Have you ever lost weight just to gain it all back again? Have you been able to lose and gain weight over the years but never successfully maintained? If you said yes to either of these questions then this topic is for you. Today I am sharing my own personal story towards long term weight loss maintenance and divulging what I have learned so far. Its hard to put into words how this journey has impacted me but if I’m being truly honest weight loss maintenance has been one of the hardest things I have had to figure out in my life.
I think that being successful at long term weight loss is the hardest thing about a weight loss journey and no one even talks about it! As women we all know how to lose weight, we see it in the media, we read it in magazines, calories in calories out, you cant out exercise a bad diet, and on and on. In addition if you are anything like me you also REALLY know how to gain weight, this is one of the easiest things I can do, slip back into old habits and eat all the things in sight all the time. Keeping that weight off long term is a mystery all its own, and no one seems to be talking about it.
My weight loss story starts with losing and gaining weight over and over again and then finally realizing that I need to learn to maintain. Today I will talk about how I got to maintenance and what is holding me back now. I also want to talk about the top 6 things I have learned on my journey towards long term weight loss and how you can implement them into your own life and journey. My hope is that by sharing my struggles and successes you can take what you like and apply that to your own journey.
So if you want to start the story at the very beginning then head over HERE where I talk about being an overweigh child, my yo-yo dieting and getting to goal. If you have been following me for a while you may know that I used the weight watchers program to lose my weight this time around but I am no stranger to a variety of programs and ways of dieting over the years.
I got to maintenance on June 15, 2017 hitting my goal weight of 137 lbs. At that time I had been eating well, exercising heavy and regularly, drinking all the water, tracking fanatically and doing all the things I needed to do to get to my goal. It took me 14 months to get there and then had to do 6 weeks of maintenance which was a lot of ups and downs but I made it. After that I decided to lose more weight and give myself a buffer, thinking that I REALLY wanted to get down to my personal goal weight of 127 lbs. I managed to drop another 3 lbs in 2 months and then it happened.
I went on a trip back home to northern Ontario, Canada in October 2017 and I did not track. It was the first time I had not tracked in my journey. I even tracked when my husband and I went to Mexico and was -300 weight watchers points and still managed to maintain. When I got back from that 5 day trip I was up +4.8 lbs. And thats when the struggle started. Over the next 10 months I proceeded to bounce up and down, track inconsistently, stop working out as hard, and let my old behaviors creep in. This led to an overall weight gain of 20 lbs.
Lets take a moment and look at the big picture here. My typical pattern is to lose 40-50 lbs in 3-4 months (spring/summer) then put it all back on in 2-4 months (fall/winter) so the fact that it took me 4x as long to lose it and 3x as long to gain half of my total weight loss back is progress in the right direction. With that being said I am still not where I want to be and I for sure haven’t learned all the lessons that I need to in order to stay in the right sized body long term. But I have learned some things and this is what I can share with you.
Top 6 things I have learned about long term weight loss maintenance
- THE JOURNEY IS NOT LINEAR
- No matter how much I wish it was a straight line between losing weight and maintaining my weight that is not the case and I am starting to come to terms with that. The journey is full of failures and thats ok. Failure is a tool, a useful tool that helps us get better and more efficient the more we do it. Honestly if you look at you past all the way back to being a child, when you tried something new where you successful the first time? Absolutely not! We had to fail multiple times, over and over again to keep learning and growing and finally get it right. And even when we were successful we are still growing and changing, adding things and evolving. This is the same truths for a weight maintenance journey.
- NSV – NON SCALE VICTORIES
- These little nuggets are the key to long term weight loss maintenance. In the beginning I never gave them too much thought. I was like ok yah my clothes fit better, I feel stronger, blah, blah, blah. However now that I have maintained a short time and gained again I have realized how important these actually are to all parts of getting and staying in a right sized body. You see what happens when you hit goal is that there is no reward anymore. When your losing weight and the ultimate goal is to have that scale go down the excitement is lost when you are maintaining. There is no scale reward and that means that we need to find something else that drives us and keeps us excited to maintain. That comes in the form of NSV’s. I truly think if I would have been focused on health related NSV I could have been more successful at maintaining. This time around I will be making sure to keep a list of NSV that I can cling to when the going gets tough. NSV based around feelings, clothes, emotional well being, health markers, and more.
- NEVER GIVE UP
- This one is HUGE for me and took a long time to learn. Over and over through my life and weight issues I have given up on myself, my health and my overall wellbeing. I made a choice to throw in the towel an go with what was easy and known. You see being healthy and well all the time was the unknown and it scared me, it seemed like too much work and I didn’t want to fail so I would just give up. Now I know no matter how many times I fail its just one more lesson and tool in my arsenal to get better next time. Totally giving up is not an option anymore. The idea of going back to who I was 2 years ago is much scarier than failing and getting back up again.
- THERE IS NO GOING BACK TO NORMAL, THIS IS MY NEW NORMAL
- At one time I used to think once I got to my goal weight I could go back to “normal” and not do my “diet” anymore. What I have learned this time is that this is the new normal. Tracking, drinking water, exercising, getting support, never giving up, and celebrating my victories is my new normal. This lifestyle that I have created to lose weight is the exact same thing I NEED to do to maintain my weight. That is a real eye opener for me. Knowing that by keeping the healthy lifestyle will lead me to the goal of being in my right sized body forever is something I have to work on accepting. For years I told myself the diet was just for now and then I can relax. But what I know now is that I can’t. When I give myself permission to go back to “normal” I’m just setting myself up to feel terrible inside and out. I am still coming to terms with the fact that the lifestyle is forever, but I know now this is a truth I want to accept.
- I WILL ALWAYS GET OFF TRACK, BUT ITS ABOUT HOW FAST I GET BACK ON TRACK THAT MATTERS
- We live in a food environment. We are surrounded by food cues from advertisements to a drive down the street there are so many restaurants, food cues, temptations and more. Not to mention that our society supports eating for any reason, happy, sad, upset, lonely, excited, etc. Oh and celebrations there is literally a birthday or holiday EVERY month of the year! So to say we will NEVER get off track is a lie. The truth is we will get off track with our eating from time to time, and the choice we have is to get back on track as fast as possible. I don’t know about you but I could easily convince myself if I had a bad day then it should ultimately be a bad weekend and then maybe even a bad week/month and then well you can guess what happens. I have learned that it is ok to get off track for a short time that wont ruin all my progress, what will ruin it is the weeks/months/years off track. If I have a day or 2 of being off track my best tactic is to get right back on track and do all the healthy things. The faster I get at getting back on track the easier it is to keep a slip from turning into a slide.
- BUILD YOUR TRIBE
- Biggest lesson I have learned is that you need a tribe. Other women that are in the same phase of your journey that you can offer support to and get support from. This has been a game changer for me and keeps me accountable and based in reality when it comes to my weight loss/maintenance journey. Whether it be in real life or online create a support group of like minded women to help you and you will alwasy have a shoulder to lean on.
Now that I am 10 months into my maintenance journey and 20 lbs heavier I am back to weight loss mode I am trying my hardest to focus on health goals so that once I lose the weight I am better set up to bridge into maintenance again. This journey started when I was young and will most likely follow me into being old. I don’t think I will ever stop learning, failing, slipping, succeeding and getting back on track. This journey is lifelong, accepting that fact and not being resentful to it can help me be more forgiving to myself and loving towards the day to day monotony of it.
Are you currently maintaining your weight? Tell me about your successes and struggles in the comments below.