One Mom’s Journey from Fat to Skinny to Confident

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Ask Roni: The Best Way to Maintain Weight Loss

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Hi Roni,
So recently I have lost 70 pounds and have approx. 30 more to get to my goal weight. I have done this before, meaning, I have worked hard and lost a large amount of weight before but when I got to my goal I suddenly didn’t know what to do with myself. I started gaining it back almost immediately when I stopped my exercising and went back to old ways of eating. What is your best advice for learning to maintain? There was something that startled me last time and didn’t feel right when I lost so much weight. I didn’t recognize that person I saw, I didn’t like the attention, and I was tired of exercise and what I ate being all encompassing. I am trying to remember those things that didn’t work but just wondered if you have any tips for what has worked for your success at keeping it off and staying motivated. I don’t want this to be like getting to a finish line AGAIN and then not knowing what to do next.

Thanks,

Amy

 

Hi Amy!

I’m so glad you are asking this question because I think it’s important to address it early. So many of us want to lose weight. We just want to be “skinny” without thinking about what that really means and how it will affect our lives if/when we are actually able to do it. A few years ago I wrote a post called 5 Reasons Why Trying to Get Skinny Will Keep You Fat and it covers more about some of the ideas I’m about to share.

The only way to successfully maintain a weight loss is to initially lose the weight on your terms. What I mean by that is you need to engage in activities and eat in a way you are willing to do forever. You said it right there in your email:

I started gaining it back almost immediately when I stopped my exercising and went back to old ways of eating.

That tells me you were doing things you didn’t want to be doing just in the name of weight loss — that is the exact recipe for gaining all the weight back.

I’m not sure how you lost the 70 pounds successfully this time but I hope you are doing it by slowly changing habits and finding foods/exercises that you love. That’s the key to long-term, successful weight loss. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill and, as cheesy as this sounds, we need to make lifestyle changes for long-term weight maintenance.

There are 3 things you need to address for long-term maintenance and not surprisingly they match my 3 Steps for Weight Loss as well.

1. Address the Head Games You Play with Yourself

If you are stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle of hell there’s no doubt you probably play head games with yourself. For example:

Food means SO much more to you than just an energy source —  you eat for pleasure, for texture, for fun, for boredom or to deal. Perfection is something you may seek in your diet and/or your body. You have lots of “start days” and final blowout binges monthly, weekly, even daily. You once thought you were fat when you weren’t and now long to be back in the skinny body you once had but took for granted. Your friends all seem to have it easy and can eat whatever they want without gaining any weight. You aren’t as “lucky.” You look at images of thin women and compare your body to theirs. It takes you a long time to find an outfit that you’re OK leaving the house in because it doesn’t make you feel fat. You have good intentions when you go to a restaurant and then get overwhelmed by all the choices. You are waiting until you are skinny to start your life. 

I can go on forever with these examples because that was me…  to a T! Dealing with the head games is the hardest part of weight loss and maintenance. Even after 10 years of maintenance I still have remnants of these thought processes but I attack them head-on. There’s no doubt this blog has been a form of therapy for me.

However you do it (therapy, online support, a loved one), you should talk though some of these thoughts. You need to face them. Get over them. You said you were “startled” about your first weight loss and I can totally relate to that. I remember lots of conversations I had with the Husband after I “found myself” in a new body. It was a very emotional on quite a few levels for me.

Becoming more aware of your own dysfunctional thinking about your body and your weight will help immensely. You can start to recognize the patterns and address them.

2. Find Activities You LOVE to Do

I don’t care if they are even physical in nature at first, just find ACTIVE, ENGAGING activities that bring YOU JOY. If dragging your butt to the gym is the last thing you want to do, then don’t do it! I’m serious! There are tons of other fun ways to move your body. Nothing about weight loss or exercise should feel like a punishment.

When I initially lost the weight I swore I would never join a gym. I had ZERO interest and I knew that if I was going to lose it and keep it off I had to do it on my terms (you are going to hear me say that over and over again).

Of course I needed to move more (don’t we all really?) so I took walks, danced around my house, played those cheesy active video games. Frankly, I made an effort to get off my ass.

I also started to do and plan more. I’d initiate girls’ nights out with my friends. The Husband and I started doing puzzles and going bowling, I discovered lots of trails and local parks I didn’t even know existed!

