Did you know that the "Maintenance Stage" post weight loss, is actually a lot harder to succeed at than an actual program? The calorie counting, potential restriction, and exercise regimen is definitely tough, but what's even more challenging is what happens when someone migrates into the maintenance stage. Many are often left thinking "well, what now?".
Before we go into detail about why diet plans or programs are not as fruitful long term, let's first get more familiar with maintenance. What exactly is it? I like to think of "maintenance", at least in the fitness world, as a place where someone feels their best, has just the right amount of structure and just enough flexibility. They're living life, and their emotions or body is not holding them back. They do not have to continue a restriction protocol. Sure many want weight loss, but more importantly, they want it to finally stick!
Statistically, over 95% of dieters regain the weight after 3 years. But why? For starters, the context at which dieting is approached with is rather limited. We abide by the rules, the "approved" foods and trudge along according to each week's adjustments, without pausing and thinking to ourselves:
"Is this realistic?"
"Am I happy?"
"How is this lifestyle contributing or inhibiting my life?"
"Can I picture myself eating this way in 3, 6 or 12 months?"
"Am I emotionally 'balanced'?"
My dear friend, Coach Marc Santos, mentioned a few months back: "There's nothing wrong with dieting. It is how we choose to view and approach it. Also, what perspective we choose to take when we engage in a diet program". Many approach dieting with the hope of "this will be the one that'll fix me" (I was one of them).
But, what if instead we entered the diet being learning dependent instead of outcome dependent. Meaning, what if each new meal plan we set out with the intention of self reflecting on how this would or would not fit into the context of our lives. We may learn more of what to or NOT to do and as a result begin to develop our own meal plan.
Dieting, by definition "is the practice of eating food in a regulated and supervised fashion to decrease, maintain, or increase body weight. In other words, it is conscious control or restriction of the diet." Therefore, depending on your dieting history, maintenance may take more or less work. But, in general it'll take some consciousness.
When identifying what maintenance looks like to you, continue to reflect on the questions above (ex. "Is this realistic?, Am I happy? etc.). Also, when identifying maintenance, you'll want to explore what weight range your body fluctuates between (with it typically being between 4-8lbs for most). I want to again emphasize the word "range" and encourage you to let go of the expectation that you should stay at a specific weight. Body weight fluctuates consistently throughout the day.
Identifying your "Happy Weight" is rather a weight range. It is the normal fluctuations your body will move through if you're on your period, if you're sleep deprived, if you have muscle soreness etc. Your "happy weight" range is the weight where you feel confident, happy and can practice enough structure with enough flexibility. It is a place where you are living in accordance with your values. It is a fulfilling life, physically and emotionally.
In my next blog, I'll dig deeper into reasons why typical dieting protocols fail us and continue this conversation on achieving maintenance.