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There are a few dates that will forever be seared into my memory: the day I got married, the day each of my three beautiful boys were born and the day I hit my goal weight, which was Jan. 7, 2012.
It was a battle I never thought I would see the end to. It felt like it took forever. Each pound was a victory. I dreamed about getting to my goal. The closer I got, the more antsy I felt. I wanted it bad. But believe it or not, there was one thing that meant more to me than getting to my goal. That was keeping the weight off.
It hurts more than words can describe to work your butt off for something, deprive yourself of food, do the exercise, feel the pride and satisfaction of getting to your desired weight—then to gain it all back. I know; I have done this before. It hurts. You enjoy weight loss with others. You are cheered on and you are congratulated, but when you gain it back, you are on your own. No one speaks about it. No one acknowledges it. No one offers to help.
That is why this time was so different for me. I would not just lose 170 pounds; I would make it my mission to live a life I could sustain, so I never gained those pounds back. I would build self-trust and efficacy in regards to my fitness and food. That meant eating cake, taking rest days and being human.
When all I focused on was the scale, I did what it took to just move the scale down. When I focused on maintenance, I lived life and accepted the gains and weeks of no loss. Things had to be different this time so I would never have to experience regaining the weight again.
I am beyond elated to say that for another year I have stayed at my personal goal of 150 to 160 pounds each week. This is a victory for any maintainer. Another year of habits being strengthened. Finding mental security in knowing you are capable. Knowing you are in control.
There have been many lessons I have learned in the last three years, and I want to share them with you. Even if right now you are in the middle of your weight-loss journey, I feel you will benefit from having a maintainer’s mindset. It may change how you face day-to-day decisions and better prepare you for what is to come.
Remember, you may spend one to five years losing the weight, but you have the rest of your life to maintain. Most of your time will be spent finding the balance necessary to keep the weight off.
The following are 10 things I see successful maintainers do to stay healthy and remain at their goal weight.
#1 They continue to live with the healthy habits that helped them get the weight off in the first place.
They continue to journal their food and exercise, plan menus, find support and make time for personal improvement.
#2 They find a weight that is sustainable, not just achievable.
They focus on finding a happy medium where they eat in a way they enjoy and exercise in a way they enjoy, and they let the scale balance between these two paths. They allow their habits to dictate what they will weigh, rather than a BMI chart or height/weight chart.
#3 They do not overly rely on cardio, and they prioritize weight lifting.
Many maintainers realize there is a limit to how much continuous cardio they can do. They may have relied upon cardio to get the weight off, but they realize that the longer they do it, the less effective it is if they do not increase time or intensity. Many successful maintainers have realized that weight training has a better metabolic effect and allows them to spend less time in the gym, with more benefits from added muscle.
#4 They find a way to cook that replaces their favorite food.
If they love pizza or Italian food, they find ways to incorporate the flavor in other dishes to satisfy their craving without going back to eating the foods they did at a heavier weight. They invest time in learning to cook and experimenting in the kitchen. Eating broccoli and broiled chicken may work when you are losing weight, but it will not sustain you long term.
#5 They eliminate or cut back on negative and toxic relationships.
People who make them feel unhappy or who do not help them with their goals are directly or indirectly removed from their lives, or exposure to them is minimized. If you want to keep the weight off, staying around a person who is abusive or who acts as an emotional trigger will make it more likely you’ll turn to food, especially if that is what you have always done. Maintainers find ways of coping with emotion without using food, or develop enough self-respect to limit unhealthy relationships.
#6 They find a way to stop resenting the process of healthy living and instead embrace it and find joy in it.
There is a pivotal point for most maintainers when they resent having to continue the habits they formed to lose the weight, but they come to the realization that this is forever. They can accept it and find the pleasure in it and even enjoy the process once they see it differently.
They stop focusing on what everyone else gets to eat and comparing themselves to others and find gratitude in finding what works for them to sustain their weight.
#7 They prioritize self-improvement.
When they reach their goal, that is not the end of them getting stronger, healthier and happier. They begin seeking out more self-development opportunities and ways to improve. After years of feeling they could never lose the weight and keep it off, realizing they can makes them wonder what else is possible.
They may find they need to tame their temper or work on their gratitude. Maybe they see things in a negative light and know it brings them down. They realize they are not one-dimensional, so they want to continue to put time into creating the best version of themselves.
#8 They find a way to maintain their weight that is not driven by fear of gaining the weight back.
For many, after a life of obesity, the transition to maintenance is scary. You may feel you are walking a tightrope and fear going back. However, fear will only work for so long. Successful maintainers find a way to do it because it makes them feel good both mentally and physically, and they see it more as a positive in their life than as something to fear.
#9 They see this as a permanent way to live, not a temporary state of being.
Successful maintainers realize that they cannot stop doing all the necessary steps to remain healthy, and they come to a place of acceptance that this is for the rest of their life.
#10 They find a way of eating that they can maintain, and they don’t stay on a diet.
Most people who have long-term success find a way of eating enough food to sustain themselves and increasing calories to maintain their weight. Those who try to eat at their weight-loss calorie level find they binge eat and struggle with maintenance because they are not getting enough to eat. Most maintainers do a metabolism reset or reverse diet to get their calories up to an appropriate level for their activity.
I hope these 10 tips help you when focusing on your weight-loss journey, or if you are maintaining, I hope they help you know you are not alone and that, with small changes, the process can get better.
And f you are like me and feel there needs to be more help for maintainers, please join us in the HSM community www.halfsizeme.com/join. We have a maintainers’ meeting once a month, and this has been very helpful for me. Hearing what other maintainers experience and setting new goals makes all the difference.
You can lose the weight and keep it off; you just have to be willing to try new things and find your way in this journey. Please share where you are in your journey and let me know if I can help you.