Weight Maintenance For the Long Haul – What Does It Take?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

In August of 2006, I decided that I needed to lose weight. Europe There are probably people who have heard this story 1,000 times (and I’ve told versions of my beginnings on the blog before, here in pictures here with my fat vest and here with an old Myspace journal entry) but it was after seeing my EuroTrip 2006 pictures that I recognized that I needed to make a change in my life. I was feeling terrible about my body and realized that I had terrible eating habits with no sense of moderation. It was hard and I struggled, but ultimately I got to my goal weight and was awarded my Lifetime membership to Weight Watchers.

April 11, 2010 marked my three year anniversary of being at goal and a vow to myself that I would never go back to that weight or feeling that way.

In three years I’ve been able to maintain fairly successfully and I’ve always been under my “official” goal weight. When I got really sick, I lost more weight, but some of it back on and then maintained around there for a long time. In the last few months my weight has fluctuated a bit and I’ve been working to get back into my sweet spot, but for the last three years I’ve been where I want to be. It’s been work, but I’ve done it.

A few weeks ago I received an email from one of my members with a link to an article on a recent poll regarding weight loss and maintenance. The poll showed that more than 2/3 of Canadians had tried to loss weight over the last five years and of that number less than 25% had been able to maintain a weight loss over a five year period.

Added to this, in class on Monday we were discussing obesity. Now I had always known that once you have gained weight, it’s easier for your body to gain it back, but I didn’t know that it actually a factor at the cellular level. My basic understanding is that when we gain weight, our fat cells multiply and get bigger. When we lose weight, the fat cells shrink in size, but we are left with the same number of fat cells. Thanks, biology.

So what does it take to be part of “results not typical” group? In my experience there has been so much more to losing weight and keeping it off than eating right and exercise; it has come down to attitude, habits and behaviour.

When it comes to weight loss, it seems that many people go into it thinking that they will change their eating habits temporarily, lose the weight and then go back to the way they used to eat/live. Or sometimes in order to lose weight they will deprive themselves of all their favourite things and restrict themselves so much that they get frustrated and binge and/or quit. Neither of these approaches are a formula for longevity and I think both can attribute to people gaining weight back after they’ve lost it.

I think the moment you try to lose weight and you think of it as a “diet” or something temporary, it is going to be just that. In order for things you to stick, I really believe that you need to embrace the changes as embarking on a new lifestyle. In that paradigm it seems much more permanent and solid; a resolution or way of living rather than just a band aid on the problem or quick fix. Quick fixes don’t address the issues at hand, nor do they last.

I’ve been known in my meetings to say “there is no save button at goal” and quote Leslie Beck by saying that everything you need to do in order to lose weight is everything you need to do to keep it off. To maintain your weight you need to keep up with the way you’re eating and you need to be exercising but you also need to be maintaining your habits, continually setting goals and maintaining an overall positive attitude about the changes you’ve made in your life. Your habits, behaviour and attitude are going to be the glue that holds everything together and are going to be integral in your weight maintenance success.

It takes a lot of guts to make the decision to lose weight. It’s not an easy task, but definitely a rewarding one. When you find your groove, it’s really exciting and reaching the place you want to be is ridiculously fulfilling. It’s at this point that you need to make the conscious decision to continue forward by giving yourself permission to embrace your new lifestyle as part of your identity.

In 2006 when I joined WW, I never would have dreamed of the places this path has taken me. It’s been a long and winding road, but I’m really proud of how far I have come and I continue to look forward to the next leg of the journey. I have learned so much about myself since 2006 and I know that this learning will just continue in the days to come. My motivation for keeping the weight off has changed, but it is something that I am determined to do. Every day I am reminded that I am not perfect and that this is something I’m going to have to work at (even just a little bit) for the rest of my life and you know what? I’m okay with that. I want to go back to Europe and take new pictures, because I no longer cringe when I see photos of myself like I did back in 2006.   19034_454473675603_559840603_11176015_3206072_nIs maintenance hard? Sometimes, yes.

But is it better than going back to 30+ lbs ago and feeling the way I did then? Absolutely.

I want to open this up to you now because I know this can be a fairly hot topic and one that a lot of people want guidance on… 

If you’ve lost weight or changed your lifestyle in the past, what has helped you to keep it up? What habits, behaviours or shifts in attitude have helped you to be successful? Have you been able to maintain your weight loss/lifestyle changes? If not, what changed? What do you think it takes to keep weight off in the long term?



nikbis said...

First of all: HUGE BRAVO sticker to you my dear!!!! Happy anniversary :) Maintenance is a wonderful thing. But not an easy thing.

I maintain my weight by tracking (MOST things anyway ;), meal planning, keeping an activity calendar (thanks to you for this fabulous idea!), and also cutting myself some slack and letting myself eat a cupcake for breakfast once a year.

The hardest part about maintaining for me is that I live with 2 junkfood addicts who eat whatever they want whenever they want. They aren't obese but they are overweight. Bu I don't want that for myself.

I remind myself that although it may feel great to eat bags upon bags of chips every day, it feels much nicer knowing that when I go to put on my '09 summer clothes this year, they will ALL fit the same or better than they did last year.

My 1-year at new goal maintenance anniversary is coming up too, can't wait!

You've been an amazing inspiration to me since I "met" you a year and a half ago, so I wanted to let you know that :) You ROCK girl!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ash,

I love this post! I'm about 10lbs from my 30lb weight loss goal. So, I've lost 20lbs in about 1 year. Recently, I started taking classes and it's been really hard to maintain all my good habits! I have to give myself pats on the back for little things right now and focus on what I am doing and hopefully get back to routine. I look at my old pictures a lot. I go back and look at journal entries. I try to track what I'm actually doing. I try to pray when I feel like I'm going to eat out of control. Most importantly, I remember how weird it was that so many people told me I didn't need to lose the weight, but when I did they were so encouraging!

So, taking things one day at a time does help. This is a lifetime commitment. It's fun to see the little progress we can make. Yesterday, I passed up donuts in the breakroom! Hooray! ~CC

Jenn said...

I've been lurking, enjoying your posts and ocassionally coveting the restaurants you have at your disposal (not that many vegetarian/vegan restaurants around my area).

This post really spoke to me. I lost 10 pounds last year and during a time of great difficulty left the band wagon, but didn't totally wreck the previous good work. I only gained 3 pounds.

Last week I decided enough with the excuses and decided that any given Wednesday was as good a day to start fresh.

My motivation comes on one level, like yours, photos from a family event and then another photo from a recent conference (also in Europe!). However, my main motivation is health - my mother suffered a heart attack in her early 40s. I'm knocking on 30's door, so I need to change now, not later.

Thank you for your honesty and the great tips. I will continue to be an avid reader and look for tips to help me on my journey (Vegetarian WW).


Anonymous said...

I know when I get to my goal I have to stick with what got me there. I CAN'T go back to my old ways as I've seen the results of that. When I get nearer my goal I'll be coming back to read this post again!

Jess said...

I think the most important part of maintenance is to treat it the same way you treat your journey when you are losing weight. It's a LIFESTYLE change.
Now we're all going to have time where we fall off, where our weight fluctuate but the important thing is to not place so much negativity on ourselves. We are HUMAN and our weight will not always remain the same.

It's important to remember all of the accomplishments we have done over the year because WE did it. There is NOTHING to be ashamed of. We are still working towards a healthy lifestyle.

I think the bottom line is that we just have to keep positive and stay proud. We can do this. Positivity can do WONDERS <3

-You are wonderful and I am so proud of you!

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