Days like my boys’ birthdays, my wedding anniversary, and my Second Life Anniversary, also known as the day I hit my goal weight. That day is today, January 7, 2016.
I started losing weight after I had my first son in 2006. I went from 313 pounds and reached my goal weight of 150 pounds on January 7th 2012. I’ve learned so much since losing the weight. And now I’ve done the statistically “impossible”.
I’ve kept the weight off.
I chose not to be a statistic. And I wanted to share with you what I’ve learned over the years to help you not become one either.
Here are ten things I’ve learned maintaining my weight loss for four years:
1. Every thing in life is a process. Try to not look for the end to what you are doing. Instead, enjoy the journey. Everything you do in life is a process. You have a daily and weekly process for going to work, doing your hobbies, being a parent, having relationships, and all the other ways you live life. Weight loss and maintenance is no different. There is no end. The process changes. That is all.
Today, in maintenance, I do the same things I did while losing weight. The only differences between then and now are I don’t see the scale go down, the praise has stopped, and no one acts shocked or surprised when they see me.
All those external motivaters are gone but the work still happens. Learn to enjoy the process because one day you’re going to do it and the reward will be no change at all.
2. Be mindful of where you came from and never lose sight of who you were. Not a day goes by since I lost 170 pounds that I don’t remember the extreme pain in my feet whenever I got out of bed. Or the feeling of how heavy my body felt when getting out of a pool of water. Or how much it hurt to kneel when bathing my kids, putting over 300 pounds of weight on my knees.
Many people want to forget how bad they felt when they were overweight, so they burn old photos, and ignore the memories. I think this is harmful because they wanted this change for a reason. And forgetting those reasons can cause you to repeat the same behaviors that made you overweight in the first place.
3. Honor the old version of yourself. You know, the one who had all the weight to lose? The one who wanted to give up and never did? I love and honor myself by doing the work to never go backward. I see this old version of me as someone who wanted to lose weight so much she sacrificed and struggled, but never gave up.
So what would she say if she saw me give up? She’d be angry and rightfully so because she (literally) worked her butt off. It’s thanks to her that I’m here today, healthier and happier than I’ve ever been.
4. Approach weight maintenance, and weight loss, in a sustainable way. There are many ways to do this process. So never feel like you have to do it only one way forever. Instead, make sure you choose a process that’s sustainable for you. If you can answer the question, “Will you continue to follow your current approach to healthy living for the rest of your life?” with a “yes,” then it’s good for you, for now.
What you’ll realize over time is you’ll grow and learn and become willing to change in ways you might have once resisted. And that is OK. We all change. No one stays the same. You just need to make sure what you’re doing right now is something you feel works well for you and where you are in your journey.
5. Learn to live with weight fluctuations. Accept that maintaining your weight means you will gain and lose the same five to ten pounds for the rest of your life. Long-term weight maintenance is about setting a realistic weight window and honoring that. You will gain a little and you will lose a little.
You have to decide what your weight window is and you have to respect it. I recommend giving yourself a window of five to ten pounds. Any less than five pounds and you will create unnecessary stress and frustration. Remember, some people can gain five pounds of water weight in certain situations.
6. Don’t worry what others think about your journey. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an opinion about weight loss. So you need to decide your own path. Eat what you like and what works for you, Do not try and copy exactly what someone else did. Their situation will never be the same as yours.
There may be similarities and you can pick and choose ideas from what someone else has done. But if you’re struggling with some aspect of your plan, ask yourself if what you’re doing is really best for you. And realize you never have to apologize for meeting your own needs.
7. Set boundaries with yourself. You must create boundaries around yourself. You decide what you are willing to allow into your life. To maintain a healthy body and weight means you surround yourself with healthy relationships, prioritize and value your own time, and don’t allow foods or people in your life that sabotage you. You realize your body and your life are your responsibility and no one other than you can make you happy.
8. Do exercise you enjoy. Food is the real key to maintaining your weight. It took me a long time to accept this. But realizing this helped me change my view of exercise. Exercise brings many physical benefits but it should not be the focal point of losing weight and maintenance.
Choose exercises because you feel good doing them. If you like to run, then run. If you like to swim, then do that. If you like to lift weights, or walk, or use kettlebells, whatever it is, then that’s what you should do. Don’t just exercise to lose weight, do it because it makes you healthy and feel better.
9. Know your minimums. What are the minimum requirements you need to feel good and keep moving forward with your goals? This was something I discovered after watching several people who’d had weight loss success gain the weight back.
Whenever life, tragedy, or an unexpected events happens, you need to know what will prevent you from sliding backward. And you have to do those things every day if you’re going to maintain or continue losing your weight.
For me the minimum is tracking my food and working out with weights two times a week. That is not what I do under normal circumstances, but it is what I do when life gets crazy.
10. Find support. Maintenance is difficult because there is little support offered. You won’t find it with big diet plans or programs. And if you buy a book it is seldom mentioned. I left Weight Watchers because I felt there was little support for maintainers. The meetings topics or issues were never related to what maintainers deal with and there were seldom, if any, maintainers attending the meetings.
This is one of the reasons why I created my own maintainer’s group within the Half Size Me Community (we have several smaller, sub-groups focused on specific topics). If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to seek support in maintenance.
You will need it (I know I do!) to help get over the mental hurdles of continuing to do the work of maintaining your weight, but without the reaward of losing weight on a weekly basis.
I hope this list helps you in your journey. Please remember you are not alone.
Are you struggling in maintanence? Please go to the Half Size Me Facebook page and let me know what you’re facing right now.
And if you’d like more support from a community of people who understand you and your struggles, then please check out The Half Size Me Community.