All these things “count.” All movement “counts.” Take the initiative and find things you love to do instead of forcing yourself to engage in exercise you hate and aren’t willing to do forever.  Keep trying new classes at the gym until one resonates with you. See if there are any meetups or leagues for your favorite sports. Start a walking group if that’s what you love.

If you are tired of exercising then move to the next thing. I got tired of step so I tried bootcamp, and when I tired of that I gave Body Pump a chance, and when that got old, I took a sample class at a CrossFit gym.

Life is too short to do things you don’t like but it’s also too short to do nothing at all. Make an effort to find activities you enjoy.

3. Make Healthy Food an Adventure

You mentioned going back to your “old way of eating” and I had to ponder that for a bit. There was a time I would diet and then not diet and the way I ate was really dependent on what state I was in.

  • Dieting =  bland, boring, healthy, carb-less, low-fat, regimented.
  • Not-Dieting =  extra cheese, bacon, pizza, fast food, bottomless fries, all you can eat pasta, double cheeseburgers and nachos — a lot of loaded nachos.

There was no middle ground. Ever.

I broke that cycle by basically deciding there was going to be no more “state” to my diet. No on or off plan. From that day forth whatever I ate “counted” and if I was going to lose any weight it would, again, have to be on my terms.

It was a huge shift in my mentality and it made a BIG difference. I started to balance out my days (Weight Watchers helped with this back then). If I wanted a cheeseburger for dinner I’d have the cheeseburger but I’d skip the fries and/or eat a lighter lunch.

This whole mentality really helped embrace a new way of eating, and I started to look at healthy food as an adventure instead of a punishment for being fat. I tried new vegetables, embraced cooking more at home, and had fun with it.

I realize my tips are painting a really broad stroke, but for me it really did come down to some tough self-love, finding things I love to do and embracing my love of food in a healthy way.

I hope that helps a little. Maintenance is tough. I wouldn’t say it’s harder than weight loss, it’s just different. When you are losing weight there’s a feeling of accomplishment. You get a lot of external positive feedback from the scale, your clothes or in the form of compliments. There’s an energy and motivation there. In maintenance you have to shift everything internally and DEAL, which is why it’s better to start that process while you’re actually still losing. It’s a lot to sift through emotionally.

One last thought and this is a big one: There is no finish line.

Update/Add on: Based on LisaM’s  comment below I want to add one more thing: You need to keep redefining success through maintenance because life is not static! My goal weight when I started and my fitness goals now completely clash. Things like this will happen, don’t hold yourself back by focusing on old goals or approaches that may no longer serve you!



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Discussion

There are 17 comments so far.

    Jill

    January 15, 2015

    Fantastic question and fantastic answer! All 3 points are spot on – definitely saving this for re-reading and inspiration when I need it!

    Martha

    January 15, 2015

    I’ve lost 80 pounds and kept it off. What changed for me (finally!) was realizing that they way I ate to lose weight was how I’d eat for live. When I hit my initial goal of 175 I kept eating the way I did and kept losing weight. Then I had a heart attack (YIKES!) and started in on cardiac rehab and get even more serious about eating healthy. I got to 162 which was in the normal BMI range and I added calories and kept losing. I’m now in the 140 -143 range and eat what I want…..of course that is typically healthier foods and LOTS of plants. And I love exercise.
    This is and has to be a commitment to living differntly…choosing healthy foods most of the time and moving.

    Megan

    January 15, 2015

    Really great and helpful points! I’d already lost the weight and was very close to my goal, but it plateaued for the longest time. I feel like old habits are resurfacing and it’s starting to come back. This is a great reminder to keep it going.

    Cheryl

    January 16, 2015

    Thanks Roni, this is really helpful for me to read at this time as I am just starting a significant weight loss journey. After years of yo-yo dieting I can see that my success or failure totally depends on what’s going on in my head, any weight loss strategy is just that and it’s about who I want to be. I find your blog so helpful, thank you.

    Amy G.

    January 16, 2015

    Roni, YES YES YES!!! Totally on all this stuff. I get really sad when I hear or see that people are clearly in that “diet” mentality, that it’s a temporary state. What you’re describing is so much easier and more enjoyable. It’s what I have finally discovered for myself, and the reason why I KNOW I will be successful in reaching my goals… and beyond… this time. Great post!

