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Top Ten Things I Didn't Expect in My First Year of Maintenance

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Friday, February 15, 2013

I'll reach my one-year maintenance anniversary the beginning of March and have been thinking a lot about the past year and what it's taken me to stay successful on maintenance. In the past, I'd lose weight very quickly and gain it all back just as quickly. This time, I took a more conscious approach to really implementing lifestyle changes and continuing to keep them up once I reached my weight goal. Although I was much more prepared for maintenance than in the past, the last year has definitely not been easy. It has, however, been incredibly instructive and I thought I'd put together a list of the top things I've learned about maintenance that took me a bit by surprise.

10. Maintenance is just as tough (if not tougher) as weight loss.
I had always thought that once I reached goal, I could relax and revert to my old habits. Diets are supposed to be temporary, right? Wrong! Probably the most important thing I've learned from all of my past failures is that the effort does not stop once you reach goal. If you worked out as you were losing weight, you'll still need to work out once you reach goal. And you absolutely cannot go back to eating the way you once did! Sure, you can add a few extra treats or make your regular meals a tad richer, but the basics of your weight loss plan will probably have to stay very much the same. That's why I think it's so sensible to not make any changes as you're losing weight that you're not willing to stick with forever. The more reasonable your weight loss plan is, the easier it will be to transition to maintenance. However, the hardest thing about maintenance for me has been keeping up all of those healthy habits without all of the external motivators you get as you're losing weight, which brings me to my next point...

9. Staying motivated is one of the hugest obstacles to overcome.
As you're losing weight, you've got lots of visible progress to motivate you. The numbers on the scale go down, your pants size goes down and the compliments abound. On maintenance your reward is seeing the same number on the scale, the same pants size and diminishing compliments as the people around you forget that you were once heavy. The little progress you do see is not (or hardly) noticed. This is where one of the much talked about "shifts" comes into play that you experience in maintenance. Staying the same becomes something to be celebrated and you begin to focus much more on other indicators of progress such as longevity on maintenance, lifting more weight or running a faster 5K. You also begin to realize what a precious gift your good health is and use that as your primary motivator to forge on.

8. Maintenance requires (near) daily attention.
Some people find that they can handily maintain their losses without tracking, weighing and measuring their food or being overly attentive to the scale. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them. I still weigh, measure and track almost everything I eat and am still a daily weigher. I've learned to take the emotion out of my weigh ins and use them more as a gauge for overall trends. I also find them motivating to help me keep up my healthy eating and exercise habits because I know I don't want small gains to turn into bigger ones.

7. Maintenance requires strong resiliency skills.
Being able to bounce backs is always a good skill to have, but never is it more important than on maintenance. I'd love to say that I've maintained my weight within two pounds this whole year, but that's not reality for me. Life happens and sometimes bad times or too many good times have resulted in weight gain. What I have been able to do is take action when my gains started to become negative trends by putting my past mistakes behind me and continuing to work towards where I want to be. This hasn't been easy, but it's a skill I've managed to develop over time. As a result, in spite of my ups and downs, I've spent the past year at or below my initial goal.

6. Maintenance does get easier over time.
In spite of all of the challenges that maintenance presents, it actually does get easier over time. I'd heard lots of longer term maintainers say that, but I never really believed that it was true until now. I don't get stressed when I see a trend that I don't like these days, I get more determined. I know my habits are good ones and reactivating the ones that I've let slip over time has helped me refocus time and time again. And slowly, over time, my confidence in my ability to maintain has increased. I've learned that a few bad days or a particularly tough period doesn't mean that failure and regain is inevitable.

5. Support in maintenance is just as important as support during weight loss.
I've always found that support is an integral component of weight loss, whether I found it by attending Weight Watchers meetings or being active here on SparkPeople. But in the past, I'd always let go of those support systems when my weight started to creep. Big mistake! Staying engaged with my support systems has helped me stay motivated, learn from the experiences of others and pick myself up when I've started to slip.

