Not enough is talked about when it comes to maintaining a weight loss. This is a PROBLEM because for most of us, that’s where the real work begins. Losing weight is unquestionably difficult but it comes with enormous positive reinforcement – watching the scale go down, fitting into clothes, getting compliments, etc. Weight maintenance has many fewer new and motivating milestones and it becomes about getting ourselves to keep doing what we’re doing, even though most of the excitement has passed.
A big misconception about maintenance that I hear all the time is this: people think that they’ll get down to a weight and ultimately stay there; they think that maintenance is a straight line. In reality, for almost everyone I have worked with (myself, included) maintenance is actually a cycle. It’s a cycle of getting down to a certain weight, which requires a lot of energy and focus. Eventually we naturally start to lose a little bit of focus and we loosen up in certain ways. After a while, that bit of loosening up starts to feel completely normal and we loosen up even more from there, and then the scale goes up by a few pounds. Once we realize that the scale has gone up and stayed up for a few days, we refocus, figure out where we’ve gotten loose, and tighten back up. And then the scale goes back down. And then overtime we lose focus, loosen up, the scale goes up, so we tighten back up and the scale goes down, and so on. Some people go through this cycle every six months, some people once a year, and some people less frequently than that. But the bottom line is, it happens to almost everyone.
It’s not necessarily a problem that this happens; we think that loosening up overtime is normal and for most people pretty unavoidable. What is a problem, though, is when we don’t catch the loosening up before it’s really gotten away from us, or if we do, we don’t know what to do to tighten back up. So how do I help our clients with this?
First, I think that for almost everyone (unless there is an eating disorder or anxiety issue with the scale), it’s critical to be getting on the scale somewhere between once a week and once a month. If we aren’t getting on the scale, it’s extraordinarily hard to catch a loosening up at the 2-3 pound mark. I also remind my clients that just because the scale is up by 2 pounds one day doesn’t necessarily mean they have to do anything differently, because the scale fluctuates. But if it’s up by two or three pounds for over a week, that’s usually an indication that it’s time to get refocused. (Again, if there is an underlying issue with the scale, I advise other methods to be introduced).
Another thing I do with our clients is to help them identify what I call “slippery slope items.” These are skills that we sometimes have trouble keeping consistent, and are the most likely culprits of our loosening up. Everyone has different slippery slope items. For some it may be that they’ve: started eating standing up, have started eating in response to stress, have stopped eating very slowly, have stopped eating in a structured way on the weekends, have lapsed back into eating snacks in the evening instead of a real meal, etc. I have them make a list of these slippery slope items (sometimes worded in the form of questions: Am I eating too much candy in the evening? Have I started taking seconds at dinner? Have I stopped bringing a healthy lunch to work?), which gives us a very clear thing to refocus on.
Catching a weight gain at the 2-3 pound mark is such a different story from trying to recover form a twenty, thirty or more pound gain. Consider making your own slippery slope and using the scale as a tool to tell you when to pull it out. Maintenance is hard but with the right preparation, it absolutely can be achieved!
If you are interested in freshening up or learning new skills when it comes to health & fitness – then the NEW CBT 4 week Food Connection course might be the perfect thing for you to dive into! Spaces are limited, so please e-mail if you would like to register on the April 1st course! More info will be provided upon contact! (this is a do-it yourself course where you will be emailed a PDF each morning for 28 days!)