“I lost 7kgs when I went on my last (insert fad name) diet, but then when I went back to eating normally I put it all back on, plus more.”
If I had a dollar for every time I heard a client or friend or gym member or even a random stranger (who happened to see “personal trainer” written on the back of my T-shirt and felt like they needed to vent to me…Note to self: change PT shirt before going out in public!) tell me a similar sob story to the above, I’d probably be able to buy my dream car. Or at least a new laptop!
The common problem with every single one of these people is that they have not mastered the art of weight maintenance. (They are also getting sucked into the marketing of fad diets, which ANGERS ME SO as I HATE fad diets in all their forms with a vengeance…but I will save my ranting on this topic for another post.)
Eating at maintenance means that you eat at your caloric expenditure. Once you come out of weight-loss or a deficit, you will be a different weight than before you went in and during your deficit. Maintaining your weight means that your “every day” maintenance weight needs to stay roughly the same, (give or take a couple of kilos) and that your body composition overall needs to stay the same. Basically your clothes should continue to fit you fine if you are “maintaining” your weight.
I wrote a bit about maintaining your weight in this post a few months back, but today I wanted to include a few more tips and also some quotes from Leigh Peele, who I have learned so much from myself and who’s work I highly recommend.
Tip # 1: Stop “yoyo dieting” and going through extreme restrict/binge cycles:
This is probably my number one tip. Losing weight through extremely low calorie diets can wreak havoc on your metabolism, leading to chronic fatigue, suppressed immune and thyroid function, and adrenal stress.
A lot of people lose weight by being extremely strict during their "diet" phase, but as soon as they reach their goal weight, they fall back into their old ways and gain the weight back. Then to lose it again, they go to extreme measures. If you want to keep the weight off once and for all, you can’t be continuing to torture yourself with restrictive dieting, obsessive calorie counting, and constant hunger. This is no way to live.
For long-term weight maintenance you need to adopt healthy eating and exercise habits (healthy both physically and mentally) that are balanced and livable. A key to success is finding everyday ways to keep your weight in check while still allowing yourself to enjoy life and enjoy food.
Tip # 2: Eat as balanced a diet as possible
In order to maintain your weight loss, you must learn to eat a full, balanced diet consisting of enough carbs, proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.
A Balanced diet is one that provides you enough energy to support all your physical and mental performance goals, as well as a healthy body-composition; one that covers ALL your macronutrient and micronutrient needs, and one and one that is enjoyable and sustainable in the long-term. A key word here is: sustainable. Yoyo dieting, detoxing, juice cleanses, low-carb diets, low-fat diets, etc., are usually not sustainable in the long term. Going on these “diets” will hinder your body’s ability to maintain its weight.
“Balanced” also means getting enough good nutrition and micronutrients in your diet, while at the same time allowing yourself some fun foods, from time to time.
Here’s a portion I typed out from Leigh Peele’s podcast “A Lesson in the Art of Maintenance”:
“Usually the foods that are void of nutritional value are the ones highest in caloric content. You can have your cake and eat it too, but you need to have it as deserved, after a healthy meal. You can’t just think that life is about eating crap food, and also disguising that “crap food” with the aspect of “oh well it’s a gluten free cookie so it’s okay.” It doesn’t work that way and it’s just as nutritionally void as a donut is. You’re still getting high insulin surges and low nutritional value.
I am not against fun foods or foods that are a little bit naughty. I am not someone that is afraid of eating anything like that. I like a good cookie; I like good cakes. I am not a proponent of orthorexia or rigid eating. I think it’s unrealistic.
…That being said, I am an incredibly strong proponent of having high variety of nutritious foods in your diet on a day to day basis. I am a high proponent of using good quality, fresh ingredients. Fresh ingredients make amazingly tasting food. I am a big proponent of cooking your own food. Not so much because fast food is bad and going to kill you. I just don’t understand why people would want to eat it. I don’t understand why you would ever choose to pay so much money to people that can’t make your food right.
Embracing good quality, nutritious food is one of the few ways that you are really going to be able to maintain your weight. Lack of nutritional variety is an incredibly dangerous thing to do to the body, no matter what you are eating.”
Tip # 3: Include strength training in your fitness regime
Strength training and building muscle is an efficient and healthy way to maintain fat loss. Your basal metabolic rate accounts for over 2/3 of the calories burned when you are resting. This means that one of the best ways to maintain your fat loss is by gaining or maintaining your muscle mass through strength training.