4. You'll sometimes feel disconnected from your old support networks.
Over the course of the two years it took me to lose my weight, I participated on a number of teams and challenges to help reach my goal. As I got closer to goal, I began to realize that I needed a different element of support. I was no longer struggling with the troubles associated with weight loss and found there were few people I could relate to who shared my concerns about long-term maintenance success once reaching goal. I've often written about the lack of weight maintenance support that's out there and I really felt that gap once I hit goal last year. Thankfully, my search for maintenance-specific support did yield one important result--the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team ( www.sparkpeople.com/mysp
). This was precisely the missing piece I needed to complete my puzzle. The support, encouragement and understanding I've benefitted from on this team has been a huge help to me and has, undoubtedly, made my first year on maintenance much easier.

3. Your mind takes a while to catch up to your body.
When I first reached goal, I still felt like a heavy person and was carrying a lot of residual emotional baggage in addition to being terrified that any minor changes I made would result in immediate weight gain. Slowly, I began to accept my new identity as a healthy person and have shed a lot of my baggage. This also hasn't been easy and it didn't happen immediately, but I'm finally beginning to think of myself as healthy, fit and as someone who is capable of maintaining.

2. A maintenance lifestyle can be fun and fulfilling.
I don't think that any part of your weight management process should fill you with dread. It's important for me to be able to enjoy life's events and some of the food that goes along with it. Learning to manage those situations and maintain my weight has been one of the most rewarding parts of maintenance and has shown me that a healthy, moderate life can be fun and that I don't always have to turn down every treat that comes my way. Yes, I still make sacrifices to stay where I want to be, but I've learned that it's okay to relax and indulge from time to time. As a result, I'm much happier than I've ever been and don't feel like living a healthy lifestyle means constant deprivation and misery.

1. Long-term maintenance is achievable!
The idea of being able to sustain my losses had always been something that caused me a great deal of fear and trepidation. I had never done it successfully for any length of time until now. Learning from my past successes and failures has taught me what I need to do to stay successful and I'm happy to say that I'm beating the odds. I'm looking forward to my next year of maintenance and reaching year two when my statistical average of maintaining my losses will become 50% instead of the 80-95% it is before reaching that milestone.

Here's me before I got started at about 240 pounds:

Here's me a year ago when I reached my initial goal of 158:

And here's me now, almost ten pounds lighter than my original goal:

And here's to beating the odds and enjoying another successful year on maintenance!
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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    I loved reading your story and learning from your experience. You were a beautiful girl, even at your heaviest and very much remind me of my daughter, who incidentally just lost over 150 lbs. and has a bit more red in her hair. Congratulations on your weight loss and maintenance, you look 'fabulously' beautiful at your new weight!

    I appreciate the time you invest here and all the help you've already been to me and to the many others who I've seen you have helped.

    1871 days ago
    Way to go on maintaining!
    1882 days ago
    Congratulations on reaching this milestone!! Coming up on a year myself, I identified with ALL of them. The 2 that really hit home are #3 and # 10. There are sill times I see the fat girl in the mirror. Thanks so much for this great blog:) emoticon emoticon
    1884 days ago
    Congratulations. I have a lot of the same thoughts and fears you mentioned. I am learning new thought processes and hoping this time I can maintain my healthy habits.

    Thank you for sharing and for leading this team! It has really helped me the past three months!
    1884 days ago
  • MAREE1953
    Great blog and SO true. I agree wholeheartedly with every point. Thanks for your leadership and presence on this team and SP!!
    1885 days ago
    emoticon emoticon for an emoticon blog post!!!
    1886 days ago
    Congratulations! Inspiring journey and so much wisdom gained along the way! You do a wonderful job of sharing. Maintenance definitely is TOUGHER! But worth it and as you become used to a new lifestyle it does get easier. I will always have to track my food--in my own pencil and paper shorthand way---and stay aware of my fitness minutes but that's a small price to pay for the life I have today. Even though I will have maintained 8 years by this fall, it still takes effort. My number one rule is no MINDLESS eating. Nothing is forbidden, but I have to count it. I like being old and wise; beats all those years of young and_____________. Life is good.
    1887 days ago
    I have been in maintenance for almost 6 months and believe me, it is MUCH tougher than losing. I know and agree that tracking will be a normal way of life for me forever.

