So here we are again: seven years and I am still maintaining in my range of 150–160 pounds. I want to share the things I have learned this year and have been focusing on with my coaching clients and community members. I want to demystify maintenance and talk about it more from a long-term point of view. I want to help you make peace with your current journey and know what to expect when you are maintaining. The more you know about that part of the journey, the better prepared you will be to make decisions on how you will lose the weight (with maintenance in mind).
The first lesson I have learned is that the lowest scale weight you ever hit—more than likely—will not be your maintainable weight, and that is okay. I have been checking on other maintainers and people I interviewed back when I started the Half Size Me show in 2012. What I have found—if those I interviewed are still sharing their journeys—is that they have gained some weight back. I have come to accept that when we are talking about long-term weight maintenance, the weight we are at on our lowest weigh-in day is not going to be the weight we can comfortably maintain. Of course there is the water regain and normal fluctuations on the scale, but most people find that the level of effort to maintain their lowest bodyweight might require a level of effort they don’t want to commit to on a daily basis.
Remember, maintaining is doing all the behaviors you did to lose the weight, plus eating a few hundred extra calories. After years of doing this and without the “reward” of losing weight, you might end up re-evaluating your maintenance weight or just relaxing your approach to what you can maintain while still enjoying life.
I want to discuss this issue of maintenance sustainability with you because so many people reach out to me and feel like they failed because they lost 100 pounds and gained back 20. They fail to see that they are keeping off 80% of the weight they lost and that they are enjoying their life. That is a huge win, not a failure. The person they were years ago—who was 100 pounds heavier—would love to be them now, even having regained that 20 pounds. This all comes down to your perspective. Which version of you are you being today? The you who started this journey or the you at your lowest scale weight?
The second lesson I have learned is that a higher maintainable scale weight is not the problem. The thoughts you have about it are what sabotage you. We see our lowest-ever number at one time in our journey and assume that is where we “should” be, instead of selecting an intentionally higher maintenance weight, staying there for 6 months to a year, and seeing if we can maintain that first before dropping down to a lower maintenance point.
For example, if you want to weigh 130 pounds, when you reach 145 pounds, stop there and maintain that for 6–12 months. See how you like maintaining 145 before progressing to 130. If you decide to go to 130 pounds, then create a range that is doable for you on a day-to-day basis—a weight range that will allow you to enjoy your life and still keep the majority of your weight off. It is normal to gain some weight back, and it should be expected.
Unfortunately, I think many of us struggle with that lowest weight number. We hit 130 at some point but can comfortably maintain at 145. We feel that we need to be on constant pursuit to get back to 130. Now having seen the weight fluctuations of other maintainers, I can honestly say that this shouldn’t be the expectation. Settling in at 155, allowing yourself to live life, enjoy treats, and find pleasure in your day-to-day life is more important than hitting that lowest-ever number on the scale. You can hear more about how to find a range and how to think about your weight-loss goal in this Ask Coach Heather podcast episode.
The third thing I have learned is that you will have a constant battle every day between the two versions of you that exist. They never go away. There’s the version of you that wants all the cake and all the ice cream all the time. I refer to that as your toddler. Some people call it your lower brain or your primitive brain, but it is the brain that ultimately doesn’t think about consequences. It doesn’t disappear. Even after seven years of doing this work. I still have mine rear up from time to time.
However, over time you can condition the other part of your brain to become stronger, more resilient, and louder. This is the part of you that has goals, ambitions, and dreams. It’s the part of you that understands that keeping this weight off leads to a better life. It’s the part of you that wants to say no to eating all the things all the time.
I feel I’ve spent a lot of time with my coaching clients talking about this over the past year and helping them make peace with this battle—this war—that will continue to wage. Truthfully, all you have to do is acknowledge the toddler and start to say no to it using the logical and reasoning side of your brain. I call it “putting on your adult pants.” Realize it doesn’t have your best interest at heart, and if you allow it to run the show, you won’t have a life that you feel good about.
While losing my weight and keeping it off, I have had to learn how to deal with balancing food and how to create healthy boundaries with treats. This year, I am releasing the Escape the Food Prison coaching cast to teach the ways that I help others find balance and sanity with food.
Lesson four is that life happens. There will never be a time when this is easy. You will have to have various levels of behaviors and habits to deal with different life circumstances. The more concrete your habits, the easier it will be, but it will always be a challenge. I have been focusing this year on refining my minimum, basic, and preferred behaviors. I have been working with my coaching clients and community members to help them with this skill.
I never expect this process of weight maintenance and healthy habits to have a stopping point. However, as we are doing these habits, we have to realize that as life changes, so does the rulebook. Often we get very comfortable in our routine, and we think we will be doing it indefinitely. My experience is that every time a major life change occurs—divorce, marriage, a break-up, having a baby, kids going off to college, new job, moving, losing a job (really anything that could disrupt the flow)—you should go back to the basics and ask yourself “how are you going to change your expectations?”
I’ve become more attuned to watching out for life changes and now know that I either need to switch my behaviors or possibly switch my expectations. Being aware of my surroundings is key to knowing how I need to adapt what I’m doing. This is why I have created my Refuse to Quit Again coaching cast. I realize that we have to stop expecting life to let us walk through and get to our goals. There will always be roadblocks and issues. We have to learn to adapt and have other ways to move toward our goals.
All I have learned, every issue I have faced, has made me more resilient and able to lead from a place of compassion and understanding. This journey is not easy. Habits become easier to rely on the longer you do them, but make no mistake, this is work daily. However, it is worth it. You will grow in self-efficacy the longer you do this, and you will become wiser about your body and your actions if you reflect on the mistakes and ask “what can I learn?” Your body will change, life will change, and you have to be able to adapt to it over time. But you can do this, it is possible, and it is worth it.