm sure countless numbers of us can attest to the truth of everything you said. I also "liked" your blog. THANKS!
    2039 days ago
    I "liked" this blog! Maintaining is a full time job. And you are doing it! Good for you!

    The scale, fitness goals, the food and fitness tracker keep me in-line. I also refuse to buy the next size up in clothes!

    2039 days ago
    Great blog! I really hope that people who have a different idea about what maintenance is, will get to read your blog. Maintenance is just the battle that has to go on. The sooner we realize that, the better!
    emoticon emoticon
    2039 days ago
    I think we have a Most Popular Blog Post on our hands! Don't be afraid to promote yourself--this is a message everyone needs to hear!

    2039 days ago
    emoticon for writing this blog! I hope to join you at maintenance by the end of the year. I know that losing these last 7 pounds will not be on the regular schedule that I had when I lost the 60 pounds before it. It takes over a week to lose each pound. I had gotten so used to seeing a pound loss each week. The thought that I will have to be vigilant for the rest of my life is daunting but I will do it! Thanks again!
    2039 days ago
    excellent blog - you really nailed what maintenance is all about! emoticon
    2039 days ago
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