    No more yo-yo diets for me.
    Thanks for a great blog.

    1887 days ago
    I am still in "lose" mode but getting ready to make the shift to maintenance! This blog helps me see the difference!
    1887 days ago
    Very well written blog Tina. Great top 10 list which I'll refer to. I agree it's very difficult to maintain but using the tracking tools is a real necessity for me to keep me focused. Looking forward to reaching my first anniversary of maintenance at the end of March.
    1887 days ago
    Not in maintainence yet but just had to drop by when I saw the title. Very informative blog. Thank you so much for sharing. Hope to join you on the maintainers team in future. Or I should say, I plan to join you.

    1887 days ago
    I think the resiliency point is SO important. When we stop being able to bounce back is when we begin the dangerous slid away from maintenance.

    1888 days ago
    I remember reading your September 24th blog, I think it was 10 hardest things about maintenance (I just looked it up and already forgot). I wondered then if I would make it to the maintenance team, and here I am! I am very glad to hear it gets easier, and that you get saner about the weigh ins. emoticon
    1888 days ago
    Support groups change with everything over life. You are in a different circle when you are married than when you were single, when you teenagers than when you had babies. Why wouldn't it be the same for weight goals? Even change for which you worked so hard creates changes you didn't expect. That's life and it's OK.
    1889 days ago
    I set out this morning to use my daily "healthy marinade time" on the subject of maintenance. I'm not at maint. yet. I think I'm about 12 pounds from my goal and I'm not sure exactly where I'll land. I realize I need to start thinking like a maintainer for when I get there. I realize it's going be hard and different. For me, having 12 pounds to lose is closer to the same feeling as maintenance than having 100 or 50 pounds to lose. The gratification from the scale isn't as "instant" and it has taken effort to find new reasons to celebrate.

    Thank you for your blog and for your support of the At Goal & Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team. It is you and others like you who are my role models for what is in my future.

    I'm determined to be one of the successful maintainers!

    You are doing awesome! Congratulations!
    emoticon emoticon
    1890 days ago
    Well said. I've noticed the shift in need for team connections too. I love the Maintenance team! Helps with that need to show up every day.
    1890 days ago
    Tina, thanks for a great blog!

    These are fantastic lessons for everyone, not just those who have met their goal and are maintaining, so thank you for sharing.


    1890 days ago
    Tina, you should be a life coach! My head almost fell off from nodding at each and every point you made. I SO look forward to reaching my one-year maintenance goal in May, but as you said, it ain't easy.
    1890 days ago
    Wow! I could almost have written this blog myself. You have made some great points and I think this blog will help a lot of people as they make the transition from losing to maintaining. Congratulations!
    1891 days ago
    Well said, wisely put! I'm glad there are people like you who have realized the importance of maintenance and who are sharing their valuable insights and their experience with all of us.
    emoticon emoticon
    1891 days ago
    Thank you so much for posting this! I'll hit goal within the next 2 months. I've hit it 3 times before in my life, and I'm NOT going to stop tracking food this time or leave the support of the Maintenance team. You are another great example for me to follow.
    1891 days ago
    YAY! and EXACTLY!! Great blog! (I "liked" buttoned it btw) emoticon

    #4 was right on point and I am glad you mentioned it...that is exactly what I thought when I went on a 5% weightloss team last year for the heck of it...why not right? Well, not a great thing, because noone could relate to me as well...and vice versa at times as well. My silence loomed over me sometimes.

    Here's to another year!! emoticon
    1891 days ago
  • KANOE10
    Excellent blog. I agree with all of the ten points. I have experienced your discoveries also. March is almost here and you deserve to congratulate yourself for leaning how to maintain and be happy with your new body and your new health.
    1891 days ago
    Great post!

