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My Miracle: One Year of Maintaining

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

One year in maintenance. I wish I could say it has flown by effortlessly, but such is not the case. Along the way, I've read stories from many maintainers, some, like me, new to the idea, some who have kept weight off for one year or many years, and some brave souls who revealed they had regained their weight after maintaining for a year or more. I owe a great debt to those motivators who shared everything from confusion over what maintenance entailed to the hard truth that maintenance is work to inspiring stories to tips and strategies. In the end, though, the job of keeping off the 75+ pounds I lost has come down to me, and that has been the scary part given my yo-yo history.

It seems to be Spark tradition to blog on maintenance anniversaries, so this is my story. After waffling for a couple of months last spring, I finally decided to "declare victory" one year ago today. I had already joined the At Goal and Maintaining + Transition to Maintenance team in preparation and read everything I could. Over the next six months or so, I played around with the calorie intake and fitness activity needed to stay at my goal weight, but I didn't approach the task scientifically, e.g., add "x" calories a day or increase fitness by "y" minutes a day. Instead, I just watched to see what would happen. At first my weight continued to sink slowly, going down another five pounds. I was happy with that, but I recognized that my lifestyle would not sustain the loss once travel and holiday seasons rolled around, and I was right. I gravitated back to my goal weight and have stayed within +/-5 pounds with rare exception.

So how do I approach travel and holidays? Mainly, I don't stress. Often, I consciously eat in weight-loss mode before big trips or major holidays and let my weight go down a few pounds (but still in range) in preparation. Life (especially the vacation part) is too short not to enjoy it, so I rarely try to keep up with food tracking during those times. Even so, the habits I've developed on my Spark journey have helped me make better choices. At these non-routine times, I try to start the day with a light, healthy breakfast, but if I choose an omelet, bacon and toast, it's okay, because I find myself still full at lunch, so I eat very light then, often just a piece of fruit. Snacks are mainly fruit or trail mix, and most often I choose smaller amounts of meat and copious amounts of veggies at mealtime. Fitness? DH and I love to walk, especially volksmarches (www.ava.org), so we frequently build trips around volksmarch event locations. On our most recent vacation, we walked and hiked in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. The miles helped counter the great food and drink, and the beautiful settings and companionship turned the walks into meditative times.

But what about the rest of the time, you may ask. That's the work part. I realize that a couple of years on SparkPeople can't entirely undo the mental and physical complacency that led to decades of overweight and obesity, so I maintain an attitude of vigilance. I continue to track food and fitness most days of the week, and on days I don't track, I can look back and know that even if I went over on calories that day, it's not the end of the world. I just try to be better the next day. And I go through food and fitness slumps, times when I snack mindlessly in the evening several days in a row (and yes, I know what my triggers are) or times when I just don't feel like exercising. Those are scarier times, and I've had days when I've awakened in a panic, convinced I regained all my weight. In general, though, those experiences have served as wake-up calls to get back to the lifestyle changes that have brought me to a better state of being. Finally, I continue to weigh daily, not as an obsession with a number, but to watch for trends that signal the need to act.

In conclusion, for me maintenance is a continuation of Spark habits with some tweaks to keep my weight steady. I'd love to say I've done miraculous things in the last year, like run a marathon, but I haven't (though I did run some 5K races). In my world, the miracle has been keeping off the weight, something that has never happened before. So, one year down
and time to work toward two years. Cheers!

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