    Bling Betty

    January 16, 2015

    Amy, I am 48 years old and am heading into my eighth year of maintaining a 70 lb loss (5’5″, current weight 130-134 lbs depending on the day, VERY perimenopausal). I agree with the points above; however, I would add a few notes. Don’t start overthinking/worrying about maintenance until you get to goal. When you get to goal DON’T CHANGE ANYTHING. Stay with whatever you did to get there for at least another two months and weigh in frequently. If you stay in that little pocket (a pound or two under/over your “magic #), that’s where your body naturally is supposed to be. Keep the foods and behaviors that led to those 100 lbs on your body OUT of your life. Make nutrition and fitness your priority, and your weight will be what it’s supposed to be; i.e., eat what your body needs, and exercise for the endorphin rush, the flexibility, the strength — not “I have to burn off that donut I never should have eaten in the first place.”

    Jon

    January 16, 2015

    Roni I can not belive how much this last post just screamed what is in my head right now. I have also again just jumped back I to the healthy lifestyle and am really enjoying it. But at the same time have to be very careful about not allowing myself to self sabotage. I found your site back when Ryan was the toddler and have been following you ever since. I really appreciate all your advice and totally understand how therapeutic blogging really can be as I have started my own blog. When things are tuff and I want to.mindlessly eat I try and work on my blog. Just again a quick thanks for all that you do!

    Heidi

    January 16, 2015

    Fantastic post. Did you write this just for me? Ha ha. Seriously, you inspire, impress, make me laugh (still giggling at the gorilla face pic a from a few days ago) and educate.

    Thank you!

      roni

      January 16, 2015

      lmao. Thanks. :)

    LisaM

    January 16, 2015

    Haven’t commented in forever, but have been reading every day. Roni, the one point you didn’t make, but you sure have been living, is that you have changed the definition of the word “maintenance” for yourself many times over the years. Could you have imagined on the day you hit your goal weight that some day you’d be happy with a few extra pounds and inches because they would be glorious muscle gained from being a weight lifter? I think that’s how you gradually get yourself to accept and get comfortable with this new body you find yourself in after losing weight. You keep modifying it in a healthy way until it feels right to you. And what feels right will likely change as your life changes. It’s been fun to watch it happen for you over the years!

      roni

      January 16, 2015

      SUCH A GOOD POINT! YES! I’m so glad you mentioned that. You need to keep redefining success because life is not static. I’m going to add a post note because I really do think it’s important. Thank you!

    Michele

    January 17, 2015

    This is such a great post Roni and I would LOVE to see more stuff like this! I can relate so much to what Amy wrote – I have done it myself several times. I really love your answers and need to remember them!

    Aadam

    January 20, 2015

    Good and helpful information. Thank you for sharing this to us. Thank you so much.

    jenn

    January 20, 2015

    YES! Thanks for your inspiring response. People dont realize that maintaining weight is just as hard as losing it.

    Amy

    January 22, 2015

    Roni,

    Thanks so much for replying and also for everyone else’s comments. You have given me some excellent advice. I have lost the weight through changing what I eat and walking which is something I absolutely love doing. I am looking ahead toward maintenance because I want to face head on the future and not repeat past mistakes. Diet brain does consume me sometimes but I am trying really hard to wiggle my way out of that space and live in a reality that is life long. I have been trying harder to incorporate recipes that I can share with my family so that I don’t eat separately from them as I have been for the past months. Your blog has really been helpful with giving me some great ideas with that. I just worry because for me…it feels like the real work is not in the getting to where I want to be which is a healthy weight (not skinny) but staying there once I make it. Thanks for the support and once again for replying with such great insight.

    Amy

    Nicole

    January 27, 2015

    Great article. There really is the feeling that once you have gotten to your ideal weight, you’ve arrived. Unfortunately, we all know that if you go straight back to your old ways it will only be a matter of time before you’re right back where you started. Harsh but true :(
    Ive been having success with the Venus Factor, and I review it here:
    http://healthylivingbynicole.com/WeightLossForWomen

    Happy dieting, here’s to your health!

    :)

    strombo

    July 2, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this info! I have followed the same journey as you – multiple major weight losses, no fad diets, healthy eating and exercising… followed by gaining all the weight back and then some. I’m back on the loss cycle. I am concerned about gaining the weight back again because I am now 52 and it gets infinitely harder the older you are.

    What I will take most from your blog is the “no-state” diet. There’s no wagon to “fall off from” if healthy eating is your normal state!