    You look emoticon Keep up the great work!
    1891 days ago
    Fantastic blog!! Thanks for sharing and writing what I am/have experienced on my maintenance journey. emoticon on your first year of maintenance. You look emoticon
    1891 days ago
    Fantastic blog!! I see truth in all ten points. Congrats for figuring out so much so soon. In 3 weeks I'll celebrate 4 years of maintenance. And I absolutely love your statement, "I've learned to take the emotion out of my weigh ins and use them more as a gauge for overall trends." Wow, I am still trying to get there!! I still freak out regularly. If you have any advise on how you took the emotion out of the weigh ins, maybe that would make another great blog!! Again, congrats on all you've accomplished. -Marsha

    1891 days ago
    I am so very happy to have come across your blog. I so needed this. i have only just now met my goal weight. I have never been really overweight but it has taken a long time to actually reach my goal and I have had times where my clothes did not fit and I had to buy new.

    Again, I so appreciate you taking the time to blog. I am most happy to read "I'm much happier than I've ever been and don't feel like living a healthy lifestyle means constant deprivation and misery." My largest concern I suppose is having to stick at 1200 to 1550 calories. I need to figure out exactly what I need to stick to. I have only been tracking food for a few weeks now but it is what has made the difference. I do feel I do not eat things anymore because they are not worth the calories.

    I can very much appreciate that this will continue to require daily attention. I am hopeful that logging will become more of a habit. I will try out the team you mentioned. I have not known where to turn. I am also going to friend you as well and subscribe to your blogs.

    OUTSTANDING JOB!!! You look great!!!!
    1892 days ago
    Such wonderful observations about maintaining. I have to agree that maintaining is every bit as hard as the initial losing. It seems we get more support during the process than we get once the weight loss goal has been met.
    Keep up the good work. You look terrific, and I bet you feel that way too!
    1892 days ago
    thank you once again for writing a blog that shows the way for maintainers - this is exactly the support we need to reinforce the choices we make. as you say, the other teams become less appropriate since we are not facing the problems associated with weight loss anymore. instead, reading about the issues and aha moments of those aspiring to achieve at maintenance is so so important! congratulations on your accomplishments and please please keep these great blogs coming!
    1892 days ago
  • CAMAEL100
    You are looking fantastic. I agree there is no end. that is why 'diets' are so de-moralising as you would be expect to be able to relax at some point. I think the reality is that anyone that is at a healthy weight does, whether consciously or unconsciously eat within a normal range and exercises.

    I think that maintenance motivation has to come from feeling healthy and having more energy. I will know when I get there!! My motivation is to live life to the full, maybe that is me heading for fifty and wanting to still feel I have a lot of life left!!
    1892 days ago
  • POPSY190
    I hope you've put this on the useful links thread on the team page - it should be there as a constant reference for all maintainers. Great blog.
    1892 days ago
    Congratulations on reaching your weight loss goals and maintaining for the past year. I still have about 70 lbs to go, but I've been a yo yo dieter my whole life. Many of your list items make total sense, but I can say I didn't really think about them until they were pointed out. Silly I guess. I'm also losing weight the right way this time so I'm learning more than in the past.

    Thanks for sharing, and giving me so things to think about and figure out now, before I hit my goals.

    Karen emoticon
    1892 days ago
    always great to read honest reflections on things... you verbalising them makes it easier for everyone else
    1892 days ago
    1892 days ago
  • MSHEL7
    Great blog, I never really thought about maintenance being hard or something you would have to work at. I just thought when you get there, your there. Thanks for the insight, it will make things easier when I get there. Great job on your loss and maintenance.
    1893 days ago
    "Maintenance requires (near) daily attention." -- I am in the same boat! I find that the more daily tracking incorporated into my day, such as food, scale, water intake, etc. the better I can handle my weight from creeping back up. At first it used to be a chore or dreaded event, such as weighing myself, but now it's becoming second nature.

    Thanks for sharing your story and insightful tips :)
    1893 days ago
    I loved reading all your tips. I feel like I'll be at an advantage when I get to goal as I'll have read all your great advice.
    Thank You!
    1893 days ago
  • MARTY728
    emoticon emoticon emoticon
    1893 days ago
    I enjoyed reading your blog and find it educational for me as I've only been at goal weight for about 3 months. What is helping me is setting new goals. I'm learning to run, which I never did. So one goal is to run a 5K. First, I'll walk/run one. Once I accomplish those, the goal will be run a 10K.

