Maintenance 101: How to Eat
I’m beginning a weekly or bi-weekly series of posts entitled “Maintenance 101.” In this series, I’ll be addressing some of the issues I’ve found in my four years of weight loss maintenance. My goal for this series is to be uplifting, supportive and honest. Maintenance isn’t always easy as many of you guys know from experience, but maintenance is a crucial part of the weight loss journey. Our work doesn’t stop when we step on the scale and see our “magic number.”
When you’re trying to lose weight the goal is to create a calorie deficit each day. This is the “secret” to weight loss. You must burn more calories than you consume. If you aren’t sure how many calories you should be eating to lose weight, try using a Calorie Calculator (they are a dime a dozen on the internet). You can create a deficit by Counting Calories, Exercising, and Reducing Calories.
This is not the case for maintenance. You are no longer trying to create a deficit, you are just trying to stay within a certain calorie range each day (or points if you are on Weight Watchers). Like I said, the work doesn’t end when you reach goal–but you aren’t restricting as much.
“When you hit that goal weight, your daily PointsPlus™ Target will be increased, by 6PointsPlus values per day. That’s not the free-for-all that many people may be expecting! (There’s certainly more than 6 PointsPlus values in a pint of posh ice-cream…)” (source)
When I was losing my weight I counted my calories every day and my goal was to eat about 1500 calories a day. I was usually more like 1600-1800 calories depending on the day. Some days were more challenging and I was really pushing the envelope at 1900 calories. But I worked hard and counted every bite and nibble. I was also exercising but I didn’t EAT what I burned. This was creating a deficit and I lost 110 pounds.
When you reach maintenance mode, there has to be a mental shift. Sometimes it’s difficult to make this shift because you’re so used to thinking “restriction.”
After I lost my 110 pounds, I was still counting my calories and I was still exercising 4-5 times a week. I had to make a mental shift from losing to maintaining. One of the ways I did this was getting used to the idea of eating more. I wasn’t changing my healthy habits, but when I worked out I ate back some of the calories I burned. Not all of them–but some.
Here is an example: Let’s say you burn 2500 calories per day from exercise, the normal daily activities (getting dressed, showering, walking, etc.), as well as what your body does to survive (breathing, pumping blood, digesting food, etc.). This means that 2500 calories is your daily calorie maintenance level. If you ate 2500 calories a day, your body would remain the same. Your weight would not go up or down and you would “maintain” where you are at day in and day out. This is pretty much where I am currently. My weight does not fluctuate much more than a pound or two in either direction because I’m eating more calories than I did when I lost the weight.
|The Cause||The Effect||Required For|
|Calorie Deficit||Stored calories (body fat, muscle tissue, or both) will be burned.||Losing Fat|
|Maintenance Calorie Level||Maintenance||Maintaining Your Current Weight|
|Caloric Surplus||Calories will be stored (muscle tissue, body fat or both).||Building Muscle|
According to some websites, my maintenance calorie level is about 2400 calories a day. On any given day I eat between 1900-2400 calories right now.
“Eat More” does not mean “EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT” in massive quantities. You’re just feeding your body a little bit more than it needed when you were losing the weight. At this point your body should have LESS reserves of fat to burn, which is why you need to eat a little bit more–right? Makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?
QUESTION: Do you have the maintenance part down? Or are you still struggling to figure out what it means in terms of exercise and food?