A study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in April 1999 showed this effect. This study looked at a group of individuals who were put on a very low calorie diet and assigned to one of two exercise regimes. One group did aerobic exercise (walking, biking or stair climbing four times per week) while the second group did resistance training three times per week and no aerobic exercise.
At the end of the twelve-week study both groups lost weight, but the difference in the amount of muscle vs. fat loss was huge. The aerobic group lost 37 pounds over the course of the study. Ten of those pounds came from muscle. In contrast, the resistance-training group lost 32 pounds. None of the weight they lost came from muscle. When the resting metabolic rate of each group was calculated, the aerobic group was shown to be burning 210 fewer calories per day. The resistance-training group avoided this metabolic decline and instead was burning 63 more calories per day.
Pretty self-explanatory. Lift weights or do some form of resistance training if you want to increase your chances at maintaining your fat loss.
Tip # 4: Drink Enough Water
Drinking enough water is so important for a myriad of health reasons. It hydrates your body, but it also slows down your eating pace and will fill you up to help you feel satisfied.
Studies also show that people who drink enough water actually consume fewer calories. This could be because sometimes we can confuse the feeling of dehydration with the feeling of hunger. So, in an effort to stay hydrated and maintain your weight, think about drinking MORE WATER. You may find that you feel fuller faster, and if nothing else, it's a good way to guarantee you'll be drinking a few extra glasses of water a day, which is a good thing.
Tip # 5: Consider allowing for a fast day or deficit day per week:
This is another tip I got from Leigh Peele and thought it was a good idea to include here. This could work pretty well if you need to balance your calorie “checkbook” at the end of the week.
“This may not be needed if your numbers and eating are pretty close. However, if you find you are a creature of overeating on large levels or are having a tough time still getting your footing, this is a great plan. Allowing for one large deficit day will put a dent in reasonable surpluses. Some people like to look into fasting protocols for their one day a week.”
Tip # 6: Stay Accountable to Yourself:
Finally, if you want to maintain your weight loss, you must stay accountable to yourself and your healthy lifestyle. Just because you have achieved your weight loss goal does not mean you can regress back to old habits.
If you look back at photos from a few months ago and notice you have put on a bit more weight; if your clothes start feeling tighter and you aren’t fitting in your pants anymore, don’t turn a blind eye to this. Own up to what is going on. You are only fooling yourself if you try to ignore the situation. Remember, you didn’t gain weight the last time in one day. Weight gain is usually something that creeps up on us gradually, over the course of weeks and months. In order to be able to maintain your weight, you first of all need to learn how to be honest with yourself.
I’m finishing off this post with one final quote by the awesome Leigh Peele. If you have the chance, please listen to her podcast “A Lesson in the Art of Maintenance”. It’s really worthwhile and she has so many good tips in there! As you can see, a huge part of my post consists of quotes by her. I really think you will resonate with her podcast if you are struggling with yoyo dieting, or maintaining your fat loss or weight.
“I may be beating a dead horse, but the truth is fat gain doesn’t happen in a day. Fat gain happens in small moments that move from week to week. We tell ourselves things aren’t a big deal, that it is just water, or that 2-3 pounds is easy to take care of. The next thing you know, 2 pounds have become 20 and the disappointment becomes a 2 ton truck of guilt on your soul. Don’t let it get to that point. Don’t bow down your head. Don’t give up so easily. Your happiness can depend on it and ultimately, your life.
You can’t just let it go away because you want to let it all to the wind. If you want to have two cakes in a row you are looking to the wrong things for happiness. You are looking to an outside object for your happiness and that is a very dangerous game to play. It doesn’t matter if it’s with organic food. It doesn’t matter if it’s with the nicest restaurant in the country. What matters is that you are being true to yourself and part of that is being healthy and taking part in healthy activities.
Don’t focus on the deficit until you understand the art of maintenance. Maintenance will end the food oppression. It’s the continuous bouts of binging, the overeating everyday, that leads you to a bad place. So what you need to do is win at the deficit after you have conquered the maintenance. You learn to achieve the art of maintenance on a day to day basis. Maintenance is truly one of the biggest gifts to fat-loss that you can give yourself.”
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