    At first, I tried just using the scale and stopped tracking food. The weight started to sneak back on, so I'm with you. Tracking is still critical to my continued success.
    1893 days ago
    Great blog, as always.
    I'm reaching my one-year anniversary on maintenance in the end of March so I know the feeling. I was able to maintain my weight for a year when I was 19 (5 years ago) but it was pure luck. Now I'm determined, focused and informed. These are my skills to keep me exactly where I am.


    1893 days ago
    I know I've told you before, but it's worth repeating. You are such an important voice on Spark! Thank you for this amazing blog. And congrats!!!!
    1893 days ago
    So well written - I am printing this off to have as a handy reference!
    1893 days ago
    #3 is the big! It takes awhile, but the sooner you can make this mechanical the better. I think that's the unsung key to success. It does get easier as some of the better habits are now entrenched. Like minded folks help too.
    1893 days ago
    "The more reasonable your weight loss plan is, the easier it will be to transition to maintenance."

    To me, this is the most important point in this entire post. I have HATED how slow it's taken me to lose weight, but over the last 18 months, I've come to realize that because it's been so slow, the habits I've created are ones that are so engrained now that I can't imagine not having them. My brain has gotten used to my new size, and so has my skin, and so have the people around me. I've had to stay motivated and determined for a very long time without seeing the scale, measuring tape, or clothes size drop, and without complements from others. I feel like I really transitioned into maintenance a long time ago, even though I've still been actively trying to lose weight. I was saying in my blog just a few days ago that while I've come to realize WHY I've been losing slower, I no longer MIND it, because I'm already living how I want to live, and so I don't think the transition to maintanance will be as rough. I'm not scared of maintenance.

    Only 1.5 more pounds until I can join your team! I will still have about 10-15 lbs to go until I'm at my final maintenance range, but I plan to join once I hit my original goal of 155 lbs or 100 lbs lost. :)
    1893 days ago
  • -AMANDA79-
    Thank you so much for sharing! This blog is a must read for maintainers and losers.
    Very insightful!

    1893 days ago
    Great points! And, I wish you the best as you stick with your maintenance plan.

    I reached my goal weight... and then lost another 5 and felt terrific (& thought I looked terrific!) I stayed very busy (running, etc) & kept at that weight for close to a year. Then, the weight just started creeping up! After losing 30 pounds, I regained 15 of it in 2012. emoticon Very sad and frustrating. And, now it IS hard to get remotivated! Instead of each mile being a celebration, it's more of a frustrating that I've BEEN HERE BEFORE!!! And, shouldn't have to DO IT AGAIN!

    Anyway, stick with your support system & doing what you know you need to do! And, hopefully, I'll be back with you at maintenance later this year!
    1893 days ago
    Thank you for your thoughts and observations. I agree with all of them and have experienced many of them.
    1893 days ago
    emoticon om your Maintenance!!
    I also chose to relax about the tracking/weighing etc, yet still be consistent. It is so important to be reasonable, and mindful at the same time. It is a daily thing...Lol.
    Resiliency is THE descriptive word.....::::for sure!
    You have encouraged me in the reminder that is does get easier. emoticon

    emoticon Laura

    1893 days ago
    Brilliant blog Tina. I'll be printing this out and reading it as it's full of great reminders. I'm so in agreement that I never follow an eating plan I cannot follow forever, because I know the changes I make now are ones I'll be following for life. And your sensible approach - losing slowly, committing to daily weigh ins without freak outs, tracking, being part of this community, and on and on are all a testament to why you are so successful and inspirational to us all. Great job!
    1893 days ago
  • MKELLY72
    Wonderfully written....and you weren't kidding when you said your story and mine seem quite parallel...almost down to the day we reached goal. Your concerns and observations mirror mine so much too! It's great too for me to have that kind of validation as I approach my one year mark too.
    Maintenance has been hard--and I couldn't agree more when you say that you have to be willing to do the same things in maintenance that you do to lose it. That was my light-bulb moment this time too, and I believe the explanation for my success at losing it and my success at maintaining the loss.
    Great job, Tina!!
    1893 days ago

    Comment edited on: 2/15/2013 11:32:20 AM
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