You’ve spent weeks, months, even years working toward your fat loss goals. And now you’ve arrived.
…just like any other day.
You wake up and have your normal breakfast, pack clothes for your workout, and fill your water bottle.
You knew that your life wouldn’t miraculously change the day you saw your goal weight or body fat percentage on the monitor.
But at the same time, you kind of thought something would be different.
For many people, weight loss is the easy part.
If maintaining weight was easy, yo-yo dieting wouldn’t exist. You would simply lose the weight and then live effortlessly at your new weight.
It’s maintaining your new physique that poses the biggest challenge.
Why Weight Loss is Easier than Maintenance
When most people try to lose weight, they implement strategies, systems, and rules to help them get results. You count calories, use intermittent fasting protocols, or eliminate certain foods.
All of these approaches can play a role in healthy weight loss. They help you lose weight without constantly relying on willpower to get you through the wide world of temptations.
But for most of us, these are short-term strategies employed with an end goal in mind. They’re not necessarily something we want to implement forever.
It’s much easier to follow the “rules” when you’re motivated by a goal and having an end in sight.
But what happens when you reach the goal and the end is here?
Panic. Now what?!
The Reality of Maintenance
You’ve gotten to where you were going. But now you don’t know where you are.
You’ve spent so long trying to get to this place but you didn’t spend much time thinking about what you’d do when you got there.
You want to celebrate your success, but you don’t want to backslide into old habits and undo your hard work.
You want to strike a happy balance where you’re maintaining your new bod. But you also want to enjoy your life free from unnecessary restriction.
After all, life isn’t about unending deprivation.
But balance, what is that?
You’ve been so focused on reaching you goal that you may have started taking comfort in your rules and rituals. If you’ve been at it a long time, you may not remember what life was like before trying to lose weight.
Why Maintenance is Scary
Maintenance is scary because it’s indefinite. It means learning to live at your new weight and just be.
It’s time to loosen the reins.
If you’ve been relying on meticulous weighing and measuring to lose weight, the thought of not doing this can be scary.
It can feel like easing up means you’re setting yourself inevitable weight gain.
Counting calories is a great tool. But it doesn’t have to be something you do all the time, anymore. Part of the benefit of taking this kind of approach is that you’re learning valuable information about portion sizes, food volume, and the energy content of different foods.
Time to show off those skills. Here the five skills you need to master. The good news is that each builds on your success to date.
Focus on Eyeballing Your Portions
Your kitchen scale will always be there when you want to check your work and see how closely you’re estimating.
Trust that you have learned a thing or two from your months of tracking.
Wean yourself off MyFitnessPal starting with one meal at a time. As you feel comfortable, work up to entirely untracked days or weeks to show yourself that the weight won’t come piling back on.
Download the Body Transformation guide for everything you need to know about estimating portion sizes and putting together balanced meals without relying on a tracker.
Add in More Food
Your body now needs less food than it used to when you weighed more. But reaching your goal means no longer needing to live at a calorie deficit so this means more food for you!
Your priority now is eating enough to maintain your weight so begin increasing calories little-by-little.
Since you likely decreased fats and carbs to create your calorie deficit in the first place, these are where you should focus your increases. Start with one or two thumbs of healthy fats the first week and an extra handful or two of carbs the next. Continue adding food in small increments until your weight stabilizes with a few pounds of your ending weight.
Strengthen Daily Habits
Ideally, the methods you used to lose the weight also helped you build new habits to maintain your weight with relative ease.
Reaching your goal doesn’t mean you stop developing those habits.
You’ll still be going to the gym, planning ahead, anticipating challenges, and being mindful of what you put in your body.
Now is the time to continue strengthening the healthy habits that you implemented during your weight loss.
Use Checks and Balances
If you’re like most people, your biggest fear about entering maintenance is regaining the weight that you worked so hard to lose.
While normal, this is not necessarily rational.
It took you months – if not years – to gain weight in the first place. You will not gain it back overnight.
Your weight will hover within a few pounds of your ending weight and you will not gain a significant amount of weight without noticing.
Having systems in place will help ease the fear that you’ll somehow find yourself right back where you started.
Simple things like making sure a certain pair of pants still button (without muffin top spill-over) semi-frequent weigh-ins, and continuing to take progress pics can all help keep your weight loss in check.
Even if you’ve weaned yourself off weighing and measuring your food, you can always implement those skills on a short-term basis to center yourself and double check your eyeballing accuracy.
Set Non-Aesthetic Goals
Without a goal to work toward, you might feel a little lost. It’s easier to stay on track when you’re trying to accomplish something specific.
Now that you’ve accomplished that goal, you might be thinking, “what now?”
A non-aesthetic goal such as a race, competition, or strength-improvement can keep you motivated while shifting focus to what your body can do, rather than what it looks like.
Strength-based sports and achievements are a great way to continue to prioritize your health, meet new people, and almost any skill or sport you’ve been interested in trying will be easier and more fun without the excess weight.
No journey is without slip-ups. Celebrate how far you’ve come and forgive yourself for your imperfections. The habits you’ve built during your weight loss efforts will serve you for the rest of your life – now is the time to enjoy the fruits of your hard work and continue living the healthiest life you enjoy.