truths of maintenance

Five Truths of Maintenance

Note: This is a guest post I originally wrote for Sarah over at Run Sqrl, Run!

My name is Lisa and I blog at 110 Pounds and Counting about how I lost over 100 pounds on my own. At my peak, I weighed 255 pounds. By the time I was 25 years old I was developing diabetes, I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I had to make some changes and I knew my life depended on it.

I decided I had to choose an exercise that I would enjoy and stick with. I always loved swimming as a kid and was even on the swim team as a teen. I knew it was something I’d love. I did what I could and built up my stamina.

I also started counting my calories. I went from eating over 5,000 calories a day to eating less than 2,000 calories a day. I wrote it down the old-fashioned way—pen and paper—for two years. Eventually I upgraded to using an iPhone app (which I love and use every day).

It took me just under 2 years to lose the weight. There were a lot of plateaus and struggles. I had a few setbacks, but eventually I reached my goal and continued to lose even more. I’ve now maintained my weight loss for nearly 4 years.

My life has changed in so many amazing ways with my weight loss. I ran the Hood to Coast Relay Race, I biked 55 miles in Reach the Beach, and I biked 72 miles in the Portland Century. I love trying new things and challenging myself in ways I never thought I would at 250 pounds.

Five Truths of Maintenance

1. It Will Be Hard. But it’s worth it. Maintenance is almost harder than the weight loss. With the weight loss I was motivated by the numbers on the scale and the size of my jeans shrinking. The attention I received from friends, family and coworkers was motivating. I even got attention from complete strangers on the street!

It felt good to suddenly have positive reinforcement about my body and its changes. Unfortunately, after you keep the weight off for a few years that becomes the norm. I now meet people that never knew me as the 250+ pound girl. Not having that positive feedback anymore can sometimes make you wonder things like “Have I gained some weight?” and “Do I not look as good as I used to?” Somehow you have to find peace with your body and not NEED that outside reinforcement to feel good about yourself. It’s hard work and something I work on all the time.

2. This Is Not A Diet: It’s A Lifestyle. A lot of people look at weight loss as a short-term thing. Unfortunately, most of us are not blessed with magical genes that let us eat whatever we want and not gain weight. I never looked at my journey as a diet, it was a lifestyle change. I was once a complete couch potato that could eat an entire pizza in one sitting. After losing the weight and becoming athletic, my lifestyle was no longer conducive to spending entire weekends on the couch. My healthy lifestyle stuck around AFTER I lost the weight.

It’s crucial to look at the changes as permanent, life choices and not fads or diets or short term fixes. Keep that lifestyle fresh by trying new things—yoga, pilates, Body Pump, etc.

3. We Must Continue What Worked. Counting calories worked for me. I exercised and counted all of my calories in order to lose the weight and I STILL do that now! I swim 2 days a week and I exercise 3 days a week (weight lifting, cardio and biking). My hobbies are now things like hiking and snowshoeing in the winter.

The cold, hard truth about maintenance is that I will always have to count my calories. I took a short break from it after reaching my goal and tried “intuitive eating.” This did not work for me because “intuitively” I wanted to overeat! I quickly learned my lesson and went back to counting my calories. Now, I don’t even think about it—I just do it.

4. It’s Not Always About A Number. When I was losing the weight it was all about the calories. I was eating numbers instead of food. I ate a lot of processed, diet foods because they were portion controlled and I knew how many calories I was eating. Eventually I realized that I needed to eat REAL FOOD instead of numbers. I had to learn how to eat healthy, unprocessed foods and stay within my portions and calories. It worked and my body feels a million times better now. Food should be fuel, not numbers.

Sometimes the gauge of our health is not solely what the scale says. I care less about that number and more about how my jeans fit. Am I still fitting into my size 4 jeans, or are they a little tight? Can I still swim a mile without stopping for a rest, or have I slowed down? When I go hiking, am I out of breath or is it easy for me? When I lift weights, can I lift MORE? Is my blood sugar stable? All of these are tests of fitness. I keep tabs on my endurance levels, my blood pressure and cholesterol. These are all signs of fitness and health!

5. It Can Be Fun. Weight loss maintenance is all about MODERATION. That is my key word and my secret to how I’ve kept the weight off. I do not deny myself the things I want. I don’t believe in “Cheat Days” or binge days. That implies that I’m dieting, and I’m not. I do not deny myself the foods I want; I just eat them in portion-controlled servings. If I want dessert, I eat some ice cream. If I want a cold, frothy beer, I drink it. But I don’t eat a huge bowl of ice cream, or drink a dozen beers. Enjoying two slices of pizza once in awhile keeps me sane and keeps me from going crazy and eating the whole pie!

The bottom line is that maintenance takes just as much work as the losing took, but it doesn’t have to be a chore. Choosing activities that are fun and eating foods that taste good makes it easy to do!

QUESTION: What is your secret to maintaining